The US Army has taken delivery of the first low-rate initial production M109A7 self-propelled howitzer during a ceremony in Elgin, Oklahoma, US.
Built by BAE Systems under a contract awarded in October 2013, the M109A7 will replace the army's existing M109A6 self-propelled howitzer, formerly known as the paladin integrated management (PIM) programme.
Incorporating a new chassis, engine, transmission, suspension, and steering system, the updated vehicle is expected to provide armoured brigade combat teams with a responsive indirect fire system that can keep pace with the Abrams tank and Bradleys on the battlefield.
The components are common to the army's Bradley vehicles, hence lowering overall programme cost and the logistical footprint, while improving survivability to maintain dominance in the theatre.
Army acquisition, logistics and technology assistant secretary Heidi Shyu said: "The M109A7 stands at the vanguard of a series of ground combat modernisation upgrades, which will significantly enhance the army's combat fleet for decades to come."
Army ground combat systems programme executive officer brigadier general David Bassett said: "This is really an example of acquisition done right, and today's ceremony is a major step in keeping our promise to provide our field artillery Soldiers with the best self-propelled howitzer available.
"The improvements not only bring significant commonality, a reduced logistical footprint and lifecycle costs savings to a large portion of the armoured brigade combat team, they also ensure relevancy by providing crucial offensive and defensive fires in support of combined arms manoeuvre, wide area security and other full-spectrum operations."
Manufactured at BAE's facility in York, Pennsylvania, the new chassis was married with the reworked Anniston components at the company's new facility in Elgin for final assembly.
The components including cab structures, overhauled gun and cannon assemblies were obtained after dismantling of M109A6 Paladin howitzers and M992A2 field artillery ammunition support vehicles, which were shipped by the army to Anniston Army Depot in 2014.
Apart from a new chassis, the M109A7 also features a 600V on-board power system that is designed to accommodate emerging technologies and future requirements as well as current requirements like the battlefield network.
Image: The first low-rate initial production M109A7 self-propelled howitzer was recently handed over to the US Army. Photo: courtesy of US Army.