With new technology, high accuracy rounds, such as GPS precision-guided rocket-assisted projectiles and hypervelocity shell technology that can hit moving targets, land-based mobile artillery firing 155mm projectiles can now become effective anti-ship weapons. Not only that, but these cannons can also be used for the first time to intercept aerial targets as well.
Both the U.S. Army and U.S. Marines are showing interest in fielding these weapons on Pacific islands to counter China’s dramatically growing People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN).
As noted by Naval News, Hypervelocity 155mm Projectiles, test-fired from U.S. Army self-propelled 155mm M109A6 “Paladins,” have “proved that regular conventional tube artillery can engage certain aerial and sea targets with smart precision-guided extended-range.”
These new high precision rounds include the Excalibur and Vulcano rounds. Thus, notes Naval News, “a 155mm SPH firing precision-guided HVP rounds can engage and destroy incoming cruise and tactical ballistic missiles ordinarily reserved for specialized, expensive, and rare Air Defense missile assets.”
However, the U.S. Army has issued an RFP (Request for Proposals) for a new 155mm Wheeled Gun System (WGS) that would be a faster, lighter, and more mobile alternative to the heavier “Paladin” tracked guns. The Marines are also showing strong interest in something similar.
Peter Ong writes in Naval News that:
The U.S. Army’s interest in a wheeled mobile howitzer could pave the way for the U.S. Marines and NATO to implement 155mm Wheeled Gun Systems for coastal, port, waterway, Arctic, littoral, and Anti-Access/Area Denial island defense. A mobile 6×6 or 8×8 155mm cannon, having a magazine of around 20-40 rounds, and able to deal with certain amphibious, armor, warship, and aerial targets using extended-range precision-guided smart projectiles would certainly have “Force Multiplication” factors for littoral defense.
Two potential artillery weapons are at the forefront for both the Army and Marines. One is the still experimental, bare-bones, “Brutus” Wheeled Gun System by AM General. According to Naval News, it mounts “a bare M776 on the back of a 6×6 FMTV without an armored cab, turret, or an ammunition handling system.”
“Brutus” was designed to keep up with the U.S. Army’s Stryker Brigade Combat Teams (SCBTs) in fast-moving environments.
It can be equipped with an armored cab if needed though, and also used on a Marine Corps MTVR truck. For the Marine Corps, “Brutus” could also be slung under the new Marine CH-53K helicopter.
Using existing vehicles and being helicopter mobile, makes the “Brutus” an attractive cheaper and lighter WGS alternative that can be brought in larger numbers.
Then there is the BAE System’s more robust “Archer,” WGS which according to the company is “a fully automated weapon system that provides highly responsive and versatile fire support to troops in combat.”
The Archer, notes Naval News:
…comes with an armored and ballistic windows cab offering protection against Nuclear, Biological, and Chemical warfare, 7.62mm armor piercing rounds, artillery shrapnel, fragmentation, and mines…The Volvo A30D and German RMVV MAN 8×8 can drive with all the tires punctured by mines or small arms to increase survivability in case of emergencies.
Naval News adds that “If implemented as Anti-Ship artillery, a group of ARCHERs could fire over the horizon using remote sensors such as ground-based, ship, or aerial radars and Unmanned Aerial Systems.”
Either of these rapid firing and fast-moving artillery weapons (or others being considered) would be incredibly valuable to U.S. ground forces on islands in the Pacific, but they could also be of significant value to Taiwan.
As Peter Ong argues:
The ability to rapidly set up and fire the first 155mm rounds in under half a minute, and then displace, also in under half a minute, and empty more than a dozen precision-guided shells in a few minutes, means that mobile coastal artillery will give invading amphibious forces and littoral warships something else to worry about that just LBASMs and LRPF-modified land attack Anti-Ship missile trucks.