The U.S. Army recently fired M982A1 Excalibur weapons from its Extended Range Cannon Artillery (ERCA) prototype that hit its target 70 km away.
“What we demonstrated a few minutes ago … is the success of a systems approach to upgrading our cannon system and the ERCA system is just that – a platform, the propellant, the projectiles and the fuses,” Brigadier General John Rafferty, the head of the Long-Range Precision Fires Cross-Functional Team, told reporters following the tests on December 19.
“We’ve successfully pushed that out to a direct target hit at 70 km, that’s 43 miles…. We have a long way to go but it’s a great way to finish 2020,” he added.
At first, the ERCA shot a standard round which missed its target by approximately 100-200m reportedly due to strong headwinds.
Dubbed “Super Howitzer,” the ERCA in March fired a rocket-assisted 155mm round and an Excalibur precision-guided round out to 65km, which is twice as far as traditional 155mm artillery.
The development of ERCA is in collaboration with the Army’s Combat Capabilities Development Command (CCDC) Armaments Centre. For the first phase of the ERCA program, BAE Systems is contracted to build the 18 ERCA systems that will be fielded in 2023.
The prototype phase will address capability gaps in the Army’s indirect fire systems and improve the rate and range of fire with the development of power distribution software and hardware integration solutions.
ERCA will be integrated onto the Paladin M109A7 self-propelled howitzer and will require the M109A7’s current 39-caliber turret to be replaced with a 58-caliber (155 mm), 30-foot long gun barrel with the objective of creating firepower double the current range.
The development program aims to provide the warfighter with extended range while maintaining the weight found in current systems to minimize performance impacts on the chassis.
Under separate contracts, BAE Systems is also developing precision guidance kits with anti-jamming capabilities (PGK-AJ) that can operate in the ERCA firing environment. PGK-AJ is compatible with existing and new long-range rounds for multiple firing platforms, including the M109 self-propelled howitzer.