Army Developing New Self-Propelled Howitzer
The Army is developing a next-generation, 40-ton 155mm howitzer artillery cannon called the Paladin Integrated Management (PIM), with the capability to fire precision rounds, accommodate additional armor protections, and power up more onboard electrical systems.
The new vehicle, slated to begin low-rate initial production (LRIP) by 2013, features a 600-volt onboard power system designed to accommodate emerging networking technologies as they become available.
“The PIM is the Army’s modernization program for the 155mm Self-Propelled Howitzer fleet. The SWAP [space, weight, and power] buyback that the PIM will provide is huge. It allows us to add additional armor to the platform, and it allows us to add additional capabilities such as automation or electronic packages,” said LTC Dan Furber, Product Manager Self-Propelled Howitzer Systems in Program Executive Office Ground Combat Systems.
The PIM’s onboard power system harnesses technologies developed for the Non-Line-of-Sight Cannon (NLOS-C), a 155mm howitzer formerly developed for the Future Combat Systems’ Manned Ground Vehicles program, which was canceled in 2009.
“We’ve also harnessed the electric drives from the NLOS-C, which are faster than the hydraulic drives used in the existing fleet. With the electric drives and rammer, we are finding more consistent ramming of the round, which allows for more consistent muzzle velocities, and we are a little more accurate and responsive with the electric drives,” Furber said.
While PIM is associated with the heavy brigade combat team, it is a full-spectrum operational platform. For instance, it would allow the artillery crew supporting light infantry on a forward operating base to be protected from indirect fires, something towed artillery pieces are not able to do.
Prototypes of the vehicle, built by BAE Systems, are undergoing government testing in preparation for an LRIP production decision; the PIM vehicle’s cannon rests on a chassis built with Bradley Fighting Vehicle common components, including engine, transmission, and tracks.
“Being common with Bradley decreases the logistics footprint that echelons above brigades will have to manage. In the long term, it will decrease the amount of money needed to sustain the Bradley and self-propelled howitzer fleets. We will only have to manage one engine, for example, in the supply chain, so there are economies of scale that are beneficial to the Army,” Furber explained.
The testing includes reliability, availability, and maintainability mission testing, as well as ballistic hull and turret testing, both designed to prepare the program for a Milestone C production decision by 2013.
Like other 155mm artillery systems, the Paladin will be configured to fire precision munitions such as Excalibur and Precision Guidance Kit. The PIM is being designed to provide key fire support for a range of potential combat operations to include conventional, hybrid, irregular, and counterinsurgency scenarios.
“While PIM is associated with the heavy brigade combat team, it is a full-spectrum operational platform. For instance, it would allow the artillery crew supporting light infantry on a forward operating base to be protected from indirect fires, something towed artillery pieces are not able to do,” Furber said.
The PIM includes a sustained rate of fire of one round per minute and a maximum rate of fire of four rounds per minute, said Ed Murray, Department of the Army Systems Coordinator – Artillery.
The Army plans to build 580 new Paladin PIM sets, each including a self-propelled howitzer and an ammunition resupply vehicle.
The existing fleet of M109A6 Howitzers, originally designed in the 1950s and produced in the 1960s, is nearing obsolescence. The current fleet exceeds its weight and power capacity and does not provide for growth in mobility and force protection. The PIM program is necessary to address capability gaps for self-propelled artillery, Furber and Murray said.
- KRIS OSBORN is a Highly Qualified Expert for the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics, and Technology Office of Strategic Communications. He holds a B.A. in English and political science from Kenyon College and an M.A. in comparative literature from Columbia University.