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8 Apr, 2015 19:39

US Army to get new self-propelled howitzer after 20yrs of waiting

US Army to get new self-propelled howitzer after 20yrs of waiting

The US military is about to receive its first new artillery piece in two decades, with the M109A7 PIM (Paladin Integrated Management) self-propelled howitzer to be unveiled on Thursday.

The hardware represents the US Army’s “new approach to acquisition, in which expensive, ambitious, all-new designs give way to incremental, but still substantial changes to existing platforms,” Sydney Freedberg, Breaking Defense website deputy editor, said.

According to Freedberg, a source in the Congress told him that M109A7 PIM “is not a truly new vehicle in that it borrows from others, but still a success.”

PIM is a long-awaited arrival for the US military as experts warned of American artillery being outmatched by competitors after the cancellation of two of its next-gen self-propelled gun programs – the XM 2001 Crusader and XM1203 Non-Line-of-Sight Cannon.

The facade of the new howitzer looks similar to its predecessor the M109A6 or even the original M109 self-propelled gun from the 1960s.

But Freedberg stressed that “PIM is more like surgically transplanting someone’s head onto a new body: It takes the old gun turret and installs it on an all-new chassis.”

UK-based contractor BAE Systems, which developed the new howitzer, also stressed that M109A7 is more than just upgrade of an already existing hardware.

“M109A6 built a new turret and put it on the old chassis. M109A7 put a new chassis under the A6 turret, with a few upgrades to the turret, and effectively in two steps the Army built a new howitzer,” Mark Signorelli, BAE Systems head of combat vehicle programs, told Breaking Defense.

READ MORE: ‘Army go, home!’: US military convoy confronted by more protests returning to German base

Despite PIM receiving a new electronic gun drive system and an improved automated loader, its canon 155/39 mm will remain unchanged.

The gun is capable of firing four rounds per-minute, including M982 Excalibur precision munition with range of 40km.

The M109A7 turned out to be 25 percent heavier than its predecessor, with the new model generating 50 percent more horsepower and almost four times as much electrical power.

The PIM project is being praised not for combat qualities, but primarily for its cost-efficiency.

According to Military-Today website, the new self-propelled gun “shares engine, transmission, tracks and some other components with the Bradley infantry fighting vehicle. Such commonality allows to reduce production, operating and maintenance costs.”

Earlier, Signorelli told Defense News website that one “could take a driver out of a Bradley, drop him in a PIM, and he'd be just as at home, whereas before it was a completely different vehicle."

The US military plans to purchase 580 sets of PIMs, which are expected to remain in service until 2050.

The first deliveries are expected to arrive later this year, while full-scale production will only begin in 2017.