Army seeking manufacturers for extended-range 155mm projectile

By Nickolai Sukharev / May 24, 2024 at 1:24 PM

Seeking battlefield projectiles with greater ranges than what is currently in service, the Army is looking to industry to produce a 155mm projectile that can increase the lethality of brigade combat teams, according to a public notice.

Issued as a market survey, interested manufacturers will produce the Extended Range Artillery Projectile (ERAP) munition, a 155mm artillery projectile that “must be target seeking, be able to operate in GPS heavily degraded environments, and include a mode of operation that does not use GPS,” the May 24 announcement reads.

The ERAP will have a minimum 65km range when fired from current 39 caliber howitzers and 70km or greater when fired from 52 caliber howitzers.

“It will support both current and future weapon systems and defeat infantry fighting vehicles, self-propelled howitzers, multiple rocket launchers (MRLs), air defense targets, main battle tanks (MBT) and maritime targets of interest,” the announcement reads.

The round will also need to be compatible with current howitzers in service as well as the Joint Ballistic Memorandum of Understanding, an international agreement that sets 155mm howitzer compatibility standards among NATO members.

Restricted to manufacturers in the U.S. and Canada, the Army plans on low-rate production to begin by the second quarter of fiscal year 2029 and initial operational capability fielding by FY-30.

Production will begin with 300 projectiles per month the first production year before ramping up to 1500 projectiles per month by the sixth production year, the notice adds.

Speaking earlier this week at an event hosted by the Association of the United States Army in Arlington, VA, Lt. Gen. Karl Gingrich, the deputy chief of staff for programs (G-8), said the Army can achieve greater artillery ranges by improving the 155mm round, without having to develop an entirely new howitzer.

“Rather than get a longer gun tube, there [are] technologies out there and many of your companies represent those technologies that allow us existing cannon configurations, whether it's 39 caliber, 52 caliber or whatever, 52 being the NATO kind of standard these days,” he said.

Stemming from a currently unreleased tactical fires study -- which stressed the need to increase artillery ranges to match potential adversaries -- the Army looked at developing a new howitzer with a longer gun tube and improving the 155 rounds.

The Army has tested the Extended Range Cannon Artillery program, a tracked self-propelled howitzer armed with a 30ft gun tube that could engage targets at 70km with standard rounds and 110km with rocket-assisted rounds, greater than the current 40km range of the Paladin with a 19ft gun tube.

While Army officials stressed that the unreleased tactical fires study validated the need to extend artillery ranges, the service cancelled the howitzer portion of the ERCA program and instead opted to continue improving the 155mm round while also looking at capabilities of current commercially available self-propelled howitzers.

Speaking at the Fires Symposium in Lawton, OK, earlier this month, Brig. Gen. Rory Crooks, who heads the Army’s Long Range Precision Fires Cross-Functional team, said the ERCA tests revealed that higher pressure rounds being fired from shorter barrels can reach the greater ranges requirements set by the unreleased tactical fires study.