Paladin M109A6 is a cannon artillery system with self-propelled howitzer (SPH) developed by the ground system division of United Defense LP (now BAE Systems Land and Armaments) and manufactured at the Paladin Production Operation centre at Chambersburg, Pennsylvania.
Paladin was first fielded in 1994, is operational with the United States Army and the Israeli Army and has been selected by the Kuwait and Taiwan.
In June 1999, the US Army received the last of the 950 Paladin M109A6 that it ordered. Seven systems were ordered in July 2000 for the US Army National Guard and a further 18 systems in January 2002.
The US Army received the first Paladin M109A6 upgraded to M109A7 standard in April 2015.
M109A6 Paladin artillery system operation
The Paladin artillery system is operated by a crew of four, a commander, a driver, a gunner and a loader.
“Paladin is able to operate independently with no external technical assistance.”
The crew are able to receive mission data via a secure voice and digital communications system, compute the firing data, automatically unlock the cannon from the travel lock, point the cannon and fire, and move to a new location without external technical assistance. The M109A6 Paladin fires the first round from the move within 60 seconds. The ‘shoot and scoot’ capability protects the crew from counter-battery fire.
Paladin was used in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom in March / April 2003 and in the continuing operations in Iraq, including Operation Al Fajr in Fallujah in November 2004.
BAE Systems Land and Armaments supplied 219 modification kits for US Army Paladins, which enable the use of the modular artillery charge system (MACS) and the 155mm precision-guided extended-range XM92 Excalibur projectile being developed by Raytheon and Bofors Defense of Sweden (a BAE Systems subsidiary). Deliveries began in 2005.
The 39-calibre 155mm M284 cannon, which is fitted with an M182 gun mount, has a range of 24km using unassisted rounds or 30km using assisted rounds. The projectile loading can be carried out using the full-stroke hydraulic system or a semi-automatic loading system.
The M109A6 Paladin achieves a maximum firing rate of up to eight rounds a minute, or three rounds in 15 seconds, and a sustained firing rate of one round every three minutes. The gun is operated with an automatic fire control system with ballistic computer, fitted with an optical backup.
The vehicle’s inertial positioning and navigation system is integrated with the automatic fire control system.
A 12.7mm M2 machine gun is mounted on the right hand side of the turret.
US Army Paladins are being fitted with the Modular Artillery Charge Systems (MACS) to fire the Raytheon / Bofors XM982 Excalibur GPS / inertial navigation-guided extended-range 155mm projectiles. Excalibur has a maximum range of 40km and accuracy of better than 10m. First production rounds of Excalibur were delivered in September 2006.
Excalibur successfully completed a limited user test in March 2007. It was first fielded in Iraq in May 2007 and in Afghanistan in February 2008. The new Paladin digital fire control system (PDFCS) is also being fitted and storage capacity for ten Excalibur projectiles.
Self-protection of M109 Paladin
The crew remains in the vehicle throughout the mission. Protection against nuclear, chemical and biological warfare is installed with individual crew protection systems, including temperature-controlled air. The turret is fitted with Kevlar spall suppression lining for additional ballistic protection.
Paladin M109A6 Howitzer communications
The Paladin howitzer is equipped with a secure voice and digital communications suite, including the VIC-1 Intercom, VRC-89 or the SINCGARS single channel ground and airborne radio subsystem.
The M109A6 Paladin vehicle is powered by a two-cycle diesel, 440hp, DDEC 8V71T engine from Detroit Diesel Corporation and an Allison ATD-XTG-411-4 transmission with four forward and two reverse gears. The suspension system is based on high-strength torsion bars with high-capacity shock absorbers. The vehicle has a range of 214 miles with a maximum speed of 40mph.
The electrical power supply is rated at 650A, 24V DC.
M109A7 orders and deliveries
The PIM prototype was unveiled in October 2007. BAE Systems was awarded the design and development contract for the Paladin PIM in May 2008.
The US Army plans to acquire 580 vehicle sets. Each set includes M109A7 Paladin SPH, along with the battlefield companion the M992A3 Carrier Ammunition Tracked (CAT).
BAE Systems received a one-year base contract from the US Army for M109A7 in October 2013. The company secured the first of the two optional year-long contracts, for producing additional 18 sets, in October 2014. The second $245.3m optional contract, for the production of an additional 30 sets, was awarded in October 2015.
In December 2017, the company received the third and the final contract, worth $413.7m, which marked the completion of the low-rate initial production (LRIP) and start of the full-rate production phase.
The company has the option to provide 60 sets a year for approximately three years during full-rate production. The US Army placed a $249m contract for 60 sets in December 2019.
Paladin artillery system upgrade
The US Army and BAE Systems signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) for a partnership to upgrade the Paladin named the Paladin integrated management (PIM) programme.
The upgrade retains the space, weight, power cooling, main armament and cab structure but replaces the chassis with Bradley-common chassis. The engine and transmission were replaced with a Cummins 600hp diesel engine and L3 HMPT-500 automatic transmission, also fitted on the Bradley fighting vehicle. The suspension and steering system, as well as survivability, have been improved.
It has a new automated loader, electric gun drive, in line with the future combat systems non-line-of-sight cannon, NLOS-C, and air-conditioning powered by BAE Systems common modular power system (CMPS).
The technologies developed under the Crusader and Non-Line-of-Sight Cannon programmes, such as a 600V on-board power system, and projectile ramming systems have been improved.
The state-of-the-art digital and power-generation capabilities offer the potential for future payloads and accommodation of current network requirements on the battlefield.
The existing 39-calibre turret was replaced by a 58-calibre, 30ft-long gun barrel for doubling the firepower of the vehicle. The M109A7 is fitted with the extended-range cannon artillery (ERCA) to improve the rate of fire and artillery range.
The company also developed precision guidance kits with anti-jamming capabilities (PGK-AJ), which are compatible with multiple firing platforms.