Now that production of the M777A2 155mm/39 calibre lightweight towed howitzer is underway again, BAE Systems is looking for additional export opportunities in the Middle East. The M777 was originally developed to meet the requirements of the US Army and Marine Corps to replace their much heavier M198 155mm/39 calibre towed howitzers.
It has also been sold to Australia (54) and Canada (37), with the latest customer being India, which ordered 145 units, with final assembly of these now being undertaken in India by Mahindra.
According to BAE Systems, the M198 took 15 minutes to come into action, carry out a fire mission of firing five 155mm rounds and then being taken out of action. The M777 can carry out the same fire mission in just five minutes. Maximum range depends on the projectile/ charge combination, but firing an unassisted 155mm projectile, a range of 24.7km can be achieved, which increases to 30km with a M549A1 rocket assisted projectile. For engaging targets with precision effect, the 155mm Raytheon M982 Excalibur guided projectile is used, with a maximum range of 40km.
The M777A2 is the latest model and can be fitted with various onboard fire control systems, with Canada and India opting for the Leonardo (previously Selex) Laser Inertial Artillery Pointing System (LINAPS), which increases accuracy, reduces into-action times and provides for a day/ night capability. The US Army and Marine Corps use the General Dynamics Digital Fire Control System, which is also used by Australia.
While the M777A2 is normally pulled by a 6x6 cross-country truck, it has also been proposed that it could be integrated on the rear of an 8x8 armoured personnel carrier such as the Piranha/Stryker. Another potential alternative platform could be the Rheinmetall MAN Military Vehicles 8x8 high-mobility truck.
The current M777A2 is fitted with a 155mm M776 barrel manufactured by Watervliet Arsenal, but trials are underway of a modified M777 fitted with a 155mm/58 calibre barrel. This barrel is also manufactured by Watervliet Arsenal and will enable the M777 to engage targets at longer range and therefore be more survivable against counter-battery fire.