|M777 Lightweight Towed Howitzer|
|Place of origin||United Kingdom|
|Used by||see "Operators"|
|Wars||War in Afghanistan (2001–2021) |
Syrian Civil War
Iraqi Civil War (2014–17)
Yemeni Civil War (2015–present)
Saudi Arabian-led intervention in Yemen
|Mass||4,200 kg (9,300 lb)|
|Length||Combat: 10.7 m (35 ft 1 in)|
Travel: 9.5 m (31 ft 2 in)
|Barrel length||5.08 m (16.7 ft)/L39|
|Shell||M107, M795, ERFB, M982|
|Caliber||155 mm (6.1 in)|
|Elevation||0° to +71.7°|
|Rate of fire||Normal: 2 rpm|
Maximum: 7 rpm
|Muzzle velocity||Charge 8S: 827 m/s (2713.25 ft/s)|
|Effective firing range||M107: 24 km (14.9 mi)|
ERFB: 30 km (18.6 mi) base bleed
M795: 28.7–37 km (17.8- 23 mi)
Excalibur: 40 km (25 mi)
The M777 howitzer is a towed 155 mm artillery piece. It is used by the ground forces of Australia, Canada, India, Saudi Arabia, and the United States. It made its combat debut in the War in Afghanistan.
The M777 is manufactured by BAE Systems' Global Combat Systems division. Prime contract management is based in Barrow-in-Furness in the United Kingdom as well as manufacture and assembly of the titanium structures and associated recoil components. Final integration and testing of the weapon is undertaken at BAE's facility in Hattiesburg, Mississippi.
The M777 began as the Ultralight Field Howitzer (UFH), developed by Vickers Shipbuilding and Engineering's (VSEL) Armaments Division in Barrow-in-Furness, United Kingdom. VSEL was bought by BAE Systems after the UFH prototypes had been manufactured and demonstrated, consequently BAE became responsible for future design refinements and renamed the gun 'M777'. Upon taking-over responsibility for the weapon BAE 'Americanised' to a large degree the construction and assembly through its US-based BAE Systems Land and Armaments group. The M777 now uses about 70% US-built parts including the gun barrel manufactured at the Watervliet Arsenal.
With a weight of 4,200 kg (9,300 lb), the M777 is 41% lighter than the 7,154 kg (15,772 lb) M198 howitzer it replaces. Much of the weight reduction is due to the extensive use of titanium. The M777 can be transported by helicopter sling-load, transporter aircraft such as the C-130, or towed by air-braked vehicles weighing over 2.5 tonnes (2.8 short tons), such as the FMTV and MTVR. The minimal gun crew required is five, compared to a previous nine.
The M777 uses a digital fire-control system similar to that found on self-propelled howitzers such as the M109A6 PALADIN to provide navigation, pointing and self-location, allowing it to be put into action quickly. The Canadian M777 in conjunction with the traditional "glass and iron sights/mounts" also uses a digital fire control system called the Digital Gun Management System (DGMS) produced by Leonardo MW with components of the Indirect Fire Control Software Suite (IFCSS) built by the Firepower team in the Canadian Army Land Software Engineering Centre. The Leonardo MW portion of the system, known as LINAPS, had been proven previously through earlier fielding on the British Army Royal Artillery's L118 Light Gun.
The Digital Fire Control System will be powered by a unique new design of rotary hybrid-electric engine designed and manufactured by Liquid Piston.
The M777 may be combined with the M982 Excalibur GPS-guided munition, which allows accurate fire at a range of up to 40 km (25 mi). This almost doubles the area covered by a single battery to about 1,250 km2 (480 sq mi). Testing at the Yuma Proving Ground by the US Army placed 13 of 14 Excalibur rounds, fired from up to 24 kilometres (15 mi), within 10 m (33 ft) of their target, suggesting a circular error probable of 5 m (16 ft).
In June 2012, Golf Battery, 2nd Battalion, 11th Marines, out of Camp Pendleton, California, dropped the M982 Excalibur round on insurgents at a range of 36 km (22 mi) in Helmand Province, Afghanistan. This marked the longest operational shot in the history of the M777 howitzer, and the longest operational tube artillery shot in history for the Marine Corps.
|Weight||4,200 kg (9,300 lb)||7,154 kg (15,772 lb)|
|Emplacement time||6 min 10 s||6 min 35 s|
|Displacement time||6 min 23 s||10 min 40 s|
|Number carried per C-130 Load||2||1|
- M777 – gun with optical fire control
- M777A1 – digitization upgrades with the addition of an on-board power source, satellite global positioning, inertial navigation, radio, Gun Display Unit (GDU) and Section Chief Assembly (SCA).
- M777A2 – Block 1A software upgrade. Addition of an Enhanced Portable Inductive Artillery Fuze Setter (EPIAFS) to enable Excalibur and precision munition compatibility.
