The U.S. Army, U.S. Marine Corps (USMC) and Australian Defence Force (ADF) have partnered to increase the range and accuracy of M777A2 howitzer, under an effort termed as Long Range Cannon (LRC) project.
The genesis of the Long Range Cannon project was the M777 Extended Range (ER) Howitzer project, a 2014 prototyping initiative to significantly extend the range of the currently fielded M777A2 variant. That effort involved the incorporation of a longer cannon tube for extended-range firing; a more efficient muzzle brake to minimize blast overpressure on the gun crew; a reinforced recoil yoke for higher firing loads; longer road arms to compensate for the increased tube length; an upgraded recoil system for extended-range charges; and upgrades to the balancer system. In all, no structural changes are needed, as all of these are bolt-on assemblies. Dubbed the ER Kit, the prototype components can quickly be retrofitted onto existing howitzers.
In 2018, Army leadership prioritized the M777ER for acceleration and expanded the scope of the effort by adding the condition of improved accuracy at extended ranges. That, in turn, called for a new name-the Long Range Cannon. To achieve the dual goals of expanded range and improved accuracy as expeditiously and cost-effectively as possible, the Long Range Cannon team hopes to maximize the use of existing resources and leverage several technologies already in development.
Through a system-of-systems approach, the Long Range Cannon program integrates the M777ER with several high-potential, extended range and GPS-degraded or -denied artillery technologies, including the Location and Azimuth Determining System for more secure and accurate survey control and target acquisition; a projectile tracking system for improving impact accuracy; and a high-explosive, rocket-assisted projectile along with a supercharged propellant to achieve the desired maximum ranges.
The team plans to use the extended range armament to modernize the current weapon-ammunition interface, in an effort to further increase the maximum effective range that the M777ER can achieve. The information resulting from the interface modernization will also provide early data points for the Army’s emerging Mobile Howitzer program.