The United States Army is working on a new upgraded variant of the Howitzer artillery cannon.
The PIM (Paladin Integrated Management) version of the M109 range is on course to be put into series production in 2013 and features an integrated 600 volt power system, intended to support future networking devices. Compared to earlier M109s, the M109 PIM also boasts revised firing capabilities - it can launch up to four rounds a minute or, alternatively, one round a minute on a sustained basis.
The PIM has a number of features in common with the Bradley Fighting Vehicle, giving it the same engine, tracks and transmission. In this way, associated development costs are kept to an absolute minimum and, right now, M109 PIM prototypes are being put through proof of concept trials, pending a full production go-ahead award being given.
M109 PIM: US Army Service
Once in US Army service, the M109 PIM will undertake a number of roles, all involving frontline fire-support. These include conventional warfare, irregular warfare and anti-terrorism deployments.
"The [space, weight and power] buy-back the PIM will provide is huge", Self-Propelled Howitzer Systems Product Manager, Lieutenant Colonel Dan Furber, explained in a US Army press release published at the start of September 2011. "It allows us to add additional armor to the platform and it allows us to add additional capabilities such as automation or electronic packages."
On the subject of the use of Bradley-common components in the next-generation Howitzer, he added: "Being common with Bradley decreases the logistics footprint that echelons above brigades will have to manage. In the long term, it will decrease the amount of money needed to sustain the Bradley and Self-Propelled Howitzer fleets.
"We will only have to manage one engine, for example, in the supply chain, so there are economies of scale that are beneficial to the Army."
Ultimately, the US Army intends to acquire no less than 580 Paladin Integrated Management versions to take over from the current, in-service M109A6 Howitzer fleet, which - stemming from a 1950s design - is now becoming dated. The M109A6 is not only used by the US but also Saudi Arabia who, between them, operate in the region of 1,200 examples.
Image copyright US Army