Senate committee wants competition before ERCA production

By Ethan Sterenfeld / July 19, 2022 at 4:24 PM

The Senate Armed Services Committee wants the Army to run a competition and consider all manufacturing approaches when the Extended Range Cannon Artillery moves from prototype to serial production, according to a new draft defense policy bill.

“The committee recommends a provision that would require the post-prototype production strategy for Extended Range Cannon Artillery howitzers to be based on a full and open competitive approach that considers the comparative cost and value of a new-build versus Paladin-modification production approach,” said the report accompanying the draft bill that the committee passed last month, which was filed July 18 for consideration by the full Senate.

ERCA is a high-priority Army program to field a self-propelled howitzer that can reach 70 kilometers with a new rocket-assisted projectile. The howitzer’s barrel is nearly 50% longer than existing U.S. 155 mm systems.

The Army would have to certify that any post-prototype acquisition strategy meets the competition requirement and brief the congressional defense committees on the issue before any request for proposals is released, according to the draft bill.

Currently, each ERCA prototype is created by modifying a M109A7 Paladin, the newest version of the Army’s legacy self-propelled howitzer. A prototype battalion of 18 ERCAs is scheduled to be delivered at the end of fiscal year 2023 for a soldier experiment, at least 12 of which will be assembled by an Army facility at Picatinny Arsenal, NJ.

Many production decisions have yet to be made for the ERCA, including whether the initial production model will include an autoloader. More questions include whether it will replace or permanently augment shorter-range howitzers in armored divisions.

An Army notice posted earlier this year said the service might run a competition to finish the technical data for the cannon, but not for the system’s production. The Army could make a follow-on award for production using the other transaction agreement for the technical data.