Tag Archives: Picatinny Arsenal

Double range

Picatinny Arsenal engineers have been working to create a longer, newly modified M777A2 howitzer that has the potential to double the system’s current artillery range. The modification adds six feet/1.8 m to the cannon and less than 1,000 pounds/453.6 kg to the overall system. A mobility demonstration is the first step to determine if the howitzer can be modified for extended range, or if a new system is required.

The newly modified M777A2 howitzer has the potential to double the system’s current artillery range (Photo by Erin Usawicz)
The newly modified M777A2 howitzer has the potential to double the system’s current artillery range (Photo by Erin Usawicz)

«Their user concern is that when the self-propelled program is done they will be left with a towed cannon variant that they can’t tow around, which is its number one mode of transportation», said David Bound, M777ER Lead, Artillery Concepts and Design Branch, which is part of the Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center, or ARDEC.

The Extended Range Cannon Artillery, or ERCA, project is funded by ARDEC’s science and technology office and charged with developing technology to extend the range of all 155-mm artillery.

The ERCA program develops not only the XM907 cannon but also products, such as the XM1113 rocket assisted projectile, the XM654 supercharge, an autoloader, and new fire control system.

Program Manager Towed Artillery Systems, or PM-TAS, which leads the M777ER program, is taking the ERCA cannon design and adapting it to the M777 to determine if it can be a cross-platform solution.

This PM-TAS effort is a dual-funded program by the Army and the Marines.

PM-TAS is part of the Program Executive Office for Ammunition at Picatinny Arsenal.

To begin efforts to test mobility, PM-TAS demonstrated a modified M777A2 Howitzer with an integration kit for the mass mock-up of the modified XM907 ERCA cannon at Yuma Proving Ground, Arizona. Follow-on mobility testing will be conducted at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, to document the changes in mobility from a standard M777A2, if any.

«The ERCA program is developing the cannon to give it more range. PM-TAS is doing the demonstration to the Marines to show how it would look, feel and move when integrated into the M777A2 carriage», said Bound.

The demonstration will not include firing the weapon, but will show how the gun responds when it travels and how it feels when the crew interacts with the controls.

With nearly 1,000 pounds/453.6 kg added to the system’s overall weight and an additional six feet/1.8 m of cannon tube, the demonstration is taking place to give the Soldiers and Marines more confidence that the gun will still meet all of its mobility requirements.

«The visual prejudice we are up against is that it looks like it may tip over with all that extra cannon. We are trying to increase confidence that the M777 is an acceptable candidate for an extended range upgrade», said Bound.

In efforts to ensure that the gun will meet all of its requirements, a mobility cannon tube was created.

The mobility tube consists of an old 52-caliber tube that was modified to fit into an M777A2 at the weight of the XM907. Additionally, grooves were added to the exterior of the tube to allow Picatinny engineers to hang weights at different positions, enabling them to move the center of gravity of the weapon forward or rear.

This cannon will allow the Army and the Marines to assess the impacts to the M777 and how it’s operated as the ERCA program optimizes the cannon design.

«The weights allow the Center of Gravity to move and get to the point where we can start towing this around as the configuration of the tube changes as the ERCA figures out what they want to do because it’s in flux right now», said Bound.

«We are able to replicate how that tube reacts in the system using the different weight configurations. Then, we can hook this up to a truck so we can see what the users can expect from a human-factors point of view of how much harder it is to elevate, traverse back and forth, and what the trucks are going to see as they tow the system around», said Bound.

Benet Labs designed the tube and Picatinny designed all of the carriage modifications.


Increased range

«Right now (the M777) can shoot about 18.6 miles/30 kilometers, but once all of the upgrades are complete it will be able to shoot about 43.5 miles/70 kilometers», said Bound. «So, it will be able to reach out and hit targets well in excess before the targets can reach them. It will also give a lot of operational over match so the warfighter won’t have to worry about coming into a situation where they are under fire before they can return fire».

After the ERCA program, the M777ER program is engaged in making sure that ERCA’s system is suitable for the M777 system.

