BAE Systems announced it had successfully fired its M109 Self Propelled Howitzer outfitted with the longer Rheinmetall L52 calibre 155 mm cannon, which offers significantly increased range over the current 39 calibre cannon.
The configuration combines the combat proven, fully modernized M109 with fielded demonstrated performance of the L52 cannon to offer a low-risk solution for meeting the indirect current and future fires demands. By employing the Rheinmetall cannon BAE it able to provide a self-propelled howitzer option that has established capability to utilize the inventory of current and advanced ammunitions. The M109-52, as BAE calls it, provides the company an advanced state-of-the-art self-propelled artillery solution equivalent to competing solutions that can be offered to both existing M109 users and those seeking a system with a proven track record.
The 155 mm 52-calibre rifled gun used on the M109-52 is eight meters long and chromium- lined with a muzzle brake. It is the same cannon used on the German PzH2000 and is compatible with all NATO 155mm ammunition including the guided Excalibur, as well as, assisted projectiles. It has a maximum range of up to 36 km with the standard boattail round, 47 km with base bleed, 48 with Excalibur, and 67 km with LAP assisted projectiles. In addition the gun employed on the PzH 2000 has demonstrated a range of 67 km using Denel V-Lap round.
The M109-52 was displayed at the Association of the US Army (AUSA) exposition held 9-11 October 2023 in Washington DC. The weapon system, which utilized the latest M109A7 as its baseline, provides BAE with a potential offering suitable for a number of national artillery program requirements. One of these is likely the British Army’s Mobile Fires Platform (MFP) which will replace the AS90. This procurement has now been moved up with the intent to acquire systems before 2030 rather than later. The M109-52 provides BAE with a system compliant to this requirement. Of interest is that BAE is providing its Archer truck mounted 52 calibre howitzers to the Army as its interim mobile artillery solution although in limited numbers. Although not currently stated there is speculation that the Army may prefer to stay with a tracked solution for its MFP.
German, South Korean, French, and Swedish firms have expressed interest in the MFP all of which would likely propose a long barrel gun solution. The M109-52 provides BAE with its own appropriate candidate. The company can further potentially use the work between BAE Systems Land and Rheinmetall in substantially upgrading the British Army’s Challenger 2 main battle tank fleet to the Challenger 3 standard as a model for the M109-52 as the MFP.
by Stephen W. Miller