Saudis Look to USA for Towed Light Artillery
Sept 21/11: The US Defense Security Cooperation Agency announces Saudi Arabia’s formal request for up to $886 million of equipment to augment the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s existing light artillery capabilities. The Royal Saudi Land Forces already have towed 155mm and 105mm howitzers and support vehicles and systems, and DSCA says they will have no difficulty absorbing these additional howitzers into their armed forces. If a contract is negotiated, implementation of this sale will not require the assignment of any U.S. Government or contractor representatives to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
As a Foreign Military Sale mode purchase, any contract will be managed by a US Army department, probably the Rock Island Arsenal, IL. The specific items requested include:
- 36 M777A2 lightweight 155mm Howitzers.
While 155mm isn’t considered light artillery, the use of titanium gives the M777 a level of air-portability that existing RSLF M198 howitzers lack. Range is about the same as an M198’s, at 24-30 km with unguided ammunition. They’re usually lifted by medium-heavy helicopters, but the M777’s 8,256 pound production weight is just below a Saudi UH-60L Black Hawk helicopter’s 9,000 pound maximum underslung capacity. Whether a UH-60L could still lift it in Saudi Arabia’s hot climate is an interesting question. M777s are best known for their use of M983 Excalibur GPS-guided rounds, but the Saudis are ordering conventional ammunition, to add to their existing stocks:
- 17,136 rounds M107 155mm High Explosive (HE) ammunition
- 2,304 rounds M549 155mm Rocket Assisted Projectiles (RAPs), with longer range
- 54 M119A2 105mm Howitzers. In America, the British 4,700 pound M119 design has almost completely replaced the M102, which currently serves as the RSLF’s main 105mm gun. Their range is only 15km/ 9.3 miles, or about 20 km/ 12.4 miles with rocket assisted ammunition. American M119s are license-built by the Rock Island Arsenal-Joint Manufacturing & Technology Center, IL.
- The Saudis are also ordering 105mm ammunition, quantities and types not specified.
To round out the capabilities of its artillery batteries, the Saudis are also ordering command and communications systems, and radars that can backtrack the path of enemy shells:
- 6 AN/TPQ-36V Fire Finder Radar Systems. A generation behind the current EQ-36, but still in very wide use around the world.
- 24 Advanced Field Artillery Tactical Data Systems (AFATDS), which can also co-ordinate air support, mortars, etc.
- Export Single Channel Ground And Airborne Radio Systems (SINCGARS). They use frequency hopping to make interception more difficult, and come in various sizes for use in vehicles and by soldiers.
Since these are towed artillery, transportation is needed to tow the guns, carry the ammunition, and bring the troops. The M1165 and M1152 are both cargo variants:
- 60 M1165A1 High Mobility Multipurpose Vehicles (Humvees)
- 120 M1151A1 HMMWVs
- 252 M1152A1 HMMWVs
- Plus electronic support systems, various wheeled/tracked support vehicles, spare and repair parts, technical manuals and publications, translation services, training, USG and contractor technical assistance, and other related elements of logistical and program support.
Prime contractors will be:
- AM General, LLC in South Bend, IN (HMMWVs)
- BAE Systems in the United Kingdom & Hattiesburg, MS (M777, 105mm ammunition)
- ITT Defense and Information Solutions in McLean, VA (SINCGARS)
- Thales Raytheon Systems in Fullerton CA (TPQ-36 radar, AFATDS)
- Smiths Detection in Edgewood, MD
- SRCTec, in Syracuse, NY (within the above list, most likely electronics support)
- Northrop Grumman Corporation in Apopka, FL
- General Dynamics C4 Systems in Taunton, MA (SINCGARS 2nd source)
- DID – A 2010-11 Saudi Shopping Spree. Ongoing coverage of the entire spectrum of major foreign arms purchases and notifications.
- US DSCA (Sept 21/11) – DSCA notified Congress Thursday of a possible Foreign Military Sale to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia of Howitzers, radars and ammunition [PDF]