WASHINGTON — BAE Systems will build lightweight M777 howitzer structures for the US military, which could lead to the company restarting the weapon’s production line, according to the UK-based company.
The deal is capped at $50 million and “allows BAE Systems to begin delivery of the Howitzer program while finalizing the details of the contract and its overall value with the customer,” the company said in a Jan. 4 statement. The contract “presents the optimal conditions for a possible restart of M777 production.”
The US, Canada and Australia have sent M777 towed howitzers to Ukraine to support her fight against Full scale Russian invasionwhich began in February 2022. According to a Pentagon bulletin issued last month, Ukraine has received nearly 200 155mm shells from the US alone, including the M777.
Howitzers of many varieties have played a critical role in the artillery-centric battlefield – and have reinvigorated the appetite for such weapons in the US and its partners and allies.
BAE will restart its UK and US supply chain to manufacture the titanium structures – the basis of the weapon – with plans to deliver the first in 2025.
The US Army was BAE’s first M777 customer. Part of the production work took place in Barrow-in-Furness, England, with a final assembly and testing facility in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, which was closed for about a decade.
Orders from the military have slowed over the past decade, and the service ordered its last 18 weapons in 2019. BAE delivered that weapon to the service in February 2023, according to Lisa Hillary-Tee, a company spokeswoman.
BAE began shutting down its production line altogether as it built the final weapons, he told Defense News.
“BAE Systems has seen an increased interest from across Europe, Asia and the Americas for the M777 gun system,” the company said in its statement. The new contract “presents an opportunity for new and existing users to participate in a new M777 production initiative and reap the benefits of a hot production line and economies of scale.”
He noted that the company will likely build the first structures using some of its existing supply chain as well as in-house capabilities.
It is unlikely that M777 production will return to Barrow-in-Furness because it is now almost entirely dedicated to the Dreadnought submarine programme, he added, “but nothing has been finalised”.
BAE said there are more than 1,250 M777s in service with the US, Ukraine, Canada, Australia and India.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Army is working on a new artillery strategy to determine both the capability and capability of what exists, and what the Army might need, Army Futures Command chief Gen. James Rainey told Defense News last year.
The strategy will also consider new technology to augment conventional fires on the battlefield, such as advances in propellant that allow medium-range guns to fire up to longer-range systems.
Jen Judson is an award-winning journalist who covers land warfare for Defense News. He has also worked for Politico and Inside Defense. He holds a master’s degree in journalism from Boston University and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Kenyon College.
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