Artillery: April 24, 2005

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The prototype of the new American self-propelled artillery system, the 155mm NLOS-C (Non-Line of Sight- Cannon), has been undergoing tests for the last 18 months, and has fired a thousand rounds so far. The system was cobbled together in six months, after the new Crusader SP artillery system was cancelled. The current self-propelled system, the M-109, is a fifty year old design. Although the M-109 has been updated, the NLOS-C incorporates many new technologies. This includes an auto-loader (from the Crusader) and a more modern 155mm gun (the M-777, a towed, British designed system) and an APC chassis with a hybrid-electric engine (to reduce fuel consumption.) This all weighs 23 tons, about the same as the M-109. But the NLOS only has a two man crew, compared to five in the M-109. The final version of the NLOS-C is supposed to have a lighter, composite material that will bring the weight down to under 20 tons. There is some doubt if that will happen, but NLOS-C is part of the armys FCS (Future Combat System) family of combat vehicles, and being under twenty tons is part of that. But in the meantime, a new self-propelled artillery weapon is needed, and NLOS-C could fill the bill if they would just finish the development and get it into production. Congress demanded that this happen by 2008. But Congress has made other demands about FCS and NLOS-C which conflict with this date. It all may be moot, as the new Excalibur GPS guided shell, entering service next year, could change everything. If Excalibur works in combat, the way it has in testing, it could radically change the way artillery operates. Excalibur would mean 80-90 percent less ammo would be fired, meaning less wear and tear on existing M-109s, and a few more years for the army to figure out what the M-109 replacement will be. 

 


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