Army Howitzer Design to Serve 100 Years

26.06.09

Categorie: David Axe, Infantry, Reality Check |

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by DAVID AXE

The U.S. Army was developing a new, semi-robotic, tracked howitzer, as part of the Future Combat Systems family of vehicles. But Secretary of Defense Robert Gates killed FCS, in April. The howitzer — the so-called Non Line-of-Sight Cannon — was funded separately from FCS, so wasn’t subject to the FCS termination. But the Army ordered a work stoppage, anyways, while officials sort out whether to continue the program.

If the NLOS-C is fully canceled, it will mark the second time, in just eight years, that the Army has tried, and failed, to develop a new howitzer. The mammoth Crusader howitzer was canceled in 2002. Anticipating NLOS-C’s death, the Senate just voted to spend an extra $60 million, to keep the Army’s existing, M-109A6 Paladin howitzers, in service until 2050. That’s nearly 100 years after the first M-109 entered U.S. service, and 70 years after the A6 version reached the field.

The situation is not as dire, as you might think. The 10-year-old Paladins look similar to older M-109s, on the outside, but inside they’re brand-new vehicles, with new components and computers. Bits of the Crusader ended up in NLOS-C, and there’s no reason that bits of NLOS-C won’t end up in future Paladin upgrades. In that way, the canceled howitzers live on.

Though out-ranged by some nations’ guns, the Paladin still represents one of the best artillery systems in the world, especially when combined with the Army’s longer-range MLRS rocket launchers. Increasingly, ground combat systems take an evolutionary approach to modernization, frequently adding new electronics to the same, basic, proven body. No artillery body is more proven than the M-109. If any howitzer can last 100 years, it’s this one.

(Photo: Cannonartillery.com)

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8 Responses to “Army Howitzer Design to Serve 100 Years”

  1. Ray says:

    I am often suspicious that entirely new weapons are designed just in order to have the next model coming down the line, etc, etc.

    In my opinion, we should have a brand new model only when there are clear and overwhelming advantages over upgrades to the current model.

  2. Rosemary says:

    I know I don’t much about which equipment is better and which you have more of, but it still burns me everytime they stop one after putting so much money into it. (It would bother me anyway.) Rummy was trying to make this a light and ready operating machine (the troops and their equipment), but everyone had to fight him. I don’t like Gates. Maybe it’s because he replaced Rummy, maybe it’s b/c he’s so chummy with Obama. i don’t really care which, I just wish I didn’t feel this way.

    Is there something I’m missing that you could explain to me that might help me not to dislike him? I’d really appreciate it. Thanks.

  3. Rosemary says:

    Ray, that makes sense to me. I thought maybe these were too old or something like that. Feels a little better. Still…

  4. Layedoffagain says:

    These project changes are very political. The army simply keeps changing its mind about what it wants and every administration and every conflict sheds a different light on what they think is best. Whether the military needs a new doodad or not goes beyond current field criteria. Rumsfeld was kinda right saying that you go to war with what you got but then his FCS boon-doggle was based on a some fascist blitzkrieg garbage. NLOS was not as light as it should have been despite its armor being minimal and vulnerable to IEDs and rockets. NLOS was fully automatic but Paladin will be at best semi auto using some of the same technology. I’ve worked closely with both and I just got layed off again for the third time in 9 years working on these projects.

  5. Marcase says:

    I’m sorry, but the M-109 is just plain outdated. Even the upgraded Paladin is still based on a 1980s chassis and turret, even with all the modern “plug-in” gizmos. It’s slow, manpower intensive and a maintenance hog.
    Only the AFATDS is a keeper, the rest should be replaced by an off-the-shelf artillery piece, such as PzH-2000 (the one on a MLRS chassis) or the Swedish Archer. My choice would be to mount a long barrel NLOS-C on say, a Bradley chassis for log commonality.

    Cheers.

  6. tonyholien@Gmail.com says:

    I would like to buy one that has been de-comissiioned and but it in my front yard as decoration or whatever. Just have it sit there like in a musiuem. It is possible?

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