The US Army has awarded a contract to BAE Systems to start low-rate initial production (LRIP) of the M109A6 Paladin integrated management (PIM) programme.
Covering production of 18.5 vehicle sets, including 19 PIM howitzers and 18 PIM carrier ammunition, tracked vehicles, the initial $195m contract could eventually be worth $688m, if the army moves ahead with its planned purchase of a total of 66.5 vehicle sets, plus spares, kits and technical documentation.
A significant upgrade of the M109A6 Paladin self-propelled howitzer, the PIM features a new chassis, engine, transmission, suspension, steering system, and enhanced survivability, while retaining the Paladin's cannon.
BAE Systems Artillery Programs director Adam Zarfoss said PIM will represent a significant leap forward for the field artillery, in terms of tactical mobility and force protection.
''Additionally, by incorporating the latest technology for power generation and management, and leveraging gun driver and rammer designs from the NLOS-C programme, PIM positions the army for the longer term with a platform well suited for growth,'' Zarfoss said.
BAE Systems Combat Vehicles vice-president and general manager Mark Signorelli said: ''The PIM team, the programme office, BAE Systems, and our suppliers have been working cooperatively throughout the engineering, manufacturing and development phase of the programme to ensure that the army will field a highly capable howitzer on time and below budget.''
The PIM also includes a 600V on-board power system, which together with an advanced digital backbone, electric elevation and traverse drives, electric rammer and a digital fire control system provides significant growth potential for future payloads.
Utilising common mobility components of the Bradley fighting vehicle, the upgrades lower life-cycle and obsolescence costs, while enabling the PIM to manoeuvre with the armoured brigade combat team (BCT).
Production work is expected to commence immediately at the company's facilities in Pennsylvania and Oklahoma, US, for scheduled delivery of the first vehicle in mid-2015.
Image: The PIM reduces M109A6 Paladin's weight and power-cooling, while offering growth potential for emerging technologies. Photo: courtesy of BAE Systems.