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Marines of 3rd Battalion, 11th Marines, dismount a new M-777 155 mm lightweight howitzer from a truck. The three howitzers delivered Monday are the first of the M-777s in the Marine Corps and the first new howitzers to 3/11 in more than 20 years.

Photo by Lance Cpl. Brian A. Tuthill

New, lighter howitzer a first for 3/11, Corps

11 Apr 2005 | Lance Cpl. Brian A. Tuthill

Marine Corps history was made here Monday as the first three new lightweight 155 mm howitzers were delivered to 3rd Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment.The new M-777 155 mm lightweight howitzer is set to replace the M-198 155 mm howitzer currently used by the Marine Corps and the U.S. Army in coming years with its lighter titanium design and advanced on-board computer technologies.“These howitzers are actually the very first in the U.S. military,” said Master Gunnery Sgt. Bobby L. Johnson, equipment specialist and coordinator working in conjunction with the Joint Project Management Office in Albany, Ga. “The Marine Corps is getting them even before the Army does.”Testing for systems, tolerances and design had been conducted over the past few years here, at the Yuma Proving Grounds in Yuma, Ariz., at the Aberdeen Test Center, in Maryland, and at Fort Greeley, Alaska, for cold-weather testing.“The [M-777] has many advancements besides the weight reduction,” said Homer F. Reid, computer and electronics engineer for the project. “What the new systems allows us to do is plan for the future. We will be able to integrate self-diagnostics with laptops and on-board terminals which allow for immediate repairs and save time and money.”According to the JPMO staff, the new howitzer is now the lowest-profile howitzer in the world. It can be operated by a crew of 10, but in war situations that number can be reduced to about five. The howitzer can fire its 39-caliber rounds nearly 19 miles at a maximum rate of five rounds per minute with a new primer-loading system.“Being designed for this [howitzer] is a new type of inertial-tracking sensor system,” said Reid. “What it will do is monitor how far it’s being towed after a fire, adjust the coordinates and azimuth, recalculate the distance traveled and be ready to fire again in minutes.”Another advantage of the M-777 is the digitization of hundreds of pages of paper manuals that are used for modifications, troubleshooting and operations. All of which will be downloaded to a rugged laptop and deploy with artillerymen in the field, according to Reid.“We can connect the new howitzer to a truck using only two Marines, said Staff Sgt. Jared M. Hedge, new equipment training team operator with JPMO. “Before, we would need the entire crew to hook it up.”The M-777 can now be towed from the front or easily lifted by a CH-46 Sea Knight or MV-22 Osprey. Cutting off weight using lighter and stronger titanium parts, the 9,500-pound howitzer can now be towed with a 5-ton truck, rather than a 7-ton, according to JPMO staff.“The M-198 was too heavy to do that with,” said Johnson. “The weight reduction will give our Marines in the field a big advantage.”In coming years, the M-777 is expected to become the Marine Corp’s sole howitzer, according to JPMO staff.3/11 said it is planning its first live-fire exercise for the M-777 in late May.
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