Artillery types

Army extended range cannon artillery is not called “Iron Thunder”

The Army’s next-generation artillery system can pin targets at twice the range of the service’s existing howitzers, but apparently it will remain nameless for now despite recent social media posts from its newest unit of operational test.

According to the photos recently put online by the 4th Battalion, 27th Field Artillery Regiment, the army had supposedly baptized XM1299 Extended Range Cannon Artillery (ERCA) the ‘Iron Thunder’ during a ceremony at Picatinny Arsenal in New Jersey last week.

The name was particularly fitting given that the Fort Bliss-based 4-27 FA – also nicknamed “Iron Thunder” since its formation over a century ago – will serve as the ERCA’s new operational test unit, according to at the announcement.

“Our soldiers will be the first to be trained and use the army’s newest artillery capability,” the unit said. wrote on Facebook. “We can’t wait for these to start hitting our motorpool.”

Shortly after Task & Purpose published this story regarding the ERCA’s new name, Army Futures Command officials sent a message: the ERCA isn’t actually called “Iron Thunder” after all, despite the message from 4-27 FA indicating it.

According to PEO Ground Combat Systems spokesperson Ashley John, only the first specific ERCA prototype dubbed at Picatinny Arsenal will bear the name “Iron Thunder”, while “each prototype vehicle will have a unique unofficial name”.

“The Army has not officially named the ERCA system,” Army Futures Command spokesman Col. Cobb Laslie told Task & Purpose in a statement. “4-27FA’s Facebook post incorrectly implied that the ERCA was called ‘Iron Thunder’.”

Indeed, the original 4-27 FA Facebook post has since been updated to state that the Army “has not officially named the XM 1299”.

Developed in response to growing concerns about the growing artillery capabilities of nearby adversaries like Russia and China, the ERCA program is one of five major programs grouped under the Army’s long range precision fires (LRPF) has become a major modernization priority for the service in recent years.

“The Army says longer range artillery systems are needed to respond to what the DoD calls the enemy’s anti-access and area denial (A2/AD) environment (long range layered and integrated).
precision strike systems, littoral anti-ship capabilities, air defenses, and long-range artillery and rocket systems), which can theoretically keep U.S. forces at bay and deny freedom of movement,” according to a recent Congressional Research Service Report on the Pentagon’s LRPF efforts.

The ERCA recently proved it to be a formidable long-range weapon system, capable of hitting a target 70 km away with a salvo of M982A1 Excalibur guided artillery shells during trials in March. – far exceeding the range of both M109A7 Paladin (18 miles, or 30 km, with a rocket-assisted projectile) and M777 Howitzers (25 miles, or 40 km, with a rocket-assisted projectile).

The Army accidentally released the wrong name for its brand new supergun
A computer-aided design (CAD) graphic depicts an integrated extended-range gun artillery system on an M109A7 chassis with colored cutouts showing parts of the full-capacity ammunition handling system, which includes the autoloader and the charger. (U.S. Army Combat Capability Development Command Armaments Center)

The Army plans to send 18 ERCA prototypes to FA 4-27 for operational testing by fiscal year 2023, with the effort slated to end in October 2023 “to gather information for future ERCA increments.” according to to a June 2020 assessment by the Government Accountability Office.

It is estimated that the Army’s plan to build a fleet of ERCA systems will cost the service at least half a billion dollars, according to to the GAO’s assessment, which noted that the service expects related ERCA technologies to be “mature upon completion of the rapid prototyping effort in 2023”.

While lucky soldiers with the 4-27 FA will be able to put the ERCA through its paces over the next few years, the service plans to continue pushing the supergun’s range beyond 70 km and eventually procure up to 77 ERCA vehicles. until fiscal year 2026, according to the Congressional Research Service Report.

The ERCA, along with its long-range sniper program, should be considered “fundamental elements of the traditional Army battlespace.” according to to the CRS report, “and they play an important fire support role in ground combat operations at the brigade, division and corps level – a role that the Army has organized, equipped and trained without doubt from World War II until today.”

Update: This post originally stated the XM1299 Extended Range Barrel Artillery (ERCA) had been baptized ‘Iron Thunder.’

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