TechPentagon ends XM1299 super howitzer program amid technical challenges

Pentagon ends XM1299 super howitzer program amid technical challenges

The text is already in English, so I will not translate it.
The text is already in English, so I will not translate it.
Images source: © Public domain
9:44 AM EDT, March 17, 2024
On March 8, the Pentagon announced the discontinuation of the XM1299 super howitzer program, created to augment the older M109s. This marks another in a series of recent program cancellations.
The XM1299, a 155 mm self-propelled howitzer program, faced insufficient funding in the fiscal year 2025. Doug Bush, Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics, and Technology, disclosed that despite completing prototypes in the previous fall, they didn't meet the criteria for production. A total of 20 prototypes were constructed: two designated for destruction during mine and ballistic tests, and the remaining 18 for further testing by an artillery battalion.
The primary reason for halting the funding was technical issues encountered during trials. Notably, the exceptionally long 58 calibers barrel (almost 29.5 feet) showcased excessive wear.

Abandoning an Expensive Endeavor

For context, most modern 155 mm caliber self-propelled guns feature barrels of 52 calibers, like the Krab, whereas American counterparts, including the M109 family and the M777, possess only 39 calibers. Nonetheless, the Army Futures Command is exploring various "existing solutions" to assess their technological maturity. Among the possible alternatives is the M109-52, essentially an enhanced M109A7 outfitted with the same German artillery found in the Panzerhaubitze 2000.
The XM1299 was developed as part of the ERCA (Extended Range Cannon Artillery) program, aimed at securing a substantial range advantage for the US Army over potential adversaries. The long barrel and enlarged ammunition chamber were expected to enable ranges between 43-93 miles using standard ammunition and 81-93 miles with rocket-assisted projectiles. Moreover, it boasted a high rate of fire — up to 10 rounds per minute — while maintaining a relatively light mass of about 44 tons. Additionally, its new fire control system promised enhanced firing accuracy.
Unfortunately, American artillery units will continue to look enviously at their Polish, French, or German counterparts, a sentiment not unfamiliar in the history of the US Army.

Maintaining Traditions Beyond the XM1299

Just a month prior, the Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft (FARA) program was another casualty of budget restraints and strategic shifts, originally intended to supply the US Army with new reconnaissance and attack helicopters to replace the retired Bell OH-58D Kiowa. Competitors for the program included the Bell 360 Invictus and the LM S-97 Raider.
Aside from financial reasons, a strategic reassessment on the battlefield influenced the decision, favoring drones for reconnaissance duties over manned helicopters. Consequently, the AH-64D/E Apache attack helicopters will lack manned support. The extent to which drones can bridge this gap is still to be determined. In September 2023, the US Army also recommended discontinuing the M1A2 SEPv4 Abrams program, aimed at replacing the SEPv3 variant, among other upgrades.
Howitzer XM1299 ERCA
Howitzer XM1299 ERCA© Ronkainen via X
The new Abrams variant was to feature an updated fire control system, competitive communication systems, self-diagnostic capabilities, and a data link for utilizing programmable ammunition XM1147. The decision was influenced by the current development path of the Abrams, considered unsustainable due to its substantial weight (approximately 74 tons, over 79 tons when fully equipped) and high fuel consumption.
Focus has shifted towards developing a new version that aims to be lighter, more mobile, and more cost-effective while maintaining the safety and firepower required by the crew. In May 2021, the Strategic Long-Range Cannon (SLRC) program, which aimed to achieve a firing range of up to 1000 miles, was presumably canceled following the US withdrawal from the INF disarmament treaty.
Throughout history, several similar programs have been terminated, such as the Boeing-Sikorsky RAH-66 Comanche helicopter project in 2004 after $7 billion in spending, and the XM2001 Crusader in 2002 after an investment of $11 billion. The most costly was the Future Combat Systems program, which, costing American taxpayers $32 billion, was closed in 2009 after attempting to replace nearly all of the US Army’s heavy weaponry with a new family of light tracked vehicles.

Was It Wasteful?

These cancellations don't necessarily equate to squandered resources. On the contrary, they represent continuous development efforts by the US Army and parallel advancements in the national defense industry. These seemingly unsuccessful programs often lay the groundwork for future successful initiatives by contributing valuable technological advancements.
Moreover, by engaging in projects like the FCS, XM907, or FARA, American engineers accumulate significant experience crucial for designing future weapons systems. The history of these projects illustrates the importance of investing in research and development: without the Crusader, there would be no XM1299, and the XM1299 paves the way for the future of American artillery technology.
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