The BAE Systems M777 155mm lightweight towed howitzer will be deployed over the next few months with the US Marines in Afghanistan and Iraq. The howitzer has already earned a name for itself in theatre in Afghanistan, where it is in operations with the Canadian Armed Forces.
The Canadians are using M777 to provide indirect fire support to UK and US combat forces. Its performance has received very positive feedback from Canadian troops, who have dubbed it the 'King of Battle'.
The M777 is the world's first artillery system to incorporate the large-scale use of titanium and aluminium alloys in gun design, which has reduced the weight of the howitzer to less than 4,550 kg (10,000 lb). Compare that to India's Swedish Bofors 155 mm howitzer, which weighs around 11,500 kg (25,350 lb).
The light and highly mobile M777 delivers rapidly deployable and accurate fire support. It can easily be transported by medium-lift helicopters and transport aircraft, which makes it ideal for operations in Afghanistan.
The A2 version incorporates a software update that enables the howitzer to programme and fire an M982 Excalibur guided projectile, which has a range of up to 40km with accuracy on target within 10 metres.
The US Army and Marines selected the M777 to replace the M198 towed howitzer, as their next generation medium-force weapon. The initial contract was for 94 guns in 2002. Present requirements suggest more than 700 systems will have to be made. The Canadian Armed Forces already have 12 M777 systems in service.
Designed by BAE Systems in the early '90s, The M777 is made at its facilities at Barrow-in-Furness in the UK and Hattiesburg, Mississippi, in the US.
BAE Systems is a global defence and aerospace company, making a full range of products and services for air, land and naval forces, as well as advanced electronics, information technology solutions. It has 96,000 employees worldwide. The company's sales exceeded £15 billion ($27 billion) in 2006.