Howitzer deal

The US Department of Defense has ordered 62 M777 howitzers from BAE Systems in a deal worth $117m (£71m).

The US Department of Defense (DoD) has ordered 62 M777 howitzers from BAE Systems in a deal worth $117m (£71m).

Mike Smith, managing director at the company’s Global Combat Systems business, said that the purchase of the howitzers meant another six months’ work for the company’s production facilities in Barrow-in-Furness and Hattiesburg, Mississippi, taking manufacturing on current sales well into 2012.

The order, signed on 16 July, follows one placed by the DoD in May for 63 guns and a related small support contract for the Hattiesburg facility.

The prime contract management of the M777 programme and manufacture and assembly of the complex titanium structures and associated recoil components are undertaken at Barrow-in-Furness in the UK.

BAE Systems’ facility in Hattiesburg is responsible for final integration and test of the weapon system.

Weighing in at less than 10,000lbs (4200kg), the M777 makes widespread use of titanium and aluminium alloys, resulting in a howitzer that is half the weight of conventional 155mm systems.

Both the US and Canada operate M777s in Afghanistan, providing fire support to coalition forces.

Its ability to be airlifted to remote positions by helicopter gives the system operational flexibility and makes it ideal for challenging environments such as Afghanistan.

The M777 can fire the ‘smart’ Excalibur round, co-developed by BAE Systems to accurately target individual rooms within a building, reducing the chance of collateral damage and allowing supporting fire to be brought down much closer to blue forces.