Faced with modernized capabilities from potential adversaries, the Army has accelerated development efforts in its long-range fires and plans to demonstrate new capabilities in cannon and projectiles in fiscal year 2018 that are being developed to extend the range and accuracy of current long-range artillery platforms and munitions, a service official said on Monday.

The Army has provided additional resources and help to accelerate these emerging capabilities by five years, Col. Rich Hornstein, the military deputy at the Army’s Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center, said.

Improving the Army’s capabilities is a priority for the service, Maj. Gen. Cedric Wins, the commanding general of RDECOM, said. Speaking at the annual Association of the U.S. Army conference in Washington, D.C., Wins and Hornstein said that adversaries and potential adversaries have studied U.S. capabilities and have begun to introduce “counters” to them.

The newly modified M777A2 howitzer has the potential to double the system's current artillery range. The work is being done under the Army's ERCA science and technology effort. Photo: U.S. Army
The newly modified M777A2 howitzer has the potential to double the system’s current artillery range. The work is being done under the Army’s ERCA science and technology effort. Photo: U.S. Army

“In many cases, we see ourselves outranged and outgunned,” Wins said.

In the past decade or so, as the U.S. has “become very efficient in counter-insurgency operations,” the modernization of forces by potential adversaries has given them “parity in certain areas and overmatch in others,” creating a “unique and uncomfortable position” for the U.S, Hornstein said.

The two developmental capabilities that the Army plans to demonstrate in fiscal year 2018 are the Extended Range Cannon Artillery (ERCA) and Extended Range Accurate Projectiles (ERAP), Hornstein said. Transition agreements are in place with program managers to work ERCA and ERAP into existing programs, he said, naming project manager self-propelled howitzer systems, tactical artillery systems, and combat ammunition systems.

Hornstein said that ERCA is more than just the gun and includes the cannon, fire control system and projectile for both mobile and towed platform. One of the slides he showed during his presentation also showed the ERCA and ERAP are aimed at extending the ranges of 155 mm artillery and that ERCA also includes the ammunition handling system and lightweight armament structures.

Under the ERCA effort the Army also wants to be able to fire projectiles more rapidly through automation.

The new projectile capability is actually a family of projectiles, according to his briefing slides, and will be able to be fired from legacy systems to provide extended range.

The upcoming demonstrations will take place at either White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico or the Yuma Proving Ground in Arizona, Hornstein said.

Wins said that “We have to increase the lethality of our systems with precision fires, and at greater distances. Far greater than we get out of our cannon artillery presently and far greater than we get out of our rocket artillery presently.”

The Army also needs to improve its air defense capability to better counter indirect fires, Wins said. This will need to be accomplished through a more integrated approach to “get after air threats and targeting indirect threats at the lower tier, mid-tier, and upper tier of our missile defense systems, he said.