July 24, 2007: After four
years of development and testing, the U.S. Army has decided to put its new self
propelled artillery system, the NLOS-C (Non-Line of Sight- Cannon) into
production. Eighteen will be produced next year, and six a year after that.
The NLOS-C will be the first
of the eight MGV (Manned Ground Vehicle) systems to enter service as part of
the FCS (Future Combat System) program. NLOS-C is designed to replace the
M-109, and provide artillery fire for Brigade Combat Teams. MGVs will be more
than 70 percent common components, which will reduce support costs.
The prototype of the new
American self-propelled artillery system, the 155mm NLOS-C, fired several
thousand rounds in three years of field tests. The system was cobbled together
in six months, after the new Crusader SP artillery system was cancelled. The
current self-propelled system, the M-109, is a fifty year old design. Although
the M-109 has been updated, the NLOS-C incorporates many new technologies. This
includes an auto-loader (from the Crusader) and a more modern 155mm gun (the
M-777, a towed, British designed system) and an APC chassis with a
hybrid-electric engine (to reduce fuel consumption.) This all weighs 23 tons,
about the same as the M-109. But the NLOS only has a two man crew, compared to
five in the M-109. The final version of the NLOS-C will be a ton or two
lighter, using composite materials.
Congress originally demanded
that NLOS-C be in service by 2008, but now 2010 seems more likely. Meanwhile,
the new Excalibur GPS guided shell, which entered service this year, could
change everything. Excalibur appears to work in combat, and this is radically
changing the way artillery operates. Excalibur means 80-90 percent less ammo
has to be fired, meaning less wear and tear on NLOS-C (and less time needed for
maintenance), and less time replenishing ammo supplies, and more time ready for
action. The NLOS-C uses GPS and networked computers to take care of navigation,
fire control and communicating with its customers (the infantry and armored
vehicles of the combat brigade it supports).