M777: dragon’s breath
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The M777 ultra-lightweight towed 155mm howitzer has an integrated digital fire control system, and can fire all existing 155mm projectiles. Nothing new there. What is new is the fact that this 9,700 pound howitzer saves over 6,000 pounds of weight by making extensive use of titanium and advanced aluminum alloys, allowing it to be carried by Marine Corps MV-22 tilt-rotor aircraft or medium helicopters, and/or airdropped by C-130 aircraft. The new gun is a joint program between the US Army and Marine Corps to replace existing 155mm M198s, and will perform fire support for U.S. Marine Air Ground Task Forces and U.S. Army Stryker Brigade Combat Teams.
Britain is the USA’s M777 LWH co-development partner, but Canada became the first country to field it in combat, thanks to an emergency buy before their 2006 “Operation Archer” deployment to Afghanistan. Customers now include the US Army & USMC, Australia, and Canada – but not Britain.
M777: Capabilities and Upgrades
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The M777 offers significant advances in 2 areas. One is obviously weight.
Weight matters. The M777’s weight and profile allows 2 M777 howitzers to be fitted into a C-130 Hercules tactical transport, instead of just one equivalent-caliber M198. Previous howitzers could be lifted by heavy helicopters like the CH-47 Chinook or CH-53E Super Stallion, but the M777 expands those options to include carriage under a V-22 Osprey, or a medium class helicopter like the EH101.
Weight has increased slightly over the initial specification, but this is largely attributable to over 2,000 design changes from the original shoot-off specification to today’s gun. Run-flat tires added over 100 pounds, while a cradle assembly that went from 400 components to 5 main castings trades some added weight for significantly improved maintenance and reliability.
The gun remains stable when firing, despite its light weight, by being out of balance. The barrel is mounted low and forward, which keeps the gun from overturning. Even so, these are not the gun’s most significant features.
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There’s also a front-line payoff to the new howitzer. Rate of fire is 4-8 rounds per minute in bursts, or 2 rounds per minute sustained fire.
When using previous generations of artillery, units like the US Marines had to communicate with the fire direction center through radio, and use iron sights to aim at targets. The M777 is equipped with iron sights as a backup, but the military doesn’t expect those sights to see much use outside of training. Modern artillery has features like data distribution systems, self location via INS and/or GPS, automatic or assisted gun-laying, and other add-ons that automate the process of receiving fire orders and acting on them. Coordinates can be usually transmitted digitally from tactical air controllers, UAVs, or other platforms, and the M777’s own display can be used to send text messages to other cannoneers.
These advances improve efficiency, and survivability. Instead of being forced to cluster together near communications nodes, artillery pieces can be spread out over a larger area, with each gun executing “shoot and scoot” tactics using the M777’s fast 2-3 minute set-up and displacement times. This compares to its predecessor the M198, which has a 6.5 minute emplacement time and 10.5 minute displacement time.
The key to this capability is called Towed Artillery Digitization (TAD). General Dynamics ATP’s TAD includes sensors like the integrated muzzle velocimeter, vehicle motion sensor, and ammunition inventory capability; mission computer with on-board ballistic computation and Joint Variable Message messaging format capabilities; GPS receiver which works with the Inertial Navigation System and motion sensor to provide self-location within 10m and gun pointing within 1 mil RMS azimuth and 0.5 mil elevation.
The M777-A1 version used the TAD Block 1 set. Communications and other key features like self-location are present, but it uses manual target entry instead of direct digital transmission from tactical air controllers, UAVs, or other platforms.
The M777-A2 incorporates more advanced TAD capabilities, including a software update that enables the howitzer to program and fire the M982 Excalibur GPS-guided shell. That shell improves the gun’s maximum range from 30km/ 18 miles to 40km/ 24 miles, with official accuracy on target to within 10 meters, and unofficial reports of about half that figure. The M777-A2 is the version issued to all U.S. Army and USMC units, and previously-equipped M777-A1 howitzer units are receiving a software upgrade to bring their systems to A2 standard.
