The US Army has inducted the M109A7 self-propelled howitzer and M992A3 carrier-ammunition tracked vehicle into low-rate initial production (LRIP) during a ceremony at the Anniston Army Depot in Alabama, US.
Previously known as the Army's paladin integrated management (PIM) programme, the M109A7 and M992A3 are the replacements of the M109A6 Paladin and M992A2 field-artillery ammunition support vehicles, and reached milestone C in October 2013.
They are expected to be shipped to Anniston Army Depot later this year, where they will be disassembled. The components will be modified and combined with a new BAE Systems-built chassis to create new artillery systems.
Army ground combat systems programme executive officer brigadier general David Bassett said: "This [M109A7 Paladin programme] is really an example of acquisition done right."
Army self-propelled howitzer systems product manager lieutenant colonel Michael Zahuranic said: "This modernisation effort represents a significant upgrade, which includes buying back space, weight and power-cooling, to ensure the system remains relevant with room to add new capabilities in the future."
In addition to the new chassis, the M109A7 will also feature a new engine, transmission, suspension and steering systems, which are also found on the army's Bradley fighting vehicles. These upgrades will increase commonality and reduce logistical footprints and cost.
The vehicle will be equipped with a new 600V on-board power system that is designed to accommodate both future and current requirements, such as the Battlefield Network, and also ensures the platform will have enough space, weight and power-cooling (SWaP-C) growth potential to last until 2050.
Furthermore, the vehicle, which will retain the Paladin's cannon, will feature an electronic gun drive system, which was developed for the cancelled non-line-of-sight cannon (NLOS-C). This significantly enhances firing operations.
LRIP deliveries are scheduled to commence in early 2015, while a full-rate production decision is expected in February 2017.
Image: The US Army's M109A7 self-propelled howitzer at Anniston Army Depot in Alabama, US. Photo: courtesy of Stephen Gross.