On April 19, Artillerymen at Fort Bragg, N.C., became the first unit in the Army to receive digitized M119A3 howitzers, which will make it possible for Soldiers to start firing rounds and evade return fire quicker in combat.
The M119 is a lightweight 105 mm howitzer that provides suppressive and protective fires for infantry brigade combat teams. The upgraded M119A3 is equipped with a digital fire control system that includes an inertial navigation unit, guided-precision system technology and other features that will give the weapon the ability to determine its precise geographical location on its own.
Employees from the Program Executive Office for Ammunition, with help from the Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center, or ARDEC, recently fielded 16 M119A3s to the 3rd Battalion, 319th Airborne Field Artillery Regiment, 1st Brigade.
"One benefit of the digital fire control system is improved survivability because it reduces emplacement and displacement times," said Keith Gooding, Project Manager Towed Artillery Systems, also known as PM TAS, for the Program Executive Office for Ammunition.
The digitized M119A3 includes a GPS-aided Inertial Navigation Unit, or INU, that detects where the weapon is at all times, so optical sites are not needed to determine location.
The INU allows the Soldier to prepare the howitzer and fire the first round in two to three minutes, as opposed to the 10 minutes it could take them to ready the M119A2 for fire.
"Ten minutes may not seem that long, but when someone's shooting at you, 10 minutes is a big deal," he said of the infantrymen who rely on M119A3 protective fire during combat.
In addition to assisting infantry troops quickly, the digital fire-control system will help the M119A3 cannoneers avoid enemy fire, allowing them to "Shoot and Scoot."
With the digitized fire control, artillerymen can quickly fire some rounds and then move to a new location and quickly begin firing rounds again.
Because they will be able to quickly relocate, this can help them evade return fire from the enemy.
"The M119 Howitzer is a unique program in that the work is conducted within the government," said Gene Conner, M119A2 Assistant Program Manager. "PM TAS acts as the prime contractor and ARDEC is the system integrator."
The digitization package is integrated onto existing M119A2 guns, creating the M119A3 howitzer.
The software development and integration of the digital fire control system onto the first 16 of approximately 600 M119A3's was conducted in-house at ARDEC.
To upgrade the Army's additional howitzers, a team from Picatinny Arsenal will travel to each unit location to apply the digitized package, provide manuals, tools, and initial spares, and to provide new equipment training to the Soldiers.
Ninety percent of the software used on the M119A3 was taken from the M777A2.
This provides useful standardization between the Army's three howitzers, the M777A2, the Paladin self-propelled 155 mm Howitzer and now the M119A3.
"If you're training on howitzers that share the same base code, the difference in training requirements across platforms is minimized and the flexibility of the artillerymen to move from platform to platform is simplified and increased," Gooding added.
Using similar software also made the upgrades cheaper because separate development efforts and teams were not needed.
"Since we reused 90 percent of the software associated with the M777A2, we saved about $7 million developing the code," Gooding noted.
By Ms. Audra Calloway, AMC
Source: US Army
Date: May 10, 2013