Canadian M777s are currently equipped to fire the Excalibur shell, but use their own LINAPS fire control system.
On the foreign export front, Australia has joined Canada as a buyer, and Denmark, India, Oman, Thailand, and Saudi Arabia have all reportedly shown interest.
M777: Chinook pick-up
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The M777 was originally a trilateral program involving the USA, Britain, and Italy, with a Memorandum of Understanding signed in March 1999. Italy ended up backing out of the development program due to budget issues, leaving the USA and UK to fund development efforts.
Within the USA, the US Marines funded development of the weapon, while the US Army funded development of the Towed Artillery Digitization system. The M777 is currently managed by US Army Program Executive Office (PEO) Ammunition in Picatinny Arsenal, NJ, under “Project Manager Towed Artillery Systems”. Before January 2011, it had been managed by PEO Ground Combat Systems in Warren, MI, under “PM Lightweight 155”; the latest restructuring placed the US Army’s artillery tubes, ammunition, propellants, and associated aiming hardware & software under the same organization.
BAE Systems Global Combat Systems’ facility at Barrow-in-Furness is responsible for M777 prime contract management, including direct customer liaison, control of the trans-Atlantic supply chains, engineering design authority, and manufacturing and assembly of the complex titanium structures and associated recoil components. Final integration and test of the weapon system is undertaken at BAE’s Hattiesburg, MS plant.
Ironically, M777 development partner Britain has yet to buy any. Indeed, the first use of M777 howitzers in combat came from a country who hadn’t even been involved in the development partnership. Canadian forces in Afghanistan found the howitzer’s weight and range to be just what they needed, and an emergency buy led to fast fielding. While they aren’t a national program partner, the US and Canada took steps in the 1950s to create a North American defense industry, and so some Canadian firms were already involved in the program when Canada made its initial purchase.
M777 Industrial participants include:
US Army Light Weight 155mm Joint Program office: program management (Picatinny Arsenal, NJ)
BAE Systems: Prime Contractor, Elevating Mass & Cradle Assembly, (Barrow-in-Furness, England and final assembly Hattiesburg, MS)
General Dynamics: Digital fire control (Burlington, VT)
General Dynamics Canada: Mission computer software and displays (Ottawa, ON, Canada)
Howmet Castings: Upper carriage (Whitehall, MI)
Hydro-Mill Co.: Body assembly (Chatsworth, CA)
Mitchell Canada: Aluminum castings (St. Laurent, PQ, Canada)
Precision Castparts Corp.: Lower carriage (Portland, OR)
RTI International Metals: Titanium (Niles, OH)
Seiler Instrument: OFC (St. Louis, MO)
Wegman USA: Elevating Gear (Lynchburg, VA)
Watervliet Arsenal: Cannon assembly (Watervliet, NY)
Selex Galileo: LINAPS gun management system, see PDF (Edinburgh, UK – Canadian orders)
Canada was the 1st country to field the M777 in combat, firing them in Afghanistan in February 2006.
The US Army’s 2nd Battalion 11th Field Artillery Regiment at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii was equipped with M777A1 howitzers in January 2007, but were converted to the A2 version later in 2007 and used the guns in Iraq. As of July 2007, initial units also included both the 11th Marine Regiment and the 10th Marine Regiment; they had received the M777A2 version. The 3rd Battalion, 321st Field Artillery Regiment at Fort Bragg, NC; and the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team fielded the M777A2 for the U.S. Army in Afghanistan. Deliveries and fielding continued from there.
As of October 2012, total orders stood at 1,090 guns for the US Army, US Marines, Australia, and Canada.
M777: Contracts and Key Events
FY 2016 – 2017
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December 2/16: Contracts have been signed between India and the US subsidiary of BAE Systems for the provision of of 145 M777A2 LW155 ultralight howitzers. The $737 million deal will see BAE partner with Indian private sector defense company Mahindra Defence Systems to assemble 120 ultralight howitzers, while the remaining 25 guns will be supplied over the next three years. Meanwhile, neighboring Pakistan’s own self-propelled howitzer competition is shaping up, with South Africa’s Denel and Serbia’s Yugoimport-SDPR offering their T5-52 and NORA B-52 guns respectively.
