I’ve got a post on the Future Combat Systems’ self-propelled artillery over at Defense Tech. Check it out.
A reader at MO tipped me off to this beast. It’s the NLOS-C (non-line-of-sight cannon) demonstrator, and it’s fired over 1,000 rounds during testing near Yuma, AZ.
Regular Defense Tech readers will know that the FCS program is a plan with great potential but many questions and growing price tags. Not to mention swelling waistlines. Of all the FCS vehicles, though, this one seems to be the farthest along and on the right track. That’s because the manufacturer, United Defense, already had a great deal of groundwork completed due to the canceled Crusader program:
United Defense designed and fielded NLOS-C CTD in just six months following Crusader program cancellation. CTD leverages Crusader technology, the M777 towed howitzer 39-caliber cannon, a fully automated ammunition handling system and a 20-ton highly mobile tracked platform. The current CTD has a magazine capable of holding 24 cannon projectiles and hybrid-electric (diesel electric) propulsion system providing fuel economy.
This particular beast seems to actually fit the concept of taking advantage of “off-the-shelf” components whenever possible that FCS was supposed to embrace. But it’s a demonstrator and not the final product. However, a recent pile of money thrown in the general direction of FCS includes funds to accelerate the NLOS-C development.
There are a number of other big-gun artillery/fire support options out there, as well.
The Stryker Mobile Gun System (MGS) is still having trouble and won’t be fielded until at least 2007.
The Stryker crowd can take heart that there’s also a LAV III-based 105mm mobile howitzer prototype that’s been tested and apparently performed well. It was developed on spec, though, and there’s no spare change available at the moment.
And four left-over M8 AGS (Armored Gun System) prototypes were supposed to be fielded with the 82nd Airborne, but there’s been no news.
The M8 AGS was originally developed for the airborne. The XVIII Airborne Corps has looked at the French-built Ceasar, a 155mm howitzer mounted on a 6×6 truck for some big-barreled punch.
Canada is planning to purchase the troubled Stryker MGS, but some up north wonder if there aren’t better alternatives available.
Some of these are fire support platforms, some are more like traditional self-propelled artillery, and the M8 AGS is really more of a light tank.
But FCS has the money (for now, at least), so the NLOS-C has to be considered the odds-on favorite. Meanwhile, the troops in the field continue to wonder if the big guns will ever be providing some cover and knocking in bunkers for them.
THERE’S MORE: Of course, big guns aren’t the only way to make big holes. Missiles and advanced guidance are changing the way artillery support works.
AND MORE: A commenter on my site noted that, for all the advanced gear and space-age weaponry, it will still all come down to the soldier. It’s important that we don’t lose sight of this. To underscore the importance of our men and women in uniform, I pointed out the pic on the front page of today’s DefendAmerica.mil and wrote
There’s probably very little on earth scarier than a US soldier or Marine with a map and a radio.