The US Army’s Extended Range Cannon Artillery (ERCA) fired rocket-assisted 155mm round and an Excalibur precision-guided round out to 65km, which is twice as far as traditional 155mm artillery.
The test firing, carried out last Friday is intended to enable fielding the ERCA's systems to the US Army’s combat battalion in 2023, Military.com reported.
For the first phase of the ERCA program, BAE Systems is contracted to build the 18 ERCA systems that will be fielded in 2023.
The ERCA will be integrated onto the M109A7 Paladin and will require the M109A7’s current 39-caliber turret to be replaced with a 58-caliber, 30-foot long gun barrel with the objective of creating firepower double the current range.
The development program aims to provide the warfighter with extended range while maintaining the weight found in current systems to minimize performance impacts on the chassis.
Under separate contracts, BAE Systems is also developing precision guidance kits with anti-jamming capabilities (PGK-AJ) that can operate in the ERCA firing environment. PGK-AJ is compatible with existing and new long-range rounds for multiple firing platforms, including the M109 self-propelled howitzer.
A new autoloader is planned to be installed during the second phase of the program. It is currently being developed in a laboratory setting at Picatinny Arsenal, New Jersey, but Army officials plan to demonstrate the working system in December.
"The autoloader will give us the ability to fire at a rate of six-to-10 rounds per minute and deliver that volume of fire to create the effect of mass in large-scale ground combat," said Brig. Gen. John Rafferty Jr., director of the Long Range Precision Fires Cross Functional Team at Army Futures Command.
"It will demonstrate its ability to take the XM113 off the ready rack in the howitzer, load it into the breech, go grab a supercharged propellent, put that behind it ... and allow the crew to fire the howitzer," Rafferty said. "The other thing it's got to do, is it has to fuse it and then set the fuse. Right now, it takes two cannoneers and a sergeant watching them to do that, so it is not a simple machine."
If all goes well, the Army plans to demonstrate the autoloader in the howitzer in 2021, Rafferty said.