June 28/16: India’s defense procurement agency has cleared a proposal to purchase 145 M777 Ultra Lightweight Howitzer artillery guns from BAE Systems. As part of the $750 million deal, some 120 of the 145 guns will be assembled in India in line with Indian foreign procurement policy and will see BAE cooperate with Indian conglomerate Mahindra Group to build a plant for the assembly of the artillery.
September 18/15: The Pentagon and India’s Defence Ministry are fast-tracking India’s Foreign Military Sale acquisition of 145 M777 Howitzers, following delays to the acquisition. The two sides are reported to be jointly drafting a letter of acceptance, following procurement clearance of the BAE Systems-manufactured guns by the Indian government in May. With a revised price of $700 million, the letter of acceptance is also reported as a prompt for BAE Systems to kick offset arrangements in motion with local Indian firms, with this estimated to cover approximately 30% of the contract’s value.
May 19/15: India. Indian firms are pushing for a greater slice of the M777 contract pie awarded last week. The prospect of a much larger order than the 145-gun contract – potentially reaching around a thousand guns if the Indian Army replaces all its current legacy systems – would be boost to the Indian defense industry, with manufacturer BAE System likely to increase the Indian work share of a larger future contract.
Feb 25/14: M777. With elections looming, India’s Ministry of Defence clears a whole series of defense projects, worth up to INR 130 billion. The M777 isn’t among them:
“The M-777 howitzer contract, which is a direct government-to-government deal under the US foreign military sales programme, has been hanging fire since January 2010. Due to the long delay, the American Defence Security Cooperation Agency has hiked the cost of the M-777 deal from the earlier $ 647 million to $885 million now. The Army wants these 155mm/39-calibre howitzers since they can be swiftly deployed in high-altitude areas in Arunachal Pradesh and Ladakh by helicopters and aircraft to counter China.”
China has been seizing Indian territory again in this high-altitude region, but apparently that isn’t urgent enough to prompt action. Thermal imagers and light machine guns are useful, but they aren’t going to change the situation anywhere. Sources: Times of India, “Decision on four key defence deals put off”.
Aug 7/13: India. The US DSCA publishes [PDF] an official follow-on export request from India for 145 M777 guns, under modified terms compared to the Jan 26/10 request, which is superseded by this one.
The Indian guns will use the same Laser Inertial Artillery Pointing Systems (LINAPS) equipment as Canada’s M777s, and the estimated cost for the guns plus warranty, spare and repair parts, support and test equipment, publications and technical documentation, training, and other US government and contractor support has risen from $647 – $885 million.
The other item that has changed is the acknowledgement of a 30% industrial offsets contract, in conformance to India’s official Defense Procurement Procedure (DPP). That has to be part of a negotiated contract, which can be signed within 30 days of this notice.
The principal contractors haven’t changed: BAE of Hattiesburg, MS; Watervliet Arsenal of Watervliet, NY; Seiler Instrument Company of St Louis, MO; Triumph Actuation Systems of Bloomfield, CT; Taylor Devices of North Tonawanda, NY; Hutchinson Industries of Trenton, NJ; and Selex in Edinburgh, United Kingdom. Likewise, implementation of this proposed sale will still require annual trips to India involving up to 8 U.S. Government and contractor representatives for technical reviews/support, training, and in-country trials, over a period of approximately 2 years.
DSCA: India Request, Revised
Aug 3/13: India. Negotiations are still underway in India. So what’s new? According to the Business Standard, the expected price is now INR 40 billion due to the falling rupee, and the industrial offsets issue is almost resolved. If India can manage to finalize the sale, the Mountain Strike Corps that they announced in July 2013 would receive the 145 guns.
