Tag Archives: Paladin Integrated Management

Extended Range

Inside a section of a cavernous building in use to assemble a complex and sophisticated military vehicle, a stripped-down chassis awaits a series of extensive modifications and upgrades.

Extended Range Cannon Artillery (ERCA)
The longer cannon tube is a prominent feature of the Extended Range Cannon Artillery system, which is designed to provide more flexibility and effectiveness on the battlefield (Photo by Jesse Glass)

Just outside the building, punctuating its presence with a diesel engine rumble, is a much more complete version of the vehicle. Inside, an operator slowly raises and lowers a cannon tube that will eventually fire an artillery projectile to ranges much farther than could be previously achieved.

More than a dozen prototypes of the Extended Range Cannon Artillery (ERCA) system will eventually be assembled at this small U.S. Army installation in northern New Jersey, yet the significance of the work here extends far beyond its confines.

The advanced artillery system, commonly known as ERCA, is considered the signature effort within the Army’s top Modernization Priority: Long Range Precision Fires (LRPF). With its longer cannon barrel and other key enhancements, ERCA is expected to greatly extend the strike range of precision artillery with improved projectiles and more powerful propellant.

ERCA is a 155-mm self-propelled howitzer that is being integrated into the existing M109A7 Paladin Integrated Management or PIM. Testing has shown that it can reach a target much farther than existing 155-mm artillery, an achievement that has infused Army leaders with enthusiasm.

«It’s a fabulous addition to our capabilities», said Brigadier General William T. Boruff, the former Joint Program Executive Officer Armaments and Ammunition, now retired. «We’re going to have a cannon that can range 70 kilometers/43.5 miles with the Excalibur round and we’re hitting point targets with accuracy at 70 kilometers/43.5 miles».

At a «christening ceremony» last year to officially introduce ERCA into the Army via an operational artillery battalion, Brigadier General Glenn A. Dean III, Program Executive Officer, Ground Combat Systems, said, «This is an exciting day for the artillery and artillery men everywhere».

In the past, 155-mm artillery rounds were commonly viewed as mostly area weapons, whose suppressive fires allowed troops to maneuver during combat. More recently, however, the availability of precision-guided rounds, which can strike to within one-meter of a specific target 30 kilometers/18.6 miles away, provides commanders more options and flexibility on the battlefield.

The U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command (DEVCOM) Armaments Center at Picatinny Arsenal is taking the lead in designing ERCA. As a subordinate center to the larger DEVCOM organization, the Armaments Center is part of the Army Futures Command.

In 2015, the Armaments Center launched ERCA as a science and technology effort to address a growing need to extend artillery range. The development of ERCA gained considerable impetus in 2019, when the need to deliver long-range precision fires became a priority within the Army Modernization Strategy.

Thus, the combination of evolving technology, more robust funding and priority status set the stage for the ongoing assembly of ERCA systems, known officially as mid-tier acquisition prototypes. The middle tier of acquisition pathway is used to rapidly develop fieldable prototypes within an acquisition program to demonstrate new capabilities, and/or rapidly field production quantities of systems with proven technologies that require minimal development.

The Armaments Center’s involvement in assembling so many ERCA prototypes is a departure of sorts from its typical role of research and development. The usual pattern is to mature a technology on behalf of a customer organization within the Army, which later accepts the transfer of the project. The receiving organization will typically seek out a defense contractor for mass production.

«Earlier on, the Armaments Center was asked to assemble only three prototypes», said Joseph P. Troll, the Armament Lead for ERCA. «Then we were going to mature the technology to hit the street, and have additional contractors come in and bid on the technology to build this».

However, as the Armaments Center proceeded to assemble ERCA prototypes, a key event was looming. By the end of Fiscal Year 2023, the Army anticipates receiving a battalion of ERCA prototypes to begin an operational assessment.

The initial request to the Armaments Center for three ERCA prototypes then grew to seven. As soon as it became evident that the Armaments Center could handle additional numbers, Troll said, a later request came in: «Can you actually build a battalion?»

«We have a lot of outstanding partners working with us on the assembly, including various Army organizations, the industrial base, industry and government partners», Troll explained.

«But within DEVCOM, the Armaments Center and GVSC (Ground Vehicle Systems Center), we’re really achieving this extended range technology holistically in house, which is a win for the Army because it’s cost beneficial. It allows us to move at a pace that has really never been seen before in other programs».

The Armaments Center’s ability to do the work, however, does not reflect the difficulty and complexity of that work: stripping down an M109A7 Paladin, then methodically assembling a much more robust and lethal 155-mm howitzer that would then become a functional ERCA system.

