Magazine article National Defense

Future Howitzer Is Not 'Son of Crusader'

Magazine article National Defense

Future Howitzer Is Not 'Son of Crusader'

Article excerpt

Army's non-line of sight 'demonstrator' to be fired this fall at Yuma Proving Ground

The U.S. Army's future cannon artillery vehicles likely will employ many of the same technologies originally designed for the Crusader - a high-tech howitzer that was terminated last year, because it was deemed too heavy and unwieldy to be useful in today's battles.

The 42-ton Crusader was to supplant the aging Paladin, a 32-ton cannon-artillery platform. In the absence of Crusader, the Army will keep the Paladin in operation for at least another decade, until it completes the development of a smaller self-propelled howitzer that will be part of a family of next-generation vehicles known as the Future Combat Systems. If FCS works as planned, it will be a network of as many as 18 types of light combat vehicles (each about 16 tons), including direct-fire and non-line of sight platforms, ground robots and pilotless aircraft. The first FCS units could be in the field by 2008 or 2010, according to the Army's current schedule.

The Army views the FCS as the foundation of its "Objective Force."

If Crusader had been much lighter, it could have been the "first vehicle of the Objective Force," said Army Gen. Kevin P. Byrnes, head of the Training and Doctrine Command. Specifically, the "network capability" in Crusader was similar to what the Army wants for FCS, Byrnes said. The Army stuck with Crusader for many years, despite the weight problems, partly because it believed that the "fully networked cockpit design and robotics" technologies designed for Crusader - in addition to its rapid-fire and extended-range capabilities - were needed in the force of the future, he explained.

The indirect-fire vehicle that will replace Crusader and is expected to be part of the FCS is called the NLOS (non-line of sight) cannon.

Byrnes predicted that, with the NLOS cannon, "we'll see a capability similar to Crusader, but lighter." The FCS, additionally, will have a 120 mm mortar, called NLOS-M, and an NLOS rocket launcher also known as "Netfires."

The same company that designed and developed the Crusader, United Defense LP, now is working on the NLOS cannon. A full-- scale prototype, which UDLP terms "a demonstrator," will be tested in August and could begin firing live rounds this fall, said the company's program manager, James Unterseher.

This vehicle may incorporate some of the technologies used in Crusader, he told National Defense. "But please don't call this the 'son of Crusader.'"

"This vehicle is very different," especially in the way it moves, said Unterseher. The demonstrator weighs 20 tons and has a 39-- caliber gun tube. "It has leveraged many of the technologies from Crusader," particularly in the area of robotics, ammunition handling, projectile tracking, electronics and crew compartment design, he said.

The gun will hit targets as far away as 30 km, he said. By comparison, Crusader's range was 40 km. Each vehicle will carry 30 155 mm rounds.

The projectile tracking system consists of a radar sensor that follows the bullet and sees where it hit, so the crew can determine whether the right target was struck. "We can compare the achieved trajectory with the desired trajectory and make adjustments for subsequent rounds," said Ted Poucher, a UDLP engineer. …

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