The final ERCA system will be demonstrated with an M109A7 system, which is the Paladin self-propelled howitzer.


Trajectory correction

As drone technology gains greater public attention, along with its potential for hostile action against American targets, U.S. Army engineers adapt ongoing research to counter aerial systems that could threaten Soldiers.

The Picatinny area-protection systems track both the incoming threat and interceptor, then computes an ideal trajectory correction for the interceptor to maximize probability of mission success
The Picatinny area-protection systems track both the incoming threat and interceptor, then computes an ideal trajectory correction for the interceptor to maximize probability of mission success

At Picatinny Arsenal, the Extended Area Protection and Survivability Integrated Demonstration, or EAPS ID, began as an Army Technology Objective program. The goal was to develop and demonstrate technology that could support a gun-based solution to Counter Rockets, Artillery and Mortars, or C-RAM.

Research into enhanced C-RAM technology had the goal of extending the range and probability of success against the incoming threat.

«The smaller and smaller the protective area, the more efficient the gun systems become compared to missiles», said Manfredi Luciano, the project officer for the EAPS system. «You don’t need as many, and the gun system has certain logistics advantages».

As news reports about potential airborne threats to the White House have stirred public awareness of such threat to U.S. interests, ongoing technology aimed at countering rockets, artillery and mortars could be used to defend against Unmanned Aerial Systems, or UAS, Luciano said.

«It’s unbelievable how much it’s exploded», Luciano said about the use of drones. «Every country has them now, whether they are armed or not or what level of performance. This is a huge threat has been coming up on everybody. It has kind of almost sneaked up on people, and it’s almost more important than the Counter-RAM threat».

The UAS challenge has grown exponentially in the last decade as the world’s inventory of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) has grown from approximately 20 system types and 800 aircraft in 1999, to more than 200 system types and approximately 10,000 unmanned aircraft in 2010, said Nancy Elliott, a spokeswoman with the U.S. Army’s Fires Center of Excellence at Fort Sill, Oklahoma.

Although a missile-based C-RAM defense system has been selected as the technical approach for the Indirect Fire Protection Capability Increment 2 Intercept Program of Record, the gun alternative continued to mature as force-protection technologies for other potential applications. In response to proliferation, UAS threats were recently added to the project scope of gun-based force protection.

Luciano and his team, working on enhanced area protection and survivability, tested an integrated system April 22 by shooting down a class 2 Unmanned Aerial System using command guidance and command warhead detonation at Yuma Proving Ground, Arizona. Funding for development and testing was provided by the Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center (ARDEC) Technology Office.

The EAPS ARDEC gun alternative envisions a 50-mm cannon to launch command-guided interceptors. The system uses a precision tracking radar interferometer as a sensor, a fire control computer, and a radio frequency transmitter and receiver to launch the projectile into an engagement «basket».

«In order to minimize the electronics on board the interceptor and to make it cheaper, all the ‘smarts’ are basically done on the ground station», Luciano said. «The computations are done on the ground, and the radio frequency sends the information up to the round».

The Picatinny area-protection systems track both the incoming threat and interceptor, then compute an ideal trajectory correction for the interceptor to maximize probability of mission success. A thruster on the interceptor/projectile is used for course correction. The ground station uplinks the maneuver and detonation commands, while receiving downlinked assessment data.

The interceptor takes the commands and computes the roll orientation and time to execute thruster and warhead detonation. The warhead has a tantalum-tungsten alloy liner to form forward propelled penetrators for defeat of C-RAM targets, and steel body fragments to counter unmanned aerial systems.

The April 22, 2015, test was performed with a single shot Mann barrel. The UAS was flying a surveillance-type track and was engaged on the approach path leg. The airplane fell precipitously from its flight.

«The integrated test demonstrated a proof-of-principle that direct fire, command guided ammunition can intercept and negate aerial threats», Luciano said.

«Technologies from the EAPS gun alternative Army Technology Objective may potentially be used for both Army and Navy air defense systems», he added.

Luciano said that during another upcoming test, the engineers would try to intercept and destroy an unmanned aerial system under a more difficult engagement scenario.