Army seeks soft recoil system for next-gen towed howitzer

By Ethan Sterenfeld / July 27, 2021 at 2:49 PM

The Army has invited industry to apply for the Extended Range Soft Recoil Technologies program, which will develop a soft recoil system for next-generation towed 155 mm howitzer projects, according to a July 20 Army notice.

"The primary program objective is the design, manufacture, test, and delivery of Extended Range Soft Recoil System Vehicle Demonstrators," an attachment to the notice stated.

Program Manager Towed Artillery Systems will lead the program, which is related to an overarching goal of creating more mobile and lethal artillery systems.

“Exploring current soft recoil technology is directly aligned with modernizing cannon artillery,” the notice stated. “Soft recoil has the potential to improve the range and mobility of the U.S. Army’s Mobile Artillery fleet by reducing carriage loads during firing as well as create the opportunity to utilize lighter weight structures.”

Simulation and live fire testing during the program would compare the performance of the soft recoil system on various combinations of the XM351 Extended Range cannon and the Next Generation Cannon with different vehicles and stands, according to the notice.

Some tests would also include parts from the M777 Extended Range howitzer program, which modified the M777 towed howitzer with a longer barrel and other improvements from the Extended Range Cannon Artillery self-propelled howitzer.

ERCA, which is scheduled to begin fielding in 2023, is a modified version of the M109A7 Paladin self-propelled howitzer that is designed to hit targets at 70 kilometers. ERCA’s barrel is nearly 30 feet long, roughly 50% longer than the Paladin’s barrel.

The Extended Range Soft Recoil Technologies program would take place over two phases, a two-year design, simulation and manufacturing phase and an 18-month live fire and mobility testing phase at Yuma Proving Ground, AZ, according to the notice. The two phases can overlap.

Interested companies need to submit a white paper to the Army by August 4. The Army will then issue a request for prototype proposals to some of the companies that submitted a white paper, and one of those companies will win an Other Transaction Agreement for the program.