What is the real need behind the U.S. Army’s proposed long-range cannon that can shoot out to 1,000 miles or more?

It could be used to conduct a strategic or tactical strike in support of the other military services, or to take out targets before service members get to the battlespace, according to the top civilian of the Army.

“On a tactical level, we need to be able to outrange our adversaries’ guns with comparable caliber and organization,” said Army Secretary Mark Esper.

Speaking during a media roundtable with reporters at the Pentagon, Esper compared the technological evolution to that of the spear and the sword.

“Why was the spear developed? Because the other guy had a sword. But a spear gives you range,” the secretary said.

“You always want to have standoff where you can strike without being struck back,” Esper said.

He added, “That’s what extended-range cannon artillery gives us, case in point vis-à-vis the Russians.”

Just as the stealthy fifth-generation F-35 Joint Strike Fighter can enter anti-access environments to soften targets for fourth-generation aircraft, the extended-range artillery cannon could help eliminate threats for ground troops and other military assets, Esper said.

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“You can imagine a scenario where the Navy feels it cannot get into the South China Sea because of Chinese naval vessels, [but] we can from a fixed location,” Esper said Thursday.

The 1,000-mile range cannon is part of the Army’s larger effort to development long-range precision fires technology, one of the service’s modernization priorities.

The commander of Army Futures Command told lawmakers in September that the newly established command was looking for smarter ways to acquire such technologies and streamline the acquisition process because of necessity.

That includes the procurement and fielding of a supergun that can fire 1,150 land miles.

“We are looking very hard and starting down the path of hypersonics and also looking at what we call the Strategic Long Range Cannon, which conceivably could have a range of up to 1,000 nautical miles,” Gen. John “Mike” Murray said before the House Armed Services Committee’s Subcommittee on Readiness.

Esper on Thursday did not give an estimate on when the new long-range cannon could be fielded.

— Oriana Pawlyk can be reached at oriana.pawlyk@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @oriana0214.

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