The key seems to be offsets. The initial DSCA announcement (q.v. Jan 26/10) didn’t include offsets, but BAE sees the potential to equip artillery regiments in up to 7 more Indian corps, given deployment patterns and India’s mountainous borders. As such, they’ve accepted a standard 30% offset liability of about $195 million. About $58.5 million can be discharged by transferring technology, as India badly needs to field bi-modular charge systems (BMCS) for artillery. If they hadn’t blacklisted Denel and Israel Military Industries, they’d have BMCS already. The rest will reportedly be discharged by manufacturing some components in India, including work for “future artillery gun” and “future naval gun” programs.
India’s challenge is to break with its general practice and place a timely order. BAE’s Mississippi plant is being kept active in anticipation of an Indian order, but if India dithers much, the price will rise sharply to pay production line restart costs. On the other hand, early execution could see India field the new gun by early 2014. India’s Business Standard.
Feb 6/13: India. India Strategic quotes Chief of the Army Staff Gen Bikram Singh as saying that “whatever the reasons earlier [for delaying the M777 purchase], there would be no delay now.” India has held its firing trials, asked for some changes, and verified that BAE has made them. The Maintainability Evaluation is done, and negotiations are now focused on the price of 145 of the 155mm/ 39 caliber guns, plus a support package.
India’s 2004 buy of counter-fire artillery radars in 2004 reportedly omitted support considerations, and they don’t want to have to go through that problem again. India Strategic writes:
“Senior officers of the Army are confident that the acquisition of M-777 will not go beyond 2013, and if there is a delay, it would not be beyond the coming fiscal year April 2013-March 2014. That is, a delay of not more than three months beyond 2013.”
Oct 16/12: Australia. The Australian government had approved another 2 artillery batteries of Lightweight Towed Howitzers, comprising 19 M777A2s, for A$ 70 million (about $72 million). In response to queries, BAE confirms that the actual contract still has to go through a Foreign military Sale case.
They will be a substitute for the self-propelled howitzers the Army had initially included under its LAND 17 Phase 1C program, and “Government will consider additional support and facilities costs associated with this acquisition later in the 2012-13 Financial Year.” Australia DoD | DID’s LAND 17 Spotlight.
FY 2011 – 2012
Saudi Arabia. USA.
Alaska cold trial
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July 17/12: Sub-contractors. Finmeccanica’s DRS Tactical Systems in Melbourne, FL receives a $22 million firm-fixed-price contract for ongoing design, development and integration services in support of the M777A2 digital fire control system.
Work will be performed in Melbourne, FL with an estimated completion date of July 13/17. The bid was solicited through the Internet, with 6 bids received by Army Contracting Command in Picatinny Arsenal, NJ (W15QKN-12-D-0088).
May 11/12: India. CNN-IBN reports that India’s MoD has cleared a Rs 3000 crore deal to buy 145 of BAE’s M777 ultra-light 155mm howitzers, as a government-to-government deal through US Foreign Military Sale channels. They’re careful to note that this isn’t a contract yet, which may explain the absence of any announcement from BAE. At current conversion rates, the deal would be worth around $557 million, but exchange rates may change when and if negotiations produce an actual contract. Read “Murky Competitions for Indian Howitzer Orders May End Soon… Or Not” for the whole sorry story.
Oct 4/11: +70. BAE announces that the US military has placed a $134 million order for 70 more M777 howitzers, “to begin equipping the U.S. Army’s Infantry Brigade Combat Teams (IBCTs).”
This is almost certainly the M777A2 variant, and the order takes the production to a total of 1,071 guns. The manufacturing line has enough orders at present to run until October 2013, with additional orders expected from the USA, and potential orders from customers like India and Saudi Arabia waiting in the wings.
USA – 70
Sept 19/11: The US Defense Security Cooperation Agency announces Saudi Arabia’s formal request for up to $886 million of equipment to augment the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s existing light artillery capabilities. The Royal Saudi Land Forces already have towed 155mm and 105mm howitzers and support vehicles and systems, but the 54 105mm M119A2 systems and 36 M777A2s would be an upgrade over the Royal Saudi Land Forces’ existing M102 105mm guns. The Saudis are also looking to buy C3 systems, artillery locating radars, and Humvees as part of this buy.
