US buys 62 more BAE Systems M777 guns

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The US Department of Defence has ordered 62 more M777 howitzers from BAE Systems in a deal worth $117 million.

Mike Smith, managing director at the company’s Global Combat Systems business, says the purchase “is further endorsement of the M777 and its performance in support of [military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan]. It means another six month’s work for our production facilities in Barrow and Hattiesburg, Mississippi taking manufacture on current sales well into 2012.”

The order, signed on July 16, follows one placed by the DoD in May for 63 guns and a related small support contract for Hattiesburg.

BAE Systems’ facility in Hattiesburg is responsible for final integration and test of the weapon system. The prime contract management of the M777 programme and manufacture and assembly of the complex titanium structures and associated recoil components are undertaken at Barrow-in-Furness in the United Kingdom.

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.

Both the US and Canada operate M777s in Afghanistan.

BAE Systems says the gun`s 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.

The M777 can fire the “smart” Excalibur round, co-developed by BAE Systems accurately enough to target individual rooms within a building, reducing the chance of innocent casualties and allowing supporting fire to be brought down much closer to friendly troops.

The US currently owns 653 M777 and Canada 12. The latter has 25 more on order.