UK eyes US mobile howitzer shoot-off to inform Mobile Fires Platform
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UK eyes US mobile howitzer shoot-off to inform Mobile Fires Platform

By Harry Lye 19 May 2021

The UK Ministry of Defence (MOD) will observe the US Army’s Mobile Howitzer trials and shoot-off to inform the procurement of a Mobile Fires Platform (MFP) that aims to refresh the British Army’s artillery capabilities.

UK eyes US mobile howitzer shoot-off to inform Mobile Fires Platform
Lined up in the fire position, a battery of AS-90 used during Exercise Steel Sabre. Image: MOD/ Crown Copyright.

MFP is one of the British Army’s key projects as it looks to modernise following the publication of the Defence Command Paper, and the government has earmarked £800m to be spent on the programme over the next decade.

Participating in the US trials are Elbit’s ATMOS 2000, BAE Systems’ Archer, Nexter’s Caesar and Yugoimport’s Nora. The trials are set to include a complete analysis of platforms and ordnance.

Commenting on observing the trials, an MOD spokesperson told Army Technology: “The UK will observe the US Army’s mobile Howitzer trials and shoot off to develop our market understanding as part of the MFP procurement process.”

The UK is currently working towards approval of an outline business case for the programme in the first quarter of 2022, with an eye towards a full operating capability of 116 guns in 2032. Initial operating capability for MFP is aimed at 18 guns in early 2029.

The MOD has already reviewed and analysed responses to a request for information from industry and has conducted an analysis of potential investment options.

Over the next quarter, the MOD plans to develop the programmes procurement strategy and plan the project’s future assessment phase.

The UK currently operated the AS-90 self-propelled howitzer, which was first introduced into service in the early 1990s. Initially, the British Army operated 179 systems, however by 2017, this had been reduced to 110, reflecting a lack of significant upgrades to the UK’s AS-90s. The system is currently scheduled to be retired in 2030.

The UK has yet to decide whether the future MFP will be a wheeled or tracked system and in a recent press briefing, the British Army’s Head of Strategy Brigadier John Clark told reporters that options for the programme include upgrading the AS-90 fleet to meet modern threats.

The British Army will also spend £250m upgrades to its M270 Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (MLRS) designed to keep the system in service until 2050. Upgrades will see 44 launchers get a new armoured cab and upgraded automotive and launch mechanism components.

Work on the MLRS will begin in March 2022 and be completed over four years. The vehicles will also be equipped with Composite Rubber Tracks (CRT).

The UK’s MLRS will be capable of firing the US’ Precision Strike Missile (PrSM), which has a range of 499km. The UK and MLRS partners are also developing a Guided MLRS Extended Range (GMLRS-ER) missile that will extend the reach of the system from 84km to 150km – the new missile is expected to be in-service by 2025 for use by the upgraded launchers.