U.S. Army tests new longer-range artillery weapon at Yuma Proving Ground

The U.S. Army being tested longer-range artillery weapon called Extended Range Cannon Artillery, or ERCA, at the Yuma Proving Ground, according to the Secretary of the Army, Mark Esper.

In a statement posted on official Secretary of the Army Twitter account, Mark Esper said that the ERCA increases Soldier’s firepower and reflects the Army’s top modernization priority: long-range precision fires.

Existing 155m artillery rounds, fired with precision from mobile (light and Stryker units) and self-propelled howitzer platforms, have a maximum range of about 30km; the new ERCA weapon is designed to hit ranges greater than 70km and with new ammunition possibly extended to 100+ km.

The upgraded self-propelled howitzer platform, as part of the ERCA programme, is being tested at Yuma Proving Ground. The modification adds 1,000 pounds to the overall weight of the weapon and an additional six feet of cannon tube. The ERCA systems also uses a redesigned cab, new breech design and new “muzzle break”.

According to Popular Mechanics, longer barrels allow the explosive gasses produced by burning propellant to act longer on the shell, so it gives the barrel at greater velocities. Greater velocity equals greater range. A short-barreled rifle, for example, will have a slower muzzle velocity and shorter range than a rifle with a longer barrel.

The ERCA is currently being configured to fire from an M109a8 Self-Propelled Howitzer, using a 58-Cal. tube; the existing M109a7, called the Paladin Integrated Management, fires a 39-Cal. weapon.

A 70-kilometer target range is, by any estimation, a substantial leap forward for artillery; when GPS guided precision 155mm artillery rounds, such as Excalibur, burst into land combat about ten years ago – its strike range was reported at roughly 30 kilometers. A self-propelled Howitzer able to hit 70-kilometers puts the weapon on par with some of the Army’s advanced land-based rockets – such as its precision-enabled Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System which also reaches 70-kilometers.

The long-range cannon’s increased range, effectiveness and accuracy of beyond-line-of-sight fires is in direct response to operational needs in the Pacific and Europe.

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