|M777 Lightweight Towed Howitzer|
|Place of origin||United Kingdom|
|Used by||United States Marine Corps
United States Army
|Weight||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)|
|Shell||M107, M795, ERFB, M982|
|Caliber||155 mm (6.1 in)|
|Elevation||0° to +71.7°|
|Rate of fire||Normal: 2 rpm
Maximum: 5 rpm
|Effective firing range||M107: 24 km (14.9 mi)
ERFB: 30km (18.6 mi) base bleed
Excalibur: 40km (25 mi)
The M777 howitzer is a towed 155mm artillery piece, since 2005 successor to the M198 howitzer in the United States Marine Corps and United States Army. The M777 is also used by the ground forces of Canada and Australia. It made its combat début 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 UK 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-weight Field Howitzer (UFH), developed by VSEL's armaments division in Barrow-in-Furness, United Kingdom. This company was bought by BAE which ended up responsible for design, construction and assembly (through its US-based, BAE Systems Land and Armaments group). The M777 uses about 70% US-built parts including the gun barrel manufactured at the Watervliet Arsenal.
The M777 is smaller and 42% lighter, at under 4,100 kg (9,000 lb), than the M198 it replaces. Most of the weight reduction is due to the use of titanium. The lighter weight and smaller size allows the M777 to be transported by the MV-22 Osprey, CH-47 helicopter or trucks with ease to provide increased mobility and more compact storage over the M198. 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 SELEX with components of the Indirect Fire Control Software Suite (IFCSS) built by the Firepower team in the Canadian Army Land Software Engineering Centre. The SELEX 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 M777 may be combined with the Excalibur GPS-guided munition, which allows accurate fire at a range of up to 25 miles (40 km). This almost doubles the area covered by a single battery to about 1,250 km2. 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 meters of their target, suggesting a circular error probable of about five meters.
In June 2012, Golf Battery, 2nd Battalion, 11th Marines, out of Camp Pendleton, Calif., dropped the 155 mm M982 Excalibur round on insurgents 36 kilometers away — more than 22 miles — in Helmand province, marking the longest operational shot in the history of the M777 howitzer (and the longest operational artillery shot in history for the Marine Corps).
In 2014 the US military began fielding several upgrades to their 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.
|Weight||9,800 lb (4,400 kg)||16,000 lb (7,300 kg)|
|Emplacement time||2:10 minutes||6:35 minutes|
|Displacement time||2:23 minutes||10:40 minutes|
|Number carried per C-130 Load||2||1|
- M777 – gun with optical fire control
- M777A1 – digitisation 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 - Experimental upgrade created by the Extended Range Cannon Artillery (ERCA) project modified with a 52-caliber barrel, adding 6 ft (1.8 m) to the cannon and less than 1,000 pounds (450 kg) to the overall system, extending range from 30 to 70 km (19 to 43 mi); concept only.
18th Field Artillery Brigade (Airborne) at Fort Bragg, North Carolina was the initial Army test bed unit for the XM777 Lightweight 155mm Howitzer which included 1st and 3rd Battalions 321st Field Artillery Regiment. Gun Section 2, 2nd Platoon (5th Section) Bravo Battery, 2–11th Field Artillery (FA) was the first US Army unit to fire the M777A2 in combat at 08:23 (Baghdad Time) on 2 January 2008 in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. 2–11 FA deployed December 2007 with 2nd Brigade Combat Team (BCT), 25th Infantry Division out of Schofield Barracks, Hawaii. In June 2007, the M777 in its A2 configuration was assigned to the U.S. Army's 3rd Battalion, 321st Field Artillery Regiment. 3-321 FA deployed to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in December 2007 and has become mission capable since January 2008 making 3–321 FA 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 the 2nd battalion, 8th Field Artillery of the U.S. Army at Fort Wainwright in Fairbanks, Alaska. On 20 July 2008, at Camp Shelby, Mississippi, the 1st Battalion, 108th Field Artillery, 28th Infantry Division, Pennsylvania National Guard became the first Field Artillery unit of the National Guard to field and fire the M777. C Battery 1–108th FA was the first National Guard Unit to Shoot the M777 at Camp Shelby, Mississippi. Multiple firing incidents have occurred during training with the M777 including a fatal one in February 2014 with 3-321 FA BN of 18th Fires Brigade at Fort Bragg, NC  and previously in 2011 with Marines from Camp LeJeune also at Fort Bragg.
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. Five hundred and eighty systems will be 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 is 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 fire 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.
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 and the 4th Regiment, Royal Australian Artillery; replacing 155mm M198s and 105mm 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 December 2005, 1st Regiment, Royal Canadian Horse Artillery, conducted an inaugural firing of its first 155 mm M777 towed howitzers, for of 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. First, the guns were tested by B 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. 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. However, until early 2007, ammunition supplies were constrained and led to reduced firing. 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.
BAE is offering M777 howitzers to the Colombian Army, along with M109A5/A6 Paladin self-propelled guns, for their artillery contest. The initial purchase is for 12 units, which may be raised to 25 units. A decision among five companies will be made in 2014.
The Indian Army has also announced plans to acquire 145 guns for ₹30 billion (US$446 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 $660 million on 11 May 2012 through the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) route of the US government. This would be 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 $885 million. On 24 February 2014 the purchase was again postponed. On 11 May 2014 the purchase was cleared by India's Defence ministry. 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 defence ministry approved Rs 2,900 crore to buy 145 American M-777 ultralight howizers from USA. 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 June 26, 2016, it was announced that 145 guns will be purchased by India for $750 million.
In 2011, Saudi Arabia ordered 36 M777A2 155mm 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 Saudis have purchased HMMWV vehicles to tow the guns, haul ammunition and carry the crews and their gear. However, they did not order any GPS guided 155mm Excalibur shells for their new M777A2 guns.
- Australia: 35 guns for the Australian Army with an addition of 19 on order.
- Canada: 37 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.
- India: The Indian Defence Acquisition Council has cleared the purchase of 145 units of ultra light M777 howitzer guns from USA in June 2016.
- United Arab Emirates: On May 5, 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.
- U.S. Upgrades and Orders More Lightweight BAE Systems Howitzers, BAE Systems
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- LSEC Firepower Team
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- Near ISIS front, U.S. Marine artillerymen ‘fire every day’ - Militarytimes.com, 7 April 2016
- Marines in Iraq came under 'numerous' rocket attacks, commander says - Militarytimes.com, 30 June 2016
- "Australia – M777A2 155MM Light-Weight Howitzers" (PDF). www.dsca.mil. Defense Security Cooperation Agency. 17 July 2008. Retrieved 12 September 2012.
WASHINGTON, July 17, 2008 – The Defense Security Cooperation Agency notified Congress of a possible Foreign Military Sale to Australia of M777A2 155MM Light-Weight Howitzers as well as associated equipment and services. The total value, if all options are exercised, could be as high as $248 million.
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- More howitzers on the way
- M777 equipped with new digital gun management system
- Colombia; BAE Systems offers Paladin, M777 155mm - Dmilt.com, 10 August 2013
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- RAGHUVANSHI, VIVEK (24 February 2014). "India Postpones Purchase of 145 Ultra Light Howitzers". www.defensenews.com. Gannett Government Media. Retrieved 24 February 2014.
- "India buys new artillery guns, 27 years after Bofors". 11 May 2014. Retrieved 26 May 2014.
- "Indian MoD says M777 buy in doubt over high cost, offset requirements". 13 July 2014.
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