Long-range in the close fight
he Army is looking at how it will evolve its current M109A7 self-propelled howitzer — or the Paladin Integrated Management — into extended-range cannon artillery, Maranian said.
The CFT is looking at “how do we take that chassis that is hopefully going to be at full-rate production in the next couple of months and get ourselves to a better propellant, a better projectile and a longer barrel — extending from a 39-caliber to a 58-caliber — to be able to not only get on the current battlefield to the 70 kilometer range, but also provide the basis from which either a hypervelocity or a ramjet technology round could get us to very long ranges with cannon artillery,” he said.
The plan is to spiral in capabilities: “We are not going to wait and try to create the next Crusader Howitzer,” Maranian said.
Instead, the Army will build capability for extended-range cannon artillery in a “very methodical manner that accelerates those things that are ready for acceleration,” he added.
“First out of the barrel, pun intended,” Maranian said, “is going to be the ... XM1113. 1113 is the new rocket-assisted projectile.”
That projectile could end up in soldiers’ hands in approximately two to two-and-half years, according to Maranian. It is being demonstrated right now through experiments at Yuma Proving Ground, Arizona, which took place last month and is continuing into March.
The Army expects the projectile to reach out to 40 kilometers when fired from the current cannon tube, delivering a 33 percent increase in range capability from previous rockets, according to Maranian.
Then the service will extend the cannon tube from a 39-caliber to a 58-caliber, which will provide a number of benefits, Maranian said, including a new breach and new mounts within the turret of the cannon, and will provide “the ability to have a much greater explosive chain to be able to achieve the velocity out of the tube that hypersonics would require.”
Lastly, the Army will work on an autoloader, which will increase the cannon’s volume of fire. “If we can get six to 10 rounds out of a tube for a minute, sustained, as opposed to four rounds in the first minute and one sustained after that with a human crew loading all the ammunition, we are going to dramatically increase our effects on target to be able to have more impact at the same time,” he said.
“Hypersonic technology is absolutely something that we need to look at,” he said. But he added that there are a number things that can be done to give certain projectiles hypersonic-like capabilities.
“Hypersonics is really a speed band of how fast we are getting that projectile moving,” Maranian said.
Another way to get after fast speeds and longer ranges is through ramjet technology. When a projectile leaves the cannon and is flying through the air, the air is fed into the projectile itself and ignites an internal propellant, which causes further acceleration, according to Maranian.
The Pentagon’s Strategic Capabilities Office, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, and Space and Missile Defense Command, outside of the Army, are looking at a number of classified programs, he said.
The SCO is particularly looking at the 58-caliber cannon tube because it is a base requirement for hypersonics.
The CFT is also taking a look at rail gun technology as well as directed energy, Maranian noted.
The Army sees the possibility of hypersonics and ramjet projectiles being demonstrated in the next couple of years “for certain,” he said, adding that demonstrations for both could potentially happen in 2019.
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