The Australian Government has approved a $493m artillery replacement project code named Land 17 to provide a next generation artillery system for the Australian Army.

The first phase of the project will provide the army with four batteries of 35 M777A2 155mm lightweight towed howitzers, Defence Minister Senator John Faulkner said.

The M777A2 is an air-transportable howitzer, which uses a digital fire-control system to provide navigation, pointing and self-location.

The second phase of the artillery replacement project will include the procurement of a self-propelled artillery system capable of providing fire support to highly mobile mechanised forces.

Further enhancement of the system would include the future acquisition of a digital terminal control system for the tactical control of artillery by forward observers and joint terminal attack controllers.

The acquisition of a digital terminal control system will be considered by the Australian Government in the second half of 2010, Faulkner said.