DSCA: Saudi request
May 18/11: In “India’s consolation prize to US,” The Times of India reports that India is close to an M777 buy, pursued as government-to-government Foreign Military Sale. The Times of India reports that:
“…the Army has dispatched a team to the US to carry out quality assurance assessments of maintenance and other technical specifications of M777… Once the team returns, “it wouldn’t take much time to conclude the deal”, sources said, adding that a June-end deadline was being looked at. He also hinted that this order too could go up, now that the government is expected to approve Army’s recommendation to raise a dedicated mountain strike corps for China border.”
Feb 22/11: +46. BAE Systems announces that an American order for 46 more M777 howitzers brings the total number of M777 guns ordered so far to 1001. The firm is still producing weapons for Canada and Australia, and is also “responding to a range of enquiries.”
USA – 46
Jan 20/11: Program shifted. US Army Acquisition Executive Malcolm O’Neill approves the immediate transfer of the Program Manager Lightweight 155 office from US Army Program Executive Office (PEO) Ground Combat Systems in Warren, MI, to US Army PEO Ammunition in Picatinny Arsenal, NJ. O’Neill also approves the immediate renaming of “PM Program Manager Lightweight 155” to “Project Manager Towed Artillery Systems.”
The M777 was 1 of 6 programs shifted in the restructuring, which places the Army’s artillery propellant, fuses, primers, munitions and now guns at the same place. US Army.
FY 2009 – 2010
Australia, Canada, India, USA.
M777 in Afghanistan
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July 19/10: +93. BAE systems announces 3 contracts related to its M777 howitzers. For starters, the US Army and U.S. Marine Corps are buying another 58 guns.
Australia is buying 35 guns as US Foreign Military Sales (FMS), under the ADF’s LAND 17 program. The order makes Australia the 3rd M777 customer, after the USA and Canada, and the program’s total budget is A$ 493 million (q.v. Oct 20/09).
The 3rd order is an USD $18 million support package with Canada, for their 37 ordered M777 guns (q.v. May 28/09). The contract covers the supply of spares and engineering support. The firm adds:
“The U.S. government is currently discussing the provision of 145 systems to India as well as several other countries. In parallel, BAE Systems is responding to requests for information from a large number of countries wishing to expand their indirect fire capability.”
USA, Australia, Canada – 93 TL.
Jan 26/10: The US Defense Security Cooperation Agency announces [PDF] India’s formal request to buy 145 M777 155mm Light-Weight Towed Howitzers with Laser Inertial Artillery Pointing Systems (LINAPS), warranties, spare and repair parts, support and test equipment, publications and technical documentation, maintenance, personnel training and training equipment, and U.S. Government and contractor technical assistance and support.
The estimated cost is $647 million, but a DSCA announcement is not a contract. In this case, it may not even be an intended sale. Read “Murky Competition for $2B India Howitzer Order May End Soon… Or Not” for more.
DSCA: India request
Oct 20/09: Australia’s Defence Minister John Faulkner announces that BAE Systems’ M777 has won the towed portion of Australia’s LAND 17 competition, whose total value is placed at A$ 493 million.
Phase 1 will provide the Army with 35 M777A2 guns, equipping 4 batteries of towed 155mm howitzers. An earlier DSCA request specified up to 57 systems, which allows Australia to order more guns later if it decides that’s necessary.
July 21/09: +62. BAE announces that the U.S, Department of Defense has ordered 62 more M777 howitzers under its existing contract, in a delivery order worth GBP 71 million/ $117 million.
May 28/09: +38. BAE Systems announces 3 more M777 contracts, worth a total of $118 million.
The USA is buying 38 guns for the Marine Corps and Army. A $3 million contract will RESET 33 U.S. howitzers returning from operations in Afghanistan to like-new condition. And Canada is acquiring 25 more M777s, to add to the 12 it already has in service. According to BAE, these 63 additional howitzers bring their order total to date to exactly 800 guns.
