April 16, 2009, BARROW, UK -- BAE Systems workers today celebrated delivery of the 500th M777 howitzer to the US military.
Weighing in at less than 4200kg, the revolutionary M777 is the world's first artillery weapon to make widespread use of titanium and aluminum alloys, resulting in a howitzer which is half the weight of conventional 155mm systems.
BAE Systems Global Combat Systems' facility at Barrow-in- Furness is responsible for the prime contract management of the M777 programme, including direct customer liaison and acceptance of the weapon system in the US, control of the UK and US supply chain, engineering design authority and manufacturing and assembly of the complex titanium structures and associated recoil components. Final integration and test of the weapon system is undertaken at its Hattiesburg plant in Mississippi.
US Army officer Colonel James Matties congratulated workers on building a "superb" gun and told them it was doing a "magnificent job" in support of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The total number of orders for the gun currently stands at 737 in a programme worth over £1bn since it began in the mid-90s.
"This is a landmark day for a transatlantic programme which has hit every milestone along the way," said BAE Systems' Artillery Programmes Director Ian McMillan. "M777 follows two other Anglo-U.S. weapon success stories - the 105mm Light Gun and the 81mm mortar are both British BAE Systems designs which have been adopted by the U.S."
Canada has a potential requirement for an additional 25 howitzers. Australia has also registered official interest in a purchase and other nations are assessing the weapon system.
Most of the 500 M777s have been delivered to the U.S. Army and U.S. Marine Corps. Canada also has 12 M777 howitzers in service with the Royal Horse Artillery. Both nations' services operate M777s in Afghanistan, providing fire support to coalition forces. The gun is known by local insurgents as the 'Desert Dragon'.
Its ability to be airlifted to remote positions by helicopter gives the system enormous operational flexibility and makes it ideal for a challenging environment like Afghanistan.
BAE Systems also provides support, training, maintenance and spares for the guns currently in service. The M777 effort is managed by the Light Weight 155mm Joint Program office at Picatinny Arsenal, New Jersey.
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