- M777ER – Upgrade created by the Extended Range Cannon Artillery (ERCA) project to extend range from 30 to 70 km (19 to 43 mi). Modified with a longer 58-caliber, 30 ft (9.1 m) barrel and supercharged propellant firing the XM1113 rocket-assisted projectile.
In 2008, the Australian Defence Force made a US Foreign Military Sales request for 57 M777A2s worth an estimated US$248m. Subsequently, 35 guns were purchased for the Australian Army to re-equip the 1st Regiment, Royal Australian Artillery, the 4th Regiment, Royal Australian Artillery and the 8th/12th Regiment, Royal Australian Artillery to replace 155 mm M198s and 105 mm L119 Hamels. The first deliveries of M777A2 began in late 2010. An additional 19 guns will be bought directly from American production lines to enable a total of six batteries. Concurrently, the Australian Army has acquired guided 155 mm munitions in the form of the M982 Excalibur and XM1156 Precision Guidance Kit.
In 2010, The Brazilian Navy evaluated the 155 mm M777 as a candidate to replace the six 155 mm M114A1 howitzers of the Marine Corps branch. The successor to the M114 has not yet been chosen.
In December 2005, 1st Regiment, Royal Canadian Horse Artillery, conducted an inaugural firing of its first 155 mm M777 towed howitzers, for a total of six guns. The six guns delivered were supplied by the United States Marine Corps under a Foreign Military Sales (FMS) contract between the U.S. and Canada. The Canadian guns were first fired by A Battery, 1 RCHA at CFB Shilo and then were deployed to Afghanistan in support of Operation Archer, and were put into service in the Canadian theatre of operations around Kandahar in early 2006, this marked the first use of the M777 in Combat operations. In the summer they made a significant contribution during the Battle of Panjwaii when a small number of rounds were used to huge effect on Taliban elements retreating from the battle area. Many of the 72 reported killed during the heaviest period of fighting were due to artillery fire from only two of these guns. In late fall of 2006, the Canadian M777 Howitzers were equipped with the Digital Gun Management System (DGMS), which greatly improved accuracy and led to these guns being used for Short Range Close Support of Canadian and US ground forces. They proved so successful that an order for an additional six guns was placed with BAE. In May 2009, the Canadian government ordered a further 25 M777s, bringing the total to 37. The DGMS is also being improved with integrated communications.
The Indian Army first announced plans to acquire 145 guns for ₹30 billion (US$398 million), but purchase plans were overtaken when the procurement process was restarted in July 2010. India's Ministry of Defence cleared the proposal for buying 145 guns for US$660 million on 11 May 2012 through the US Government's Foreign Military Sales (FMS) process. This was put up before the Ministry of Finance for clearance and will subsequently be taken up by the Cabinet Committee on Security for final approval. On 2 August 2013, India requested the sale of 145 M777 howitzers for US$885 million. On 24 February 2014 the purchase was again postponed. On 11 May 2014 the purchase was cleared by India's Ministry of Defence. On 11 July 2014, the Government of India announced that it would not order the guns because of cost issues. On 22 November 2014, the selection process was restarted under the "Make In India" program. On 13 May 2015, the Ministry of Defence approved ₹29 billion (₹2,900 crore) to buy 145 M777 ultralight howitzers from the US. On 15 December 2015, the Indian Ministry of Defence said it was keen on placing a follow-up order of 500 more M777 guns.
On 26 June 2016, it was announced that 145 guns will be purchased by India for US$750 million. On 30 November 2016 Indian government completed the deal to buy 145 howitzers from the US. The deal was completed in December 2016. Under the agreement, BAE Systems supplied 25 ready-built howitzers, while 120 guns were manufactured in India by Mahindra Defence Systems Limited.
The Indian Army received its first shipment comprising two howitzers on 18 May 2017 in New Delhi from United States in ready to use condition. It was reported that on 2 September 2017, the barrel of one of the howitzers was damaged while firing during calibration trials. The Indian army used the M777 howitzer in the Himvijay exercise in Arunachal Pradesh which involved the newly raised integrated battle groups.
A total of 7 artillery regiments are planned, each of 18 guns. The first regiment is planned to be raised by end-2020 with 15 guns supplied by BAE systems and three guns supplied by Mahindra Defense Systems Limited.
In July 2020, in the wake of escalating tension with China in light of hostile Chinese posturing, particularly on the border between the Union Territory of Ladakh and Chinese-occupied Tibet, further purchases of Excalibur shells were announced by the Indian Ministry of Defence.
In 2011, Saudi Arabia ordered 36 M777A2 155 mm towed howitzers from the United States, along with 17,136 rounds of high explosive (HE) ammunition and 2,304 rounds of longer range rocket assisted projectiles (RAPs).
The M777 succeeded the M198 howitzer in the United States Marine Corps and United States Army in 2005. In 2014 the US military began fielding several upgrades to its M777 howitzers including new liquid crystal display units, software updates, improved power systems, and muzzle sensors for onboard ballistic computing. Future upgrades include a touchscreen Chief Section Display, a new Mission System Computer, and a digital radio.
