BAE Systems has received a $45m contract to develop an Extended Range Cannon Artillery (ERCA) Increment 1 prototype for the US Army.

The ERCA Increment 1 prototype will enhance the range and rate of fire on existing and future M109A7 self-propelled howitzers.

Increased firing capabilities will be made possible by the integration of ERCA onto the M109A7 and replacement of the M109A7’s current 39-calibre turret with a 58-calibre, 30ft-long gun barrel.

This will result in a two-fold increase in the current range of the howitzer’s firepower, noted BAE Systems.

The firm will build the ERCA in collaboration with the US Army’s Combat Capabilities Development Command (CCDC) Armaments Center.

Through the prototype phase, the army seeks to address capability gaps in its indirect fire systems.

The phase involves the development of power distribution software and hardware integration solutions.

BAE Systems combat vehicles business programmes vice-president Scott Davis said: “ERCA is a significant technological step forward for the army’s artillery portfolio.

“We were selected based on our years of experience in the development of self-propelled howitzer systems. Long-range precision fire is a top priority for the army, and we are pleased to be a partner in efforts to equip soldiers with the latest technology.”

BAE Systems will perform development work on the prototype at the army’s Picatinny Arsenal and the company’s US facilities in York in Pennsylvania, Sterling Heights in Michigan and Minneapolis in Minnesota.

Additionally, the company is under contract to develop precision guidance kits with anti-jamming capabilities (PGK-AJ) to operate in the ERCA firing environment.

PGK-AJ is designed to be compatible with existing artillery shells and firing platforms, including the M109 self-propelled howitzer and the M777A2 lightweight towed howitzer.

The M109A7 programme is a replacement for the US Army’s M109A6 Paladin self-propelled howitzer.

BAE Systems is currently producing the M109A7 platforms in the low-rate initial production phase.

In December 2017, the company won a contract that includes options that would start the full-rate production of the howitzer.