Date: October 29, 2008
M119 to receive digital fire control system
PICATINNY ARSENAL, N.J. - Members from the 10th Mountain Division, 4th Battalion, 25th Field Artillery Regiment visited Picatinny to participate in a user assessment of the upcoming digitized M119A2 light-weight howitzer Sept. 18 and 19.
The M119 howitzer, which was first fielded in 1989, provides suppressive and protective direct and indirect fire support for maneuver infantry.
The digitized M119A2 will be equipped with a digital fire control system that includes an inertial navigation unit, guided-precision system technology and other features that will give the gun the ability to self-locate, aim and point on its own, said Maj. Brian Spurlock, System Test Manager here.
The digital fire control system is being designed by the Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center here.
The digitized system will make the howitzer more user-friendly by automating tasks now done manually, explained Gene Conner, M119A2 chief engineer.
These upgrades will make the howitzer, "easier to fire, faster and more accurate," explained Staff Sgt. Richard Roman, who traveled here to participate in the assessment.
Spurlock said the improved accuracy is attributed to the inertial navigation unit, which will allow the gun to know where it's at and where it's pointing.
"If you use current optical sights you can only get the accuracy down to a certain level, so the inertial navigation unit is actually more precise than the optical sights currently on the gun," he said.
Once incorporated, the digitized upgrade will also decrease howitzer emplacement times and provide better command and control across the battlefield, Spurlock said.
Unlike howitzers, which rely on optical fire control, digitized howitzers can emplace in a less-centralized fashion, Conner said.
"Combined with more rapid emplacement and displacement times, greater system survivability and effectiveness will be realized in combat," he said.
This visit by the 10th Mountain troops, which was the first of three scheduled trips for the division, gave Soldiers the opportunity to evaluate the new howitzer design concept.
During the assessment, the Soldiers learned how the new system will work, trained on how to ready the new howitzer for firing and then provided feedback for potential improvements.
Since the majority of Soldiers have had tours in Iraq or Afghanistan, Spurlock said the Soldiers were able to identify issues that are specific to the fight overseas.
"It's better to involve Soldiers while in the design phase so we can incorporate the changes now," he said. "This allows us to design based on user input."
The M119 fires 105 mm artillery rounds and the digitized M119A2 will also be capable of firing 105 mm Precision Guidance Kit rounds, which are being designed here. PGK is a GPS guidance kit that includes fuzing functions to improve the accuracy of 155 mm and 105 mm conventional artillery rounds.
Conner said the combination of PGK and the digitized M119A2 will bring a precision strike capability to the Army's Infantry Brigade Combat Teams.
Though Spurlock said Soldiers in the field won't see the digitized M119A2 fielding for at least another 2 years, the 10th Mountain members said they will spread the word about the product to their fellow Soldiers.
"We're excited to take part in this, because it's important," said Staff Sgt. Jamie McIntyre. "We'll get them into the mind-set of what's coming up."