The 18th Field Artillery Brigade (Airborne) at Fort Bragg, North Carolina was the initial Army test bed unit for the XM777 which included the 1st and 3rd Battalions of the 321st Field Artillery Regiment. The initial prototypes were test by 1st Battalion, 377th Air Assault Regiment in 1998 also a unit of the 18th Field Artillery Brigade. 2nd Platoon, Bravo Battery, 2nd Battalion, 11th Field Artillery Regiment (2-11 FA) was the first US Army unit to fire the M777A in combat on 2 January 2008 in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. In June 2007, the M777 in its A2 configuration was assigned to the U.S. Army's 3-321 FA. It deployed to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in December 2007 in January 2008 making the unit the first U.S. Army unit to utilise the M777 in combat in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. In April 2008, the M777 was deployed for testing with 2-8 FA at Fort Wainwright in Fairbanks, Alaska. On 20 July 2008, at Camp Shelby, Mississippi, 1-108 FA, 28th Infantry Division, Pennsylvania National Guard, became the first field artillery unit of the National Guard to field and fire the M777. Two soldiers from 2-319 FA were killed from a breech explosion and other members of their gun crew were injured while attempting to fire a M777 at an ISIL mortar position in northern Iraq. Multiple firing incidents have occurred during training with the M777 including a fatal one in February 2014 with 3-321 FA and previously in 2011 with Marines from Camp Lejeune also at Fort Bragg.
In May 2017, the US Army revealed it was buying the Swedish BONUS round as an interim system as a result of the required phasing out of cluster munitions from artillery shells, complying with policy to achieve less than 1% unexploded ordnance from non-unitary explosives; the BONUS has two sensor-fused munitions deployed by a 155 mm carrier projectile that scan the ground for targets and fire explosively formed penetrators down from the air. The system has been tested from the M777 howitzer.
The 3rd Cavalry Regiment deployed multiple M777A2 guns to Firebase Saham in Iraq on the border with Syria from 8 November 2018 to April 2019 to support the Syrian Democratic Forces in the Battle of Baghuz Fawqani, the ultimately successful operation to capture the final town held by ISIL.
In May 2005, 3rd Battalion, 11th Marines, based at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, became the first Marine unit to begin fielding the new M777. 580 guns were supplied to the Marines, and 421 to the U.S. Army and National Guard.
In March 2016, 200 Marines and four M777A2 howitzers from the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit set up Firebase Bell, officially the Karasoar Counterfire Complex, near the Iraqi town of Makhmour, supporting the Iraqi Army's Mosul offensive. The firebase was only 15 miles (24 km) from ISIL-controlled territory, and one Marine was killed in a rocket attack on 19 March, just days after arriving; direct attacks on the base dropped off in the following weeks as the Iraqis captured surrounding villages. The Marine howitzers fired every day in support of Iraqi maneuvers, using high explosive, smoke, and illumination rounds. They were relieved by Army soldiers after roughly 60 days, after firing more than 2,000 rounds in 486 fire missions.
- Iraq War
- War in Afghanistan
- Military intervention against ISIL: Multiple M777A2 guns were deployed to Iraq on the border with Syria from 8 November 2018 to April 2019 to support the Syrian Democratic Forces in the Battle of Baghuz Fawqani, the ultimately successful operation to capture the final town held by the Islamic State group. They deployed to Firebase Saham, a base freshly constructed by the U.S. Army to provide fire support during the battle, especially during cloudy days when U.S. aircraft could not see to conduct airstrikes.
- Sino - Indian border stand-off: The Indian Army has apparently deployed multiple artillery platforms, including the M777 howitzers, along the Line of Actual Control or the border with China where the PLA and the Indian Army have been engaged in a stand-off for many months now.
This section needs additional citations for verification. (January 2021)
- 54 systems (M777A-2)
- 37 systems
- 89 systems in service currently(Total 145 System were on order out of which all the remaining 120 system are being built in India by Mahindra Defence under the "Make in India" program)
- Saudi Arabia
- 70 systems
- United States
- 1,001 systems, 580 for the Marine Corps and 421 for the Army and Army National Guard, have been ordered. Both the US Army and Marine Corps field a "pure fleet" of M777A2 variants.
- United Arab Emirates: On 5 May 2016, BAE Systems confirmed that it is working with Emirates Defense Technology (EDT) to develop a self-propelled version of the M777 howitzer for the UAE Armed Forces.
Sea Stallion helicopter lifts an M777
Illumination rounds fired during Operation Tora Arwa V in the Kandahar Province, Afghanistan
M777 in Logar Province, Afghanistan
Towed configuration with the FMTV as the prime mover
M777 Light Towed Howitzer in Operation in Logar Province, Afghanistan
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