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US Army Close to Fielding Howitzers Firing Hypersonic, Precision-Strike Shells

The US Army is planning to demonstrate artillery technology capable of firing hypersonic projectiles sooner rather than later.

Speaking to Defense News on March 19, Brigadier General Stephen Maranian, team leader for the Long-Range Precision Fires (LRPF) modernization team, said the service is planning to extend the cannon on Howitzer M777 units to "be able to achieve the velocity out of the tube that hypersonics would require."

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Expanding the cannon's internal diameter from a 39-caliber to a 58-caliber will take place after the service finishes testing the XM113, a projectile "filled with insensitive munition high explosive and a supplementary charge," according to an Army fact-sheet on the rocket-assisted artillery round. The projectile is currently under development at Yuma Proving Ground, Arizona, and could be delivered to US Army artillery teams in two and a half years, Maranian told Defense News.

The XM113 round will increase the range of howitzers by about 33 percent, from about 30 kilometers (18.6 miles) to 40 kilometers (24.8 miles). Each round is compatible with US Army precision guidance kits that turn artillery shells into smart weapons.

While it's not clear how soon the service will put hypersonic projectiles into howitzers, the LRFP modernization team is already looking at developing surface-to-surface missiles with "deep range" that extends about five times further than the MGM-140 Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS).

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"The types of technologies we are looking at are those that can hone in on signals to be able to attack [hostile] integrated air defense assets, the ability to hit moved or moving targets across multiple domains, so both land and maritime targets that are moving and the ability to deliver loitering [intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance] to very deep ranges on the battlefield out to 500 kilometers," Maranian told Defense News.

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