USA – 100
April 16/09: #500. BAE systems delivers the 500th M777 howitzer to the US military. In the BAE Systems release, Artillery Programmes Director Ian McMillan says that:
“M777 follows two other Anglo-U.S. weapon success stories – the 105mm Light Gun and the 81mm mortar are both British BAE Systems designs which have been adopted by the U.S.”
A report in the British North West Evening Mail added that:
“The substantial and complex cradle and saddle is made in Barrow and shipped out at the rate of 14 a month… Mr McMillan said with the main US order running out in less than two years, BAE would be looking for M777 orders from more countries, and for other projects to keep the Barrow factory busy… However BAE revealed yesterday it is expecting at orders for at least 150 more M77s from the US, Canada and Australia combined. They will be built by the same plants in Barrow and the US and would stretch work to 2012.”
FY 2007 – 2008
The business end at
Camp Taji, Iraq
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Aug 14/08: +43. BAE Systems has received additional orders from the U.S. Department of Defense for 43 more M777 lightweight towed howitzers.
The GBP 42.8 million ($85.6 million) contract brings the number of M777s ordered by the US military to 719, and brings the total value of M777 orders in 2008 to GBP 147 million ($294 million). BAE release | NW Evening Mail, UK | Hattiesburg American, MS.
USA – 43
July 17/08: Australian request. The US DSCA announces [PDF format] Australia’s official request for 57 of BAE Systems’ M777A2 howitzers, 57 of ITT’s AN/VRC-91F Single Channel Ground and Airborne Radio Systems (SINCGARS), plus integration services, spare and repair parts, support and test equipment, and other related elements of logistics support. The estimated cost is USD$ 248 million.
Note that a DSCA request is not a contract, merely a step that’s required for export approval.
DSCA: Australia request
June 19/08: Canadian follow-on. The US DSCA announces [PDF] Canada’s official request for 37 additional M777 howitzers, spare and repair parts, support and test equipment, publications and technical documentation, maintenance, personnel training and training equipment, U.S. Government and contractor technical assistance, engineering and logistics support services, and other related elements.
The estimated cost is $114 million (about C$ 116 million). The prime contractors will be BAE Land Systems in Hattiesburg, MS and Alcoa business Howmet Castings in Whitehall, Michigan. See also Jan 9/08 entry re: the Canadian MERX Letter of Intent, which sets out a timeline for the process: Statements of Interest and Qualification are to be received by the end of 2008, RFP issued in early 2009, and a contract awarded in autumn 2009.
DSCA: Canada request
April 1/08: +87. BAE Systems announces a new $176 million order from the U.S. Department of Defense for 87 additional M777A2 155mm towed howitzers. The order adds to the 589 M777A2 howitzers already on order for the U.S. armed forces, of which more than 300 have been delivered. The 155mm towed howitzers purchased under this contract will be delivered in 2010. BAE Systems release.
USA – 87
March 2008: M777 + Excalibur for Canada. The new M982 Excalibur precision-guided projectile is cleared for use by the Canadian Forces’ M777 guns in Afghanistan. Source.
Feb 25/08: Combat. Soldiers of Charlie Battery, 3rd Battalion, 321st Field Artillery Regiment, fires the USA’s first 155 mm global positioning system-guided Excalibur artillery round in Afghanistan. The round was fired from an M777A2 howitzer in Kunar Province, and reportedly hit its target. DVIDS story.
Jan 9/08: Canada. The Canadian government issued a request for Letters of Interest (LOIs) for 34 new 155mm Light Weight Towed Howitzers. The M777 is the current incumbent, and Canada must have exercised an option because the solicitation states that “The CF has 12 M777 LWTH howitzers currently in-service.”
Those guns have performed very well, making the M777 the favorite to win. The contract is expected in late 2009. MERX LOI notice, Ref# PW-$$RA-002-16420, Solicitation# W8476-08PM01/A.
