The Army has awarded BAE Systems a $45 million deal to develop a prototype for the Extended Range Cannon Artillery (ERCA) program, the company said Monday. 

BAE Systems will work to integrate the first ERCA prototype, designed to increase range and rate of fire, on its M109A7 self-propelled howitzer.

BAE Systems’ M109A7 Self-Propelled Howitzer

 “ERCA is a significant technological step forward for the Army’s artillery portfolio,” Scott Davis, vice president of programs for BAE Systems’ combat vehicles division, said in a statement. “We were selected based on our years of experience in the development of self-propelled howitzer systems. Long-range precision fire is a top priority for the Army, and we are pleased to be a partner in efforts to equip soldiers with the latest technology.”

The ERCA program falls under the Army’s long range precision fires portfolio, which officials have called the service’s top modernization priority, and will look to use power distribution software and new hardware integration capabilities to boost the M109A7’s range.

Army officials have previously said the goal for ERCA is to allow the M109A7 to reach ranges of more than 70 kilometers. 

“The development program aims to provide the warfighter with extended range while maintaining the weight found in current systems to minimize performance impacts on the chassis,” company officials wrote in a statement. 

BAE Systems is collaborating with the Army’s Combat Capabilities Development Command (CCDC) Armaments Center on prototype development. 

The new capability requires replacing the M109A7’s current 39-caliber turret with a 58-caliber, 30-foot long gun barrel, according to company officials. 

The company is currently working under a separate deal to also develop precision guidance kits with anti-jamming capabilities to harden ERCA tools in contested environments.