M777 Ultralightweight Field Howitzer

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M777 Ultralightweight Field Howitzer
« em: Outubro 23, 2004, 01:44:07 pm »
M777 Ultralightweight Field Howitzer

From a long and rich history of engines of destruction comes the newest breed of medium force weapons -- the 155mm Ultralightweight Howitzer -- so light that it floats like a butterfly, and so powerful it stings like a train wreck.

Up close and personal: A detailed look at the M777. (Photo: Army Technology)

Imagine a massive high-powered rifle, say, the XM-109, except eight times as long and with a caliber six times as large. Now imagine that this massive firearm can travel ten times faster than a sniper armed with the XM-109 -- that is, when it's being towed by a 4x4 vehicle. This imaginative concept was made reality in the form of the M777, also known as the Ultralightweight Field Howitzer (UFH).

The Howitzers are a family with a rich and long history. You can find many Howitzers of yore sitting in veteran's memorials across the U.S., relics that were used as far back as WWI. The M101 105mm Howitzer of West Virginia is one of two that sit proudly in Brook Hancock County Veteran's Memorial. The first 155mm Howitzer, the M114A1, was used in Vietnam to provide accurate and timely assistance to troops in trouble on the battlefield. It's unmatched firepower and easy maneuverability made it a deadly force. With a history of unbridled destruction, the M777 definitely lives up to its lineage.

The M777 is the lightest gun of its kind, and the first howitzer to weigh in at less than 10,000 pounds -- its larger siblings, such as the M198, break the scales at over 15,000 pounds. The M777 is easily transported and can fire all existing 155mm projectiles, including M712 Copperhead. In addition to its versatility and mobility, it comes equipped with a digital fire control system, known as towed artillery digitization (TAD), and will be fully integrated into the Force XXI digital battlefield brigades. As far as accuracy, the M777 is unparalleled. It can fire new PGMs like the XM982 Excalibur with frightening precision. Matching the firepower of current 155mm towed systems at half the weight, the M777 is more than enough bang for your buck.
Float Like a Butterfly

As the lightest howitzer ever, the M777 can move circles around its predecessors, the M198 and the M109A6. Its maximum towing speed is 50 mph, and if you're looking to tow the M777 across country, it can move at a speed of 31 mph. Any air-brake vehicle with a weight of 2.5 tons or more can tow the M777. It is also airlift capable by the CH-47, CH-53, or MH-22. This makes for high mobility and easy deployment.

Not only can the M777 float like a butterfly, it can also sting like a train wreck. The UFH boasts a barrel length of 39 calibers and requires a crew of seven to operate at full capacity. It can even fire with a reduced crew of five if necessary. Muzzle velocity (at Charge 8 Super) is 827 m/s, and the barrel life goes up to 2,650 firings. With rocket-assisted projectiles (RAP), the M777 maximum range is 30km. Unassisted, its maximum range is 24.7km. It can pump out 5 rounds per minute, with a sustained rate of 2 rounds per minute.

The M777 in demonstration, as manned by seven soldiers. (Photo: Army Technology)

Fire Control

In the dead of night or the thick of a storm, the M777 can fire its massive artillery with accurate precision - directly or indirectly - thanks to its optical fire control system, which is digitally compatible. A killer feature is its compatibility with the new Raytheon XM982 Excalibur GPS/Inertial Navigation-guided extended range 155mm projectiles. These babies have a maximum range of 40km and a circular error probability (CEP) of 10m. Now that's precision. Initial testing of the Excalibur was in August of 2003, and initial fielding is expected for 2006.

Also in on the action is General Dynamics, which has developed the towed artillery digitization system especially for the M777. This digital fire control system matches the fire control capabilities on many modern self-propelled artillery pieces. An example is the M109A6 Paladin, which features automatic gun positioning, automotive improvements and driver night vision equipment. Similarly, the M777's TAD provides onboard ballistic computation, navigation, pointing and self-location, making for greater accuracy. Electric drives, elevation gears, and a powered projectile rammer are also loaded on the TAD, to reduce crew fatigue and increase reaction times. Last but not least, General Dynamics has given the TAD a laser ignition system to power this massive force.

The newest addition to the family of Howitzers has been selected by the Marine Corps and Army as the medium force weapon of the next generation. Lighter, more powerful, and easy to move, this young gun has no peer on the battlefield.

Crew 7 or a reduced detachment of 5
Length 30.4 feet (9275 mm) in tow
  33.5 feet (10210 mm) firing mode
Width 9.1 feet (2770 mm) in tow
  12.2 feet (3720 mm) firing mode
Height 7.4 feet (2260 mm) in tow
Weight 8256 pounds (3745 kilograms)  
Caliber 155 mm
Barrel length 39 caliber
Barrel life 2650 firings
Muzzle velocity at Charge 8 Super 827 m/s
Maximum firing range  24.7 km, unassisted
  30 km, assisted
Rate of fire 5 rounds per minute, intense  
  2 rounds per minute, sustained  
Maximum towed road speed  88 km/hour (55 mph)
Maximum towed cross country speed 50 km/hour (31 mph)


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