Programmes for the US Army’s Readiness Recovery
The US Army maintains robust ammunition programmes to build up depleted inventories from 17 years of ground wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and support new weapon type deliveries.
Northrop Grumman Small Caliber Systems (formerly Orbital ATK) is the primary supplier of small-calibre rifle ammunition to DoD through its prime contract with the US Army. In that capacity the company has been the operator of the Lake City Army Ammunition Plant since 2000. Whitney E. Watson, the division’s Senior Manager for Communications, pointed out the plant supplies ammunition across army programmes including 5.56mm, 7.62mm, .30 blank, .50 calibre ammunition, and 20mm load, assemble and pack (LAP) operations. The veteran defence industry communicator added “Products range from ball, tracer, dim tracer and blank ammunition to enhanced performance rounds and API and APIT rounds in .50 calibre. We are projected to build more than 650 million rounds of ammunition for the US Army in 2018. Deliveries for 2019 are dependent upon US government orders, but are expected to be in the same range.”
Asked about some of the recent technology enhancements and production process upgrades Northrop Grumman has recently brought, and is bringing, into the small calibre ammunition sector, Mr Watson responded “We build the army’s enhanced performance rounds for 5.56mm and 7.62mm ball and tracer. We have delivered more than 1.5 billion 5.56mm M855A1 enhanced performance ball rounds from Lake City since initiation of production.”
And beyond Small Caliber Systems’ ammunition production mission, the division’s responsibilities include the integration of new small calibre rifle ammunition designs into high volume manufacture, and the sustainment and modernisation of the Lake City Army Ammunition Plant. “Lake City is the army’s last remaining small-calibre ammunition production facility. We greatly appreciate the army’s partnership, and appreciate our role in stewardship of this strategic national asset,” Mr Watson concluded.
Elsewhere, Raytheon has its attention on meeting its US Army customer’s programme requirements for EXCALIBUR extended range precision munitions and, at the same time, is bolstering the system’s precision and other capabilities to stay ahead of future requirements.
EXCALIBUR is compatible with all current operational US howitzers (M109A5/6, M777) as well as legacy M109A2/3/4 and the emerging M109A7 programme. “Range is greater than 40km (25mi) from these 39cal. guns and over 50km from the 52cal. guns used in international armies,” Allen Horman, Raytheon Business Development, told MT. At the time of writing, Raytheon was planning to announce and celebrate the 10,000th delivered unit for the M982 EXCALIBUR.
“Raytheon believes EXCALIBUR will work with the US Army developing Extended Range Cannon Artillery (ERCA) system as well. Test planning is in hand to confirm the increased range EXCALIBUR can provide when fired from the ERCA gun [….] Raytheon continues to focus on leveraging the full capability suite that can be achieved with EXCALIBUR. Increased range, precision in a GPS degraded environment as well as engaging moving and poorly located land and maritime threats will continue to be of interest,” Mr Horman added.