Artillery: M777 Howitzer Back in Production


January 26, 2024: Ukrainian forces have received about 170 M777 155mm howitzers and want more because those have been so effective. The Russians agree and concentrate on finding and destroying M777s and their towing vehicles. So far 77 M777’s have been damaged or destroyed. The M777 is easier to repair while those that are undamaged are in action 85 percent of the time compared to 70 percent for other 155mm howitzers.

Other nations have noted this and want more M777s for themselves. With all these new customers waiting to place orders, the British manufacturer has decided to resume production of the M777. The first new M777s should be available by 2025.

Back in 2007 the U.S. Army received its first M777A1 lightweight 155mm howitzers. Soon the American military had received a thousand of these guns, at a cost of several million dollars each. About half the American M777s were used by the marines, who needed to travel light. The British-designed howitzer was also used by Canada, Britain, and India. Initially the army planned to use them in airborne and Stryker mechanized infantry brigades. A five ton truck is used to tow the guns, but a special, 4.5 ton LWPM/Lightweight Prime Mover has been built to do that as well. The towed M777 proved to be more effective in the combat zone because it was easier to move around and easier to maintain than self-propelled howitzers which are basically a howitzer mounted on a tank chassis. Tanks are tracked vehicles which are more expensive and difficult to maintain and keep operational.

The five ton M777A1 is 40 percent lighter than the weapon it replaced, the M198. This is because the M777A1 makes extensive use of titanium, and new design techniques, and fires shells with a maximum range of 40 kilometers using RAP, or rocket assisted projectile, long range shells. A crew of five operates the gun, which can be ready to fire in under three minutes, and ready to move in under two minutes. The M777A1 is light enough to be moved via a sling by CH-53E and CH-47D helicopters. Its sustained rate of fire is two rounds a minute, with four rounds a minute for short periods. What will really make this gun useful is the new GPS guided Excalibur shell, which entered service in 2007. Otherwise, it fires unguided shells that land anywhere within a 200 meter circle. That's at 25 kilometers range. Accuracy gets worse at longer ranges. But not with the Excalibur shell, which falls within a ten meter circle, the middle of that circle being the aim point, at any range. The Excalibur shell is essential, because ten 155mm shells of any type, with their propellant and packaging weigh about a ton. Ammo supply has always been a major problem with artillery, and Excalibur is the solution.




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