Self-Propelled Cannons/Support

Article excerpt

The M109A6 Paladin 155 mm Self-Propelled Howitzer provides the primary indirect fire support to heavy divisions and armored cavalry regiments. Like the earlier M109 models, the M109A6 Paladin is a fully tracked, armored vehicle. The enhanced Paladin configuration is achieved through extensive modifications to existing M109A2/A3 vehicle hulls and the subsequent introduction of an entirely new turret structure.

The Paladin includes an onboard automated fire-control system (AFCS) that provides ballistic computation, weapon control, a vehicle location/navigation system, secure radio communications systems, an improved M284 cannon and M182A1 gun mount, automotive improvements, improved ballistic and nuclear-biological-chemical (NBC) protection, driver's night-vision capability and built-in test equipment. Additional chassis upgrades include a remotely actuated travel lock (for quicker emplacement and displacement), longer torsion bars (to help support the new turret) and a low-heat rejection engine with an improved cooling system.

Described as the first digitized combat vehicle in the Army's inventory, the Paladin has improved responsiveness, survivability, lethality and reliability compared to the earlier M109s.

The first 164 Army Paladin systems were manufactured under a September 1991 LRIP contract, resulting in first unit equipped (FUE) status in April 1993. The subsequent full-scale production (FSP), multiyear contract covered 630 howitzers. Additional options for 83 systems and a follow-on order for 73 Paladins brought the total number of units produced under FSP to 786.

On June 25, 1999, the Army received its 950th M109A6 Paladin. The event marked the end of full-scale production (164 LRIP plus 786 FSP equals 950 M109A6s).

The Army received a FY 2000 congressional plus-up for an additional seven Paladin vehicles for continued Army National Guard modernization and a congressional reprogramming of proceeds of the sale of long supply Ml 09 howitzers to foreign military sales customers. These proceeds procured an additional 18 Paladins for the National Guard. The last of these Paladins were delivered in September 2003, fulfilling the acquisition procurement objective (APO) at 975 Paladins.

Combat and accident losses in 2003 resulted in two Paladins being destroyed.

The remaining Ml 09 howitzer fleet (approximately 13 ARNG battalions) has received the M109A5 upgrade, which included some of the same automotive and crew NBC protection improvements as well as the Paladin's M284 cannon and M182 gun mount.

In 2003 the product director for PaIadin/FAASV began working the next increment of product improvements in the M109A6 Paladin and M992A2 FAASVs evolutionary acquisition. These improvements incorporate handling and stowage improvements for the newly fielded modular artillery charge system (MACS) and upgrade the Paladin digital fire-control system.

The M231 and M232 combustible case MACS propelling charges will replace the M3, M4 and M119 series bag propelling charges with a modular "build a charge" concept. The M231 MACS charge is fired in Zones 1 and Zone 2 and M232 MACS charge is fired in Zones 3 through 5, eliminating the need to burn excess propellant after fire missions.

The Paladin digital fire-control system (PDFCS) is the third update to the M109A6 Paladin's automated fire-control system. The PDFCS incorporates three single board computers operating technical fire-control, situational awareness (through FBCB^sup 2^) and on-board prognostics/diagnostics. The PDFCS will continue to be the Paladin's link to the Army C^sup 4^ISR systems and ABCS/software blocking and allows for future C^sup 4^ network improvements.

A parallel U. …