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M777 Lightweight Towed Howitzer
M777 Light Towed Howitzer 1.jpg
M777 Light Towed Howitzer in service with the 10th Mountain Division in Support of Operation Enduring Freedom, Logar Province, Charkh District, Afghanistan
Type Howitzer
Place of origin  United Kingdom
Service history
In service 2005–
Used by USMC, US Army, Canadian Forces
Specifications
Weight 3,175 kg (7,000 lb)
Length 10.7 m (35 ft) in firing position; 9.5 m (31 ft 2 in) towed position
Barrel length 39 calibers
Crew 5

Caliber 155 mm
Carriage split trail
Rate of fire 2 RPM normal, 5 RPM max.
Effective range 24 km (15mi) with M109 ammunition,
30 km (18.6mi) with ERFB base-bleed,
40 km (25mi) with Excalibur

The M777 howitzer is a towed artillery piece manufactured by BAE Systems' Global Combat Systems division. Prime contract management is based in Barrow-in-Furness in the UK as well as manufacture and assembly of the titanium structures and associated recoil components. Final integration and testing of the weapon is undertaken as BAE's Hattiesburg, Mississippi facility.

It is in the process of replacing the M198 howitzer 155mm towed howitzers in the United States Marine Corps and United States Army. The M777 is also being used by the Canadian Forces, and has been used in action in March 2008 in Afghanistan along with the associated GPS-guided Excalibur ammunition.

Contents

Design

US Marine gunners test fire a M777 howitzer.

The M777 began as the Ultralight-weight Field Howitzer (UFH), developed by VSEL's armaments division in Barrow-in-Furness, United Kingdom. In 1999, VSEL was merged into the new BAE Systems RO Defence. This unit became part of BAE Systems Land Systems in 2004. Although developed by a British company, final assembly is in the USA. BAE System's original US partner was United Defense. However in 2005, BAE acquired United Defense and hence is responsible for design, construction and assembly (through its US-based Land and Armaments group). The M777 uses about 70% US built parts including the gun barrel manufactured at the Watervliet Arsenal.

The M777 is smaller and 42% lighter, at under 4,100 kg (9,000 lb), than the M198 it replaces. Most of the weight reduction is due to the use of titanium. The lighter weight and smaller size allows the M777 to be transported by USMC MV-22 Osprey, CH-47 helicopter or truck with ease, so that it can be moved in and out of the battlefield more quickly than the M198. The smaller size also improves storage and transport efficiency in military warehouses and Air/Naval Transport. The gun crew required is an Operational Minimum of 5, compared to a previous size of 9.[1]

The M777 uses a digital fire-control system similar to that found on self propelled howitzers such as the M109A6 Paladin to provide navigation, pointing and self-location, allowing it to be put into action more quickly than earlier towed and air-transported howitzers. The Canadian (CDN) M777 in conjunction with the traditional "glass and iron sights/mounts” also uses a digital fire control system called Digital Gun Management System (DGMS) produced by SELEX. This system has been proven on the British Army Artillery's L118 Light Gun over the past 3 to 4 years.

The M777 is also often combined with the new Excalibur GPS-guided munition, which allows accurate fire at a range of up to 40 km. This almost doubles the area covered by a single battery to about 5,000 km². Testing at the Yuma Proving Ground by the US Army placed 13 of 14 Excalibur rounds, fired from up to 24 km away, within 10 meters of their target,[2] suggesting a circular error probable of about 5 meters.

Fielding

Soldiers with Battery C, 1st Battalion, 321st Airborne Field Artillery Regiment, 18th Fires Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division, fire 155mm rounds using an M777 Howitzer weapons system, on Forward Operating Base Bostick, Afghanistan, 2009.

In May 2005, 3rd Battalion, 11th Marines, based at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, became the first Marine unit to begin fielding the new M777 under a foreign military sales (FMS) contract. 380 systems will be supplied to the Marines, and 273 to the U.S. Army and National Guard.

In December 2005, 1st Regiment, Royal Canadian Horse Artillery, conducted an inaugural firing of its first 155 mm M777 towed howitzers, for of a total of six guns. The six guns delivered were supplied by the United States Marine Corps under a Foreign Military Sales (FMS) contract[3] between the U.S. and Canada. The guns were deployed to Afghanistan in support of Operation Archer, and were put into service in the Canadian theatre of operations around Kandahar in early 2006. In the summer they made a significant contribution during the Battle of Panjwaii when a small number of rounds were used to huge effect on Taliban elements retreating from the battle area. Many of the 72 reported killed during the heaviest period of fighting were due to artillery fire from only two of these guns. In late fall of 2006, the Canadian M777 Howitzers were equipped with the Digital Gun Management System (DGMS), which greatly improved accuracy and led to these guns being used for Short Range Close Support of Canadian and US ground forces.However, until early 2007, ammunition supplies were constrained and led to reduced firing.[4] They proved so successful that an order for an additional six guns was placed with BAE.[2][5] In May 2009, the Canadian government ordered a further 25 M777s, bringing the total to 37. [6] An Australian government request to the US DSCA for 57 M777A2s has recently been made, worth $248m.[7]

Gun Section 2, 2nd Platoon (5th Section) Bravo Battery, 2-11th Field Artillery (FA) was the first US Army unit to fire the M777A2 in combat at 0823 (Baghdad Time) on 2 January 2008 in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. 2-11 FA deployed December 2007 with 2nd Brigade Combat Team (BCT), 25th Infantry Division out of Schofield Barracks, Hawaii. In June 2007, the M777 in its A2 configuration was assigned to the U.S. Army's 3rd Battalion, 321st Field Artillery Regiment. 3-321 FA deployed to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in December 2007 and has become mission capable since January 2008 making 3-321 FA the first U.S. Army unit to utilize the M777 in combat in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. In April 2008, the M777 was deployed for testing with the 2nd battalion, 8th Field Artillery of the U.S. Army at Fort Wainwright in Fairbanks, Alaska. On July 20, 2008 at Camp Shelby, Mississippi, the 1st Battalion, 108th Field Artillery, 28th Infantry Division, PA National Guard became the first Field Artillery unit of the National Guard to field and fire the M777. B Battery 109th became the first battery to qualify and shoot all of its rounds at Camp Shelby, Mississippi.[8]

Combat history

Operators

[10]

Media

M777 Light Towed Howitzer in Operation in Logar Province, Afghanistan

Gallery

See also

References

External links

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