Army to hold competitive howitzer evaluation in FY-25

By Nickolai Sukharev  / April 10, 2024

After hosting an industry day to evaluate existing capabilities, the Army plans to hold a competitive evaluation for a new self-propelled 155mm howitzer in fiscal year 2025.

“The competitive evaluation will result in a production contract award if an operationally acceptable solution is identified,” the Army stated in slides presented at the April 3 industry day.

This summer, the Army will host a demonstration of contractor offerings to meet the requirement for an improved 155mm self-propelled howitzer. During the industry day, Army representatives laid out the service’s plan going forward.

Following the cancellation of the Extended Range Cannon Artillery program, a major development effort, late last year, the Army has turned its sights on adapting an existing system to replace the in-service M109 Paladins.

The ERCA program aimed to produce a howitzer capable of hitting targets up to 110km, greater than the Paladin’s 40km. The increased range is intended to increase the lethality of artillery units, a need validated by an unreleased tactical fires study, the notice adds.

However, testing revealed numerous engineering issues preventing the ERCA from going into production, Army Under Secretary Gabe Camarillo said April 3.

The competitive evaluation will follow a four-month demonstration scheduled to start no earlier than August, in which the Army intends to observe the capabilities of existing systems, according to materials released this week.

After the competitive evaluation in FY-25, the Army will award a production contract to manufacture the howitzer domestically within two years and is looking to field the vehicle in FY-30.

Additionally, the Army’s fiscal year 2025 budget request seeks $8 million in seed funding divided between studies and hardware development for an entirely new weapon system.

Howitzer manufacturers American Rheinmetall, AM General, BAE Systems, Elbit, Hanwha and Krauss-Maffei Wegmann were among the companies that attended the April 3 industry day.

In 2023, BAE announced a successful live-fire test of an M109 Paladin with Rheinmetall’s 155mm L52 cannon, calling it a “low-risk pathway to rapid development” with an “improved capability.”

BAE currently manufactures the Army's M109 Paladin howitzers while Rheinmetall jointly produces the PzH-2000 with Krauss-Maffei Wegmann, a tracked 155mm self-propelled howitzer currently in service with the Germany and other European armies.

Rheinmetall’s L52 gun also features on the ARCHER, a wheeled howitzer designed by Swedish-designed howitzer manufactured by BAE and service with the United Kingdom, Sweden and Ukraine.

Krauss-Maffei Wegmann also makes the RCH 155, a wheeled turreted howitzer with a separate Rheinmetall-designed 155mm gun.

Hanwha manufactures the K9 Thunder, a tracked 155mm self-propelled howitzer currently in service with South Korea, Poland, Finland, Turkey and other Asian and African armies.

Elbit currently produces the M454, a wheeled self-propelled howitzer that fires a pre-fragmented drogue parachute warhead.

AM General is currently developing the BRUTUS 155mm Mobile Howitzer System, a wheeled howitzer fitted to an open truck.