Canada – 12 TL. now, LoI for more
Jan 2/08: Combat. The US military announces that The Soldiers from the 25th Infantry Division’s Battery B, “Banditos,” 2nd Battalion, 11th Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team became the first US Army unit to fire the 155 mm M777A2 Light Weight Howitzer in Iraq. DVIDS story.
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December 2007: Combat. Commanders in the US Army’s 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team’s Task Force Bayonet receive M777A2 lightweight 155 mm Howitzers. CH-47 Chinook helicopters flew in the new M777A2s to various forward operating bases the last 2 weeks of December.
Dec 23/07: USMC. The USMC reveals that the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit in Okinawa, Japan received its first M777 Lightweight Howitzers recently on Camp Hansen as part of a Marine Corps-wide artillery upgrade. Field artillery cannoneers with L Battery, arriving from Twentynine Palms, CA inspected the M777s before accepting the new guns from the Camp Pendleton, CA- based E Battery, 2nd Bn., 11th Marines, 1st MarDiv.
June 2007: Combat. The USMC’s 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit says that Marines from Bravo Battery 1st Battalion, 11th Marines are making history as the first American unit to use the new M777A1 Howitzer in combat, though the Canadians beat the to the punch overall. The 13th MEU is deployed to Anbar province in western Iraq.
March 20/07: Australia. Krauss-Maffei Wegmann and BAE Systems Australia team for LAND 17. KMW will offer the PzH-2000 to the team, while BAE Systems Australia adds their M777 ultra-lightweight howitzers to the partnership, for a combination towed/ self propelled solution. LAND 17 is Australia’s program to replace its 105mm howitzers with modern equipment.
March 18/07: Excalibur 155mm. Excalibur 155mm GPS-guided shells complete final testing by the US military. An order is placed soon afterward. DID coverage.
FY 2005 – 2006
LRIP then FRP. Canada.
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May 15/06: Canada. StrategyPage:
“When discussing relationships with local tribal leaders, Canadian commanders have sometimes had an M777 put a shell in a nearby field or hill side, on command, to demonstrate what the Canadians have at their disposal. Afghans understand that sort of thing. U.S. Marines and British troops have also used the M777 in Afghanistan.”
See also the Canadian Forces’ movie clip report about the M777 in Afghanistan, featuring CF Major Steve Gallagher.
March 9/06: Canada. SELEX Sensors and Airborne Systems of Edinburgh, UK, working together with BAE Systems Land Systems, has secured a contract with the Canadian Department of National Defense (DND) for 6 LINAPS (Laser INertial Automatic Pointing System) Gun Management Systems (GMS), plus spares, for their M777 Howitzers. The systems were deployed to Afghanistan until late fall 2006, however.
The DGMS is integrated with the Indirect Fire Control Computer System (IFCCS) and the Raytheon MicroLight digital radio to provide a digital link from the Command Post to the guns, self-positioning and boresighting, etc. Finmeccanica Inc News blog | Space Daily | See also follow-on Canadian DND release | DND Video.
Feb 20/06: Canada in combat. The Canadian Forces fire their M777s for the first time in combat near Gumbad, 60 kilometres northeast of the city of Kandahar, Afghanistan. Illumination rounds are used to turn the tables on a night attack with RPGs.
It’s the 1st combat firing of the M777. National Post.
1st combat use
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Dec 2/05: Canada. The 1st Regiment Royal Canadian Horse Artillery conducts an inaugural firing of the first 155mm, M777 towed howitzers delivered to the Canadian Department of National Defence (DND). BAE release.
Nov 26/05: Canada takes delivery of its first M777 howitzers. DND:
“Major Paul Payne, Chief Instructor in Gunnery at the Field Artillery School in Gagetown says “With the equipment we’ve been using until now, it would sometimes take up to 8 minutes after receiving a fire-mission request to have effective rounds hitting the target. With a digitized Triple 7 effective fire can be achieved in under 2 minutes.”