Within the Armaments Center, at least 300 people are involved with some aspect of the project across 20 different integrated product teams, or IPTs. In addition to internal collaboration, there is the constant coordination with other Army organizations and industry partners. The process can be compared to a sophisticated watch piece with highly synchronized mechanical movements.

«It is very detail oriented», Troll said of the ERCA project. «In order to be successful, we created multiple teams to manage every aspect. We’ve got a family of IPTs that manage everything from our modifications to our vendors, to our fire control software and everything else that’s on ERCA».

The advantages of a tightly focused in-house effort save valuable time, solving problems quickly and avoiding overreliance on outside contractors during the testing and assembly stage.

«We’re really moving quickly», said Troll. «Anytime there’s an issue, or any troubleshooting that occurs, the teams here on standby are ready to go. It really allows us to be adaptable and move quickly in an ever changing environment».

«ERCA truly is an example of a signature modernization system and follows the Army’s strategy of constantly looking for cost savings at the component, subsystem, and assembly line level», Troll added. «Part of how we do that is that each organization or contractor isn’t developing something outside of the purview of another organization, and then trying to put it all together at the end. Our integrated, simultaneous, and concurrent approach is what speeds up our development».

From Troll’s perspective, the Armaments Center gained valuable experience now being applied to the multi-ERCA effort with its previous involvement in upgrading the M119 105-mm towed artillery system. Several hundred howitzers received upgraded fire-control and recoil systems.

«Normally, the Armaments Center isn’t the type of organization where you would do a complete overhaul of an entire fleet of weapon systems», Troll noted. «But the M119 was unique because we had the folks developing those technologies here in-house. It made sense to have them be the installers of that technology so that we can move quickly to support that effort».

The experience with the M119 underscored the value of having the varied areas of expertise clustered in a relatively compact area.

«We don’t have to go travel three, four hours, wherever it is, in different areas in the country in order to go troubleshoot these new prototypes», Troll explained. «We just walk next door. You plug it in and you’re ready to go. By the afternoon, you have your answer. Those successes and lessons from M119 were transitioned over to ERCA. It really has panned out».

«A lot of the same folks that work on ERCA here today are the same folks that did that effort many years ago», Troll said of the M119 retrofit. «They had that battle rhythm already going, and it was already established, so we just carried it over to support ERCA».

The Armaments Center is finishing up its set of ERCA testing prototypes that have been delivered for testing and evaluation at various locations within the U.S. Army Test and Evaluation Command. Those prototypes will return to Picatinny Arsenal for upgrades and retrofit before issuance to operational units.

The current assembly of the first battalion of ERCAs is benefitting from the information gained with the first testing prototypes. The eventual battalion fleet is in a «test-fix-test» mode as the system elements (weapon, propellant, and projectiles) are concurrently developed. The current assembly effort is underway to meet the timeline for the FY23 operational assessment.

Robert Legemaat, the Integration and Demonstration IPT Lead, said the ongoing challenges of ERCA integration include coordinating with all the project teams to make sure that the correct configurations of the vehicles are being captured. Also, that when testing occurs, that the proper configuration of the vehicles is being met for each specific test.

In addition, there is the tedious process of producing all the detailed documentation of the end configuration. That process is necessary to ensure that, when ERCA is eventually transitioned to private industry for production, the industry partner will have all the information required to produce ERCAs in a traditional manufacturing setting.

«It’s challenging», Legemaat said. «There are a lot of late nights and early mornings to accommodate this. At the end of the day, as long as we get a good product to the Soldier that we can validate and meet our deadlines, then it’s worth it».

American Paladin

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.

Extended range: 30 km/18.6 miles with High Explosive – Rocket Assisted Projectile (HE RAP) and M203 propellant
Extended range: 30 km/18.6 miles with High Explosive – Rocket Assisted Projectile (HE RAP) and M203 propellant

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.

Max rate of fire: 4 rounds/minute for three minutes
Max rate of fire: 4 rounds/minute for three minutes


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.


Operational Availability

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.

Sustained rate of fire: 1 round/minute (dependent on thermal warning devices)
Sustained rate of fire: 1 round/minute (dependent on thermal warning devices)



Gross vehicle weight 80,000 lbs/36,288 kg
Crew 4
Engine 675 hp/503 kW
Fuel tank 143 gallons/541 liters
Speed 38 mph/61 km/h
Estimated cruising range 186 miles/300 km
Slope 60%
Side slope 40%
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
Reserve power >50%


Cummins VTA903

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.


Engine Specifications

Model V903
Cylinders V8
Capacity 14.8 L
Valves 32
Maximum Power 800 hp @ 2800 rpm/597 kW
Max Torque 2362 Nm @ 2200 rpm
Weight (dry) 1,271kg
Engine Cummins VTA903
Engine Cummins VTA903