The upcoming U.S. Army mobile 155mm howitzer shoot-off that is now planned for early 2021 at the Yuma Proving Grounds in Arizona is proving to be quite the international affair. Serbia’s Yugoimport and BAE System’s Swedish-based Bofors division has already confirmed that they will be taking part, while Elbit Systems of America, a subsidiary of the Israeli-based Elbit Systems, announced last week it would also be in attendance with its ATMOS Iron Sabre, a 155mm/52 caliber semi-automatic platform that is capable of firing six to seven rounds a minute with a crew of four.
The Iron Sabre can be carried in a C-17 transport and can traverse a battlefield at roughly fifty miles per hour, while it has the ability to “shoot-and-scoot” in roughly thirty seconds, Defense News Reported. It is reportedly compatible with all existing U.S. projectiles and propellant charges.
“U.S. Army Fires needs solutions that can keep up with the SBCT, can shoot faster and farther, and most importantly are low risk and ready now. Elbit Systems of America’s ATMOS Iron Sabre addresses all of these needs,” said Ridge Sower, vice president of Ground Combat & Precision targeting at the company via a statement, reported by Israel Defense. “We are pleased to be selected for this evaluation and stand ready for rapid delivery from our hot production line if selected for production and fielding.”
The Army is holding the shoot-off as it looks for a production-ready system that can offer an improvement in range, rate-of-fire and mobility over the artillery systems used with the Stryker Brigade Combat teams. The Army had first issued a Request for Information (RFI) in late 2018, and in July, the Army released an announcement that it was seeking a more mobile, lethal and survivable replacement for its current towed M777 howitzers. Interested participants for the three-month-long shoot-off had to provide eighteen evaluation systems.
The best performers may be then asked to provide proposals for the production, delivery, fielding, training and support for use by the United States Army.
Swedish and Serbia Systems
The shoot-off is certainly drawing interest from different parts of the globe—with both Swedish and Serbian companies expressing interest in taking part. This includes the aforementioned BAE Systems and the Swedish-based Bofors division and Serbia’s Yugoimport.
Bofors is reported to be offering the Archer, its truck-mounted 52 caliber 155mm howitzer. As with the Israeli platform, the Archer needs less than thirty seconds from the time the operator receives a call for fire to stop the vehicle, position for action, and fire the first round. In the same amount of time it can be on the move again—and it has a road speed of 45 mph (70 km/h), but was also developed to tackle the most difficult terrain. Rounds from the Archer can hit distances up to 40 km with conventional 155mm ammunition and up to 60 km with precision guided munitions such as the U.S. Army’s Excalibur.
“ARCHER is a mature, proven system that can quickly get into the fight and strike enemy targets at long ranges, with a high rate of fire and very fast displacement times, and is made for combat against large power adversaries,” said Chris King, director of business development at BAE Systems, via a statement.
The Serbian Yugoimport’s NORA B-52 also offers the ability to fire and move quickly. It features a fully automatic auto loader and a move-shoot-move while under armor capability to protect the entire crew on the battlefield. The company noted that its upgraded version provides enhanced mobility, along with a larger chamber, automation, and speed.
The French-based Nexter Systems also told Defense News it had been selected to bring its 155mm self-propelled howitzer CAESAR, which has been in service since 2008 and battle-tested in Afghanistan, Lebanon, Mali and Iraq. The 6x6 platform is currently used by the French Army, and it has also been widely exported.
Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He regularly writes about military small arms, and is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on Amazon.com.