Canadian American Strategic Review




 A  Modest

In Detail

DND 101

Background  —  Artillery  —  BAE  M777  155mm  Towed Howitzer

Update: on 17 June 2008, a US FMS Notice announced a proposed sale to Canada of  37  M777s. Presumably, this is in response to the 09 Jan 2008 request for LOIs for Light Weight Towed Howitzers.  M982 Excalibur GPS-guided projectiles were cleared for use in March 2008.

The 155mm M777 ( BAE Systems LW155 ) lightweight  howitzer was one of  the November 2005 Immediate Operational Requirement purchases for the February 2006 Kandahar deployment of A Battery, 1 RCHA. The new guns could  be delivered quickly because the US Marines were willing to divert M777s from their order. The first six howitzers were sent to Shilo in late November. [1] Prior to this, gunners from 1 RCHA and 2 RCHA (CFB Petawawa) had been to the US Army School of  Field Artillery at Fort Sill, OK (above right) for M777 familiarization training with a joint Canada-US New Equipment Training Team. A CF NETT will be set up at the Field Artillery School, CFB Gagetown, NB.

The M777 arrived in Kandahar in February 2006 and seems to be a complete success. DND is now negotiating with BAE Systems for six additional M777s, with options on 15 more. A part of M777 success can be attributed  to its ability to get into action quickly. But a 155mm shell also has much greater range and hitting power than CF 105mm rounds. Range is important while trying to protect remote Forward Operating Bases but so is accuracy. The latter will be further improved by the Digital Gun Management System (DGMS is the Selex LINAPS, at left).

The last CF 155mm howitzers were the self-propelled M109s.  Like them, the M777 is a 39 calibre piece but are easier to deploy overseas.  BAE claims the M777 to be "half the weight" [2] of  other  towed howitzers (due to extensive use of  titanium in its construction) without  sacrificing  performance.  Maximum range is 24.7 km with M109 ammunition,  30 km with extended range rounds ( with M982 Excalibur [3]  GPS/Inertial Navigation-guided ER projectile, a 40km max range is possible, accurate within 10m). Automatic laying will be possible with the DGMS (LINAPS – Laser Inertial Artillery Pointing System) first trialed in July 2006.[4] Under intense conditions, M777s fire up to 5 rds per minute, the sustained rate of  fire  is 2 rds per minute.

Apples, Oranges, & the Transportability of 155s
An M777 can't really be compared with the M109 SP.[5] The M777 can be road towed at 88km/h, 50 km/h cross-country. The HLVW truck acts as the gun tractor. The piece rotates 180° on its carriage to be towed by its barrel. The M777's hydro-strut suspension gives good ground clearance despite rather small tires. M777s can also be slung from a Chinook (right).  It is likely that  M777s will eclipse 105s as standard CF artillery.

[1] These were government-to-government sales. Janes originally reported options on a further six M777s with 24 more likely to follow. In late December 2006, DND confirmed filling the 6 options with BAE Systems. A competition is to be held for 34 new 155mm light howitzers.
[2] The M777A1 has a production weight of 4,175kg. By comparison, the standard US M198 towed howitzer weighs 7,154kg. The M777 is also shorter than the M198 (9.275m vs 12.30m in towing mode/10.21m vs 11.01m firing) but the newer gun is also slightly higher and wider.
[3] Bought through the US DoD, M982 Excalibur  (dubbed by DND as 'precision munitions')  uses GPS  "to steer precisely to the target". The Excalibur rounds were rushed through development (jointly by Raytheon and Bofors) and are to enter CF service in Autumn of 2006.
[4] D Bty, 2 RCHA trialled two M777s fitted with DGMS during EX Novice Archer in the last week of July 2006. The Selex LINAPS is fitted to British Army L118 105mm light guns in Iraq (with AS90 155mm SPs to follow).  LINAPS is also offered on MOBAT, a  MAVS candidate.
[5] Sources vary as to the size required of the gun tractor, some saying that the M777s "can be towed by an air-braked 4x4 vehicle greater than 2.5t." 'Portée' and LAV III-based SP systems have been designed with implications for the CF Future Indirect Fire Capability project. Initial CF towing equipment will be the HLVW with an upgraded tow hook and, presumably, this will be the standard CF M777 gun tractor.