November 2005: Canada. As part of its preparations for Operation Archer in Afghanistan, the Canadian Forces orders 6 BAE Systems M777 Lightweight towed howitzers with precision-guided Excalibur 155mm shells and digitized fire control systems (C$ 70 million). The howitzers are to arrive by February 2006, and Excalibur shells by May 2006. See “Canada Purchases $200M in Equipment for Operation ARCHER in Afghanistan”
Canada – 6
Oct 2005: USMC 3/11 Mike battery returns from their second deployment to Operation Iraqi Freedom, mostly in infantry roles, to begin training on the M777. USMC release.
August 2005: 2nd Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment, is firing the M777 Howitzer at USMC Camp Pendleton for the first time. USMC release.
May 2005: The cannoneers of Kilo and Lima Batteries, 11th Marine Regiment, are the US Marine Corps first 2 artillery batteries to field and fire the M777.
In December 2005, however, 3/11 Kilo Battery are scheduled to deploy to Okinawa, Japan, as part of the Unit Deployment Program. Okinawa does not have the M777, so Kilo Battery begins fielding their older M198s to refresh their skills. US Marine Corps.
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March 24/05: +495. Following additional system development, BAE Systems announces an $834 million dollar contract for full-rate production of the M777A1 155mm howitzer. Under the production contract, issued by the Joint Program Office in Picatinny, NJ, BAE Systems will manufacture 495 howitzers between 2005-2009. The howitzer is assembled at BAE Systems’ integration facility in Hattiesburg, MS, and incorporates components manufactured in 10 states and the U.K.
production – 495
Dec 2/02: +94. The U.S. Marine Corps has awarded a $135 million contract to BAE SYSTEMS for low rate initial production (LRIP) of the M777 lightweight 155mm howitzer. Under the initial phase of the LRIP contract, BAE SYSTEMS will manufacture 94 howitzers for the Marine Corps over the next 2 years. Initial deliveries will begin in February 2004 from the company’s Hattiesburg, MS facility. Approximately 70% of the M777 is manufactured in the USA, as BAE SYSTEMS has assembled an industrial team that includes 9 suppliers located in 9 states. Business Wire..
production – 94
Additional Readings & Sources
Military.com Soldier Tech – Massive Attack: The M777 Ultralightweight Field Howitzer
Army Technology – M777 Ultralightweight Field Howitzer, BAE Systems:
GlobalSecurity – M777 Lightweight 155mm howitzer (LW155). Formerly known as the Advanced Towed Cannon System (ATCAS).
CASR – Background – Artillery – BAE M777 155mm Towed Howitzer
USMC – M777 Lightweight 155mm Howitzer NETT. See presentations from this page. Note 2004 date, however.
BAE Systems – M777 – 155mm Lightweight Field Howitzer
Azom – M777 Howitzer Cannon – A Titanium Design Study
Journal of the Minerals, Metals and Materials Society (November 2004) – The near-net-shape manufacturing of affordable titanium components for the M777 lightweight howitzer
DID – TLDHS & StrikeLink Urgent as Excalibur Approaches. These ancillary items ensure that the M777 can be used with GPS-guided Excalibur shells.
Armed Forces Journal (October 2007) – The Case for Cannons. “In May, soldiers from the Army’s 1st Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery Regiment, fired two XM982 Excalibur precision-guided, extended-range 155mm artillery rounds that consecutively penetrated the roof of a single house known to be a terrorist haven in the northern region of Baghdad…”
BAE Systems (July 25/07) – M777 Lightweight Howitzer Update Gives More Range And Accuracy. Describes the minor modifications that make up the M777A2, which will be the fielded version.
Canadian Parliament (June 2007) – CANADIAN FORCES IN AFGHANISTAN: Report of the Standing Committee on National Defence [PDF, 174 pages]. Mentions the M777, and confirms negotiations for 6 more guns (to make 12), with an option for another 15.
DID (March 12/07) – Lots Riding on V-22 Osprey. Describes the Marines’ artillery programs, most of governed by the V-22 Osprey’s capabilities, and explains where the M777 fits into the USMC’s overall plan.
M777 starts fielding in the 11th Marines.
BAE Systems (March 24/05) – BAE Systems Awarded $834 Million Contract For Lightweight Howitzer.