The Army reported last week that a National Guard artillery unit was the first to perform a live-fire test with the new M109A7 Self-Propelled Howitzer System.
The 1st Battalion, 113th Field Artillery Regiment [1-113th FA], 30th Armored Brigade Combat Team worked with the newly-fielded artillery at Fort Bragg, N.C., for two weeks before a demonstration of the weapon, known in various iterations as the Paladin.
Built by BAE Systems, the howitzers resemble lightly-armored tanks, and specialize in long-distance aerial bombardment. All systems can be controlled by a crew of four.
The M109A7 update borrows chassis parts from larger Bradley vehicles and employs mechanical, rather than hydraulic, operation for the 155 mm M284 gun’s movement and direction.
The 78,000-pound vehicle has a range of 13.6 miles for conventional 100-pound munitions and 18.6 miles for rocket-propelled munitions.
“The new weapons system allows us to do it a little bit faster,” 113th Regiment SSgt. Cody Fields said in a press release.
“Everything was converted from hydraulic to electrical. It enables us to alleviate some of the maintenance problems we had previously “Fields said.
The vehicle has been upgraded several times since its introduction in the 1960s, and the Army is seeking to incorporate its XM1113 rocket-assisted projectile, which could travel 25 miles, employing a ramjet for propulsion with a less volatile munition.
Members of the 1-113th Regiment, which had just arrived from the Middle East, conducted the field experiments at Fort Bragg, and their responses were positive.
“We’re really excited to be given that honour and get to shoot these first,” Fields said. “To actually shoot artillery and send that 100 pounds downrange in support of our brothers downrange, it’s a great feeling.”