BAE begins M777 Howitzer production with $50 million US deal

BAE Systems are setting up a hot production line for M777 howitzers, with an Unspecified Contract Action to supply the US with the titanium structures that form the basis of the weapon, the company announced on January 4, 2024.

While the contracts are initially capped at $50m (£39m), there is an expectation of a longer term once contract details are finalized and BAE believes the terms of the deal are optimal for restarting M777 production in the UK.

The artillery bombardment was a central to the conflict in Ukraine, pointing to shortages in inventories and supply chains for the production of 155 mm shells. Around the world, nations have come together to boost production of the type of munitions to achieve a higher state of readiness.

The production initiative can be opened up to a wider range of customers as it provides an opportunity for new and existing users to participate in the relaunch and benefit from economies of scale.

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From GlobalData

The first major builds for the M777 gun are due to be delivered in 2025, coming at a critical time for the US military, said John Borton, vice president and general manager of BAE Systems Weapons Systems UK, as the US military’s howitzers are deployed on the front lines of the war in Ukraine.

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“The US, as well as Canada and Australia, donated M777s to Ukraine. We understand that they are performing well and we are very proud of our role in supporting our allies.”

“The M777 will remain at the forefront of artillery technology well into the future through the use of technical jamming, long-range guided munitions developments and flexible mobility options,” Borton continued.

The M777 was released to the US to replace the existing stock of M198 155 mm towed howitzers through a joint US Army-Marine Corps initiative in 1997.

The M777 offers a distinct advantage over other towed 155mm howitzers, being 3,175 kg (7,000 lb) lighter, equivalent to half the weight of the larger platform, increasing rapid reaction capabilities. In July 2004, the M777 aircraft completed a series of airlift tests with the US Marine Corps MV-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft. The M777 was carried as external cargo for a distance of 69 nautical miles during the tests.

A contract for full production of 495 systems was awarded to BAE Systems in April 2005, and the following month the USMC began fielding the M777 with the 11th Marines at Twentynine Palms, California. About 1,000 M777 155mm howitzers were in service with the US Army and US Marine Corps as of October 2018.

Despite the weight reduction, the M777 delivered firepower that matched the capabilities of the current generation of 155 mm towed systems, equipped with a 39 caliber barrel with a Charge 8 super muzzle velocity of 827 m/s. The maximum firing range is 24.7 kilometers with unassisted firing and 30 kilometers with missile-assisted firing.

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