The U.S. Army has awarded BAE Systems a contract that clears the path to begin full-rate production of the company’s M109A7 Paladin Self-Propelled Howitzer (SPH) and M992A3 Field Artillery Ammunition Supply Vehicles (FAASVs).
The contract includes an initial $413.7 million award to execute the third and final option for low-rate initial production on the program. Options are also included that would begin the full-rate production phase, which, if exercised, would bring the cumulative value of the award to approximately $1.7 billion.
BAE Systems will initially produce 48 vehicle sets, with the options calling for 60 sets per year for approximately three years of deliveries thereafter during full-rate production. The M109A7 Paladin consists of a new chassis design for improved performance, upgraded survivability, and components common to other Army vehicles, as well as additional key features.
«We have been working with the Army to design, develop, build, and test this vehicle for several years», said Adam Zarfoss, vice president and general manager of BAE Systems’ Combat Vehicles U.S. business. «By working closely with our customer, we were able to design a vehicle that meets the needs of the current forces, and provides the system infrastructure and electrical power generation that leaves ample room to incorporate future capabilities».
The M109A7 Paladin program is a significant upgrade over the vehicle’s predecessor, the M109A6 Paladin Self-Propelled Howitzer. It uses the existing main armament and cab structure of the M109A6 Paladin, but replaces the vehicle’s chassis structure with a new design that increases survivability and allows for the integration of drive-train and suspension components common to the Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicle. This commonality reduces overall program cost and logistical footprint, and provides improved mobility and system survivability to maintain dominance on the battlefield.
The M109A7 Paladin also leverages technologies from previous design programs, such as a 600-volt on-board power generation, distribution, and management system, coupled with a high-voltage electric gun drive and projectile ramming systems. The state-of-the-art digital-backbone and power generation capability provides significant growth potential for future payloads, and will accommodate existing battlefield network requirements. The upgrades ensure commonality with the existing systems in the Army’s Armored Brigade Combat Team, including the BAE Systems-built Bradley Fighting Vehicle and the new Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicle family.
Work on the M109A7 Paladin is currently underway at the Anniston Army Depot in Alabama, and at BAE Systems’ facilities in York, Pennsylvania; Elgin, Oklahoma; Aiken, South Carolina; Minneapolis, Minnesota; and Endicott, New York.
The U.S. Army awarded BAE Systems a contract option worth $245.3 million to complete the Low-Rate Initial Production (LRIP) of the M109A7 self-propelled howitzer and M992A3 ammunition carrier. «The success of this program is directly attributable to the partnership between the Army and BAE Systems», said Adam Zarfoss, director of Artillery and Bradley programs at BAE Systems. «We’ve worked as a team to bring this much needed enhanced combat capability to the soldier to address immediate needs while providing a platform that can support future growth as requirements evolve».
The M109A7 program is a significant upgrade over the vehicle’s predecessor, the M109A6 Paladin Self-Propelled Howitzer. It uses the existing main armament and cab structure of the M109A6, but replaces the vehicle’s chassis structure with a new design that increases survivability and allows for the integration of Bradley common drive-train and suspension components. Additionally, the system leverages technologies developed under the Crusader and Non-Line-of-Sight Cannon programs such as a 600-volt on-board power generation, distribution and management system, coupled with high-voltage gun drive and projectile ramming systems.
The state-of-the-art «digital-backbone» and power generation capability provides significant growth potential for future payloads as well as accommodating existing battlefield network requirements. The upgrades ensure commonality with the existing systems in the U.S. Army’s Armored Brigade Combat Team, including the BAE Systems-built Bradley Fighting Vehicle and Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicle.
BAE Systems was awarded a one-year base contract for the M109A7 in October 2013, and the first of two option year awards to produce an additional 18 vehicle sets in October 2014. The current exercise is for the second option year to produce an additional 30 sets. One set includes an M109A7 Paladin Self Propelled Howitzer (SPH) along with its battlefield companion, the M992A3 Carrier Ammunition, Tracked. With all two options exercised, BAE Systems will deliver a total of 66 vehicle sets plus one additional SPH and associated kits, spares, and technical documentation to complete the LRIP phase. The U.S. Army has a total acquisition objective of 580 vehicle sets.
Work on the M109A7 is currently underway at Anniston Army Depot, Alabama and BAE Systems’ York, Pennsylvania, and Elgin, Oklahoma, facilities.
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
675 hp/503 kW
143 gallons/541 liters
38 mph/61 km/h
Estimated cruising range
186 miles/300 km
72 inches/1.8 m
Maximum fording depth
42 inches/1.0 m
382 inches/9.7 m
154 inches/3.9 m
129 inches/3.3 m
M284 cannon/M182A1 mount
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.