The U.S. Army plans to demonstrate its newest extended-range artillery systems in 2018, officials said, as the service attempts to fill a gap in its long-range precision weapons platforms. Known as ERCA, the system involves new modifications to the M777A2 howitzer that have the potential to double the system’s current range, according to Col. Rich Hornstein, the military deputy at the Army’s Aviation and Missile Research, Development and Engineering Center (AMRDEC). The new system is “not just a gun; it’s projectile, it’s cannon, it’s fire control,” he told attendees at the Association for the United States Army’s annual conference in Washington, D.C. He added the cannon can be fired from a mobile platform as well as a towed platform, he added. In addition, the center is developing new longer-range accurate projectiles that the Army plans to demonstrate at the same time as it is showing off the new cannon artillery next year, Hornstein added. The Army has sped up development of newer, long-range artillery systems after identifying a gap in long-range precision fire capabilities. The towed M777, which made its debut in Afghanistan, replaced the Army’s M198 howitzer. Currently, the 155-mm M777 system has a range of about 18 miles and a rate of fire of five rounds per minute. Excaliber rounds can travel 25 miles. Each piece is crewed by eight troops.
Jon E. Dougherty is a political, foreign policy and national security analyst and reporter with nearly 30 years of experience in both fields. A U.S. Army veteran of Operation Enduring Freedom, he holds BA in Political Science from Ashford University and an MA in National Security Studies/Intelligence Analysis from American Military University.