The Army’s current howitzers, the towed M-777 and the self-propelled M-109, are reported to shoot just 14 miles with standard rounds and 19 miles with rocket-assisted shells. Russian howitzers, on the other hand, can already fire at a range of up to 43 miles. For these reasons, the US ground-combat branch is now spending billions of dollars improving the firing range of its howitzers and rocket launchers, as well as creating new, long-range rockets in order to match, then exceed, its rivals’ artillery capabilities.
On March 6, 2020, the US Army conducted a fire test at Yuma Proving Ground in Arizona. Two 155-millimeter howitzer projectiles were launched out to a range of 40 miles. This howitzer was one of the Army’s prototype Extended-Range Cannon Artillery systems or ERCA. The ERCA is the first in a series of new long-range weapons for the Army, combining the newest M-109A7 chassis with a new 30-feet-long barrel.
In addition, the Yuma test deployed two different shell types, including an Excalibur GPS-guided shell and an XM1113 rocket-assisted projectile. A new ramjet-propelled shell developed by a Norwegian company could extend the ERCA’s range out to 60 or even 80 miles. In addition, the XM1113, which is expected to enter service in the next several years, increases the effective shooting range of earlier M-777s and M-109s howitzers from 19 miles to 24 miles. This test shots, therefore, marked a start of massive modernization of the Army’s artillery, with the first battalions of 18 farther-firing guns expected to be deployed in 2023.