BAE Systems has announced that has received a $834 million contract for full
rate production of the M777A1 lightweight howitzer. The 155mm M777A1 howitzer
will be delivered to the US Marine Corps and the US Army Stryker interim
Under this contract BAE Systems Land Systems will manufacture 495 howitzers over
the next four years. The M777A1 howitzer was designed and developed in the
United Kingdom by BAE Systems to replace the M198 howitzer in both the US Army
and the US Marine Corps inventory.
In order to reduce the howitzer weight by 7,000-lb compared to its predecessor,
the M777A1 makes extensive use of titanium and titanium castings. The resulting
weapon system equals the performance of the M198, especially ammunition and
range capabilities. Weight savings allow the M777A1 to be transported by USMC's
MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor and airdropped by C-130 aircraft.
The M777 was at the low rate initial production (LRIP) phase under a contract
awarded in November 2002 to manufacture 94 howitzers. The weapon approved the
operational testing in October 2004 after firing more than 12,000 artillery
rounds by four howitzers and thereafter was declared operationally suitable.
It is expected that the M777A1 achieves initial operational capability in May
2005 with the 3rd Battalion 11th Marine Regiment at Twentynine Palms,
California. All the 94 LRIP howitzers delivered to the USMC will be upgraded
with a digital fire control system (DFCS) under the terms of the full rate
production contract. DFCS will make the M777 fully compatible with
precision-guided Excalibur 155mm projectile. Excalibur capability will be
fielded with the first Army M777A1-equipped unit planned for 2006.
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