According to Daniel Wasserbly, Jane’s Defence Weekly correspondent, the U.S. Army has begun receiving its first production-model M109A7 Paladin Integrated Management (called PIM) Self-Propelled Howitzers (SPHs) and held a ceremony on 9 April to mark the new system’s arrival.
The army and prime contractor BAE Systems are in the process of finalising a Low-Rate Initial Production (LRIP) plan that is expected to include 66 vehicle sets (a set is one SPH and one M992A3 CAT, Carrier, Ammunition, Tracked vehicle) plus an extra SPH for testing, Mark Signorelli, BAE Systems’ vice-president and general manager of combat vehicles, told IHS Jane’s on 8 April. The army could buy as many as 580 sets, but the actual procurement quantity could be slightly lower and depends on funding.
For fiscal year 2016 (FY 2016) the service requested Paladin PIM programme funding to support final developmental testing with $152.3 million and to buy 30 PIM LRIP systems with $273.9 million. Mark Signorelli said a full-rate production decision is expected in February 2017 after qualification and reliability testing is completed, and following an operational test slated for the second half of 2016.
PIM is to replace the legacy M109A6 Paladin howitzers and M992A2 ammunition carriers with a more advanced system, while incorporating drive train and suspension components common to the M2 Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicle (IFV). The programme was approved to begin initial production in October 2014 following an extended testing period after the first seven prototypes were delivered in 2011.
Mark Signorelli described those prototypes as «generation one» and noted that several upgrades and capabilities were added to change the configuration over time, including new armour designs for heightened protection and design changes around the gun drives and rammer. «Very few of them were individually significant», Signorelli said, although the changes took time and added testing qualifications.
The PIM retains the legacy 155-mm Paladin’s cannon, but it is fitted on a new chassis based on the Bradley. The two vehicles share a 600 hp Cummins V903 diesel engine, a suspension, and other components.
Aside from the chassis, the PIM models also have a new electric ramming system and a 600 V on-board power system that builds on technologies developed during the Non-Line-of-Sight Cannon (NLOS-C) programme and is intended to ensure the PIM will have enough space, weight, and power-cooling growth potential for future upgrades.
Paladin Integrated Management
M109A7 Self-Propelled Howitzer
The new M109A7 Self-Propelled Howitzer and its associated M992A3 Carrier, Ammunition, Tracked (CAT) vehicle enhance their combat-proven successors’ – the M109A6 Paladin and M992A2 Field Artillery Ammunition Support Vehicle’s (FAASV) – reliability, maintainability, performance, responsiveness, and lethality. Additionally, they provide increased commonality with the Bradley Fighting Vehicle (BFV) of the Armored Brigade Combat Team (ABCT) with significant built-in growth potential in terms of available space, weight and electrical power.
The M109A7 chassis features a power pack, drive train, track, and suspension components common with the BFV, improving supportability and reducing the ABCT’s logistical footprint.
The M109A7’s «shoot and scoot» capability protects the crew from counterbattery fire by means of an onboard position navigation system and fire control system capable of executing missions digitally and via secure voice command. With an upgraded, 675 hp/503 kW electronically controlled version of the BFV standard V903 engine, coupled with an improved HMPT-800 transmission, the M109A7 has faster acceleration for rapid displacement, and the ability to keep pace with the maneuver forces it supports.
From the move, the M109A7 can receive a fire mission, compute firing data, select and occupy a firing position, transition from traveling configuration to firing configuration, and point its cannon, and fire within 60 seconds – all with first round fire-for-effect accuracy. The M109A7 operates day or night, in all weather conditions, providing timely and accurate fires with a range in excess of 30 km/18.6 miles.
The M109A7 offers increased survivability, because the crew remains inside the vehicle throughout the mission. Along with the «shoot and scoot» capability, the M109A7 features an Automatic Fire Extinguishing System (AFES), Common Remote Operated Weapons System (CROWS), and enhanced applique armor.
Hull, turret, suspension, and automotive system upgrades increase system reliability. The M109A7 incorporates an onboard computer with comprehensive diagnostics programs that rapidly pinpoint equipment issues early for ease of maintenance while improving system availability.
|Gross vehicle weight||80,000 lbs/36,288 kg|
|Engine||675 hp/503 kW|
|Fuel tank||143 gallons/541 liters|
|Speed||38 mph/61 km/h|
|Estimated cruising range||186 miles/300 km|
|Trench crossing||72 inches/1.8 m|
|Maximum fording depth||42 inches/1.0 m|
|Overall length||382 inches/9.7 m|
|Width||154 inches/3.9 m|
|Height||129 inches/3.3 m|
|Howitzer/gun mount||M284 cannon/M182A1 mount|
|Main generator||70 kW; 600 vdc/28 vdc|
A key design consideration is the ability to operate with rapid, easy movement across almost any terrain, displaying much of the mobility of a main battle tank.
While the engine needs to be powerful and compact to meet this requirement, it also needs to offer exceptional reliability to ensure maximum availability of these high-value battlefield assets. The heavy-duty V903 engine is purpose developed by Cummins for these highly demanding applications – and during combat situations the outstanding abilities of this unique engine have been fully proven.
The V903 has also proved an ideal power solution for one of the most important elements on the battlefield – the tracked Infantry Fighting Vehicle (IFV), typified by the M2 Bradley together with derivatives such as the M3 Bradley Cavalry Fighting Vehicle (CVF).
Equipped with 600 hp (447 kW) of Cummins heavy-duty power, the Bradley can maintain progress with main battle tanks right at the forefront of the action. Very high power-toweight ratio enables these vehicles to incorporate heavier armour and more firepower, while the inherent reliability of the engine is a major advantage during high intensity operations.
|Maximum Power||800 hp @ 2800 rpm/597 kW|
|Max Torque||2362 Nm @ 2200 rpm|