Saturday, February 24, 2024

The Strategic Strike Canon Artillery in the Long Range Precision Fires program

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The Field Artillery Branch or the artillery arm of the US Army has the desire to develop and implement an artillery cannon with a range of 1000 miles , or 1609 km range: the Strategic Strike Canon Artillery (SSCA). This is one of the components of the Long Range Precision Fires proposed by the US Army in order to respond to the new operational challenges of less permissive theaters and access denial strategies.

It should be noted that the INF Treaty ( Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces ), ratified jointly by the United States of America and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) in 1988, prohibited the development and possession of ballistic missiles and cruise with a range of between 500 and 5500 km. The announcement of its timely denunciation by the United States of America on February 1, 2019 and by the Russian Federation, successor state of the USSR, by reply the next day opens new perspectives. Only the Missile Technology Export Control Regime (MTCR) will continue to constrain transfers of missiles with a range greater than 300 km.

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The Strategic Strike Canon Artillery in the Long Range Precision Fires 2 program Defense Analysis | Strategic weapons | Artillery
© US Army.

Long Range Precision Fires program maintains the paradigm of delivering a precise fire package through Precision Guided Munition (PGM). Some even achieve metric precision, a standard that has become essential for challenges deconfliction when the units engaged are extremely entangled with the adversary, particularly in urban environments.

This paradigm is therefore supplemented by the development of new operational capabilities, resulting from material improvements and the development of new platforms and munitions. The challenge is to continue to provide these fires to support units engaged in less permissive theaters because long-range and precision strike capabilities have spread within state military forces, and even in non-state armed groups. .

The Field Artillery Branch therefore seeks to strengthen the survivability of its platforms by increasing the range of its tubes in order to continue to be able to strike, while remaining out of range of opposing counter-battery capabilities.

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The answer for current platforms dedicated to fire support for troops in contact is therefore to increase the range of their munitions. Rocket-Assisted Projectiles type for current self-propelled vehicles such as the M109 Paladin in order to reach a range of 40 km compared to 30 today. .

m109 paladin Defense Analysis | Strategic weapons | Artillery
Today, the Paladin M109 only reaches a maximum range of 23.5 km, making it vulnerable to counter-battery fire.

The ERCA ( Extended Range Cannon Artillery ) program will make it possible to reach and exceed 100 km, or even 130 km, of range thanks to hypervelocity or ramjet munitions and the study of a new self-propelled XM1113 ERCA. Counter-battery fires rely on guided rockets Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System ) fired by the M113 MLRS ( Multiple Launch Rocket System ) and M142 HIMARS (High Mobility Artillery Rocket System) whose range will be extended (GMLRS-ER ( Extended Range ). The deep strike will benefit from the same logic of increasing the range offered by the assembly formed by the platform and its munitions:

The M113 MLRS will continue to fire short-range ballistic missiles (SRBM) MGM-168 AtacMS ( Army Tactical Missile System ) – Block IVA (305 km) which will be replaced by an incremental evolution: the CD AtacMS.

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Subsequently, the Precision Strike Missile (PrSM) – a hypersonic missile – will replace all versions of the AtacMS to reach a range of up to 499 km. This shows the influence of the INF treaty and there is every reason to think that its denunciation could influence the scope objective of the PrSM. The US Army announced in October 2019 that it wanted to review the basic objective in order to clearly increase the range beyond 500 km. And future versions are imagined in order to transform all or part of these munitions into “prowling missiles” ( loitering munition ), a sort of consumable drone capable of carrying out ISR missions and even hitting its target. It is not yet clear whether it will be driven by current platforms or whether it will involve the development of new hardware.

The Strategic Strike Canon Artillery in the Long Range Precision Fires 3 Defense Analysis program | Strategic weapons | Artillery
© US Army.

Two vectors must be developed for the strategic strike. AntiAccess / Area Denial challenges theorized since 2003. This involves responding to the claims of some of the actors to prohibit access to a theater or to limit the projection of forces and power on this same theater ( anti-access ) or in the near or adjacent area ( area denial ) with the aim of hindering the adversary's freedom of maneuver. And the most cited example is being able to respond to the fortifications of islands and islets of the Paracel and Spratly archipelagos by China. The US Army's proposal consists of being able to attack the A2AD operational capabilities of a theater where US Navy ships could not approach sufficiently: neither the cruisers and destroyers carrying cruise missiles, nor the embarked air groups of the aircraft carrier.

The first of these vectors takes the fairly classic form of a missile: the Strategic Fires Missile , whose range should be between 500 and 2250 km, will benefit from the tests of a demonstrator in 2023 which will adopt the path of the ballistic missile implementing a hypersonic glider.

But the program that attracts attention here is the Strategic Strike Canon Artillery (SSCA) whose targeted range must reach 1000 miles or 1609 km. 1,150 miles (1,850 km) is sometimes cited.

It is the Center for Army Analysis and the Research and Analysis Center located at the White Sands Missile Range which must determine the technical feasibility of achieving the stated objectives. Preliminary tests are being carried out at the Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division (NSWCDD), the center which provided testing of the electromagnetic gun demonstrator for the US Navy. An SSCA demonstrator is due to be presented in 2023, its tests will determine whether it will be appropriate to move on to the next stages, from prototype to production model.

The technologies to be used have not yet been specified by those responsible for the US Army program. Hypersonic munitions seem to be investigated, including electromagnetic gun technologies. The platform should be “mobile”, “movable” or “relocatable”, which would tend to give it strategic, even operational (within the same theater) but not tactical mobility. This would tend to condemn technologies using powder. The historical example is the research of Canadian engineer Gerald Bull which could have culminated with the 156 meter long Babylon gun but his assassination in 1990 put an end to his research. It is also a question for the American Army teams not to develop munitions as expensive as those of the American Navy's electromagnetic gun demonstrator.

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Fabrice Wolf
Fabrice Wolf
A former French naval aeronautics pilot, Fabrice is the editor and main author of the site. His areas of expertise are military aeronautics, defense economics, air and submarine warfare, and Akita inu.

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