Have Guns, Will Upgrade: The M109A6 Paladin PIM PartnershipDec 09, 2012 11:47 UTC by Defense Industry Daily staff
The USA’s M109 self-propelled 155mm howitzers were first introduced in 1962, as a form of armored mobile artillery that could stand up to the massed fire tactics of Soviet heavy artillery and rockets. They and their companion M992 Armored Ammunition Resupply Vehicles have been rebuilt and upgraded several times, most recently via the M109A6 Paladin upgrade.
In the meantime, the Army has re-learned a few home truths. Artillery arrives in seconds rather than minutes or hours, is never unavailable due to bad weather, and delivers a possible volume of explosive destruction that would otherwise require bombers and precision weapons worth hundreds of millions of dollars. Most combat casualties in the gunpowder age have come from artillery fire, and the US Army will need its mobile fleet for some time to come. So, too, will the many countries that have bought the M109 and still use it, unless BAE wishes to cede that market to South Korea’s modern K9/K10 system, or new concept candidates like the KMW/GDLS DONAR. What to do? Enter the program.
M109 Limitations & the M109A6 Paladin
While the M109 was technically mobile, in practice, it was only semi-mobile. The need to string wires to connect the howitzers in the battery meant that communications wire had to be physically strung between the howitzers and the fire-control center. Surveyors were used to calculate the battery’s location as part of this process, and the entire emplacement and readying procedure could easily take 15-20 minutes. So, too, could the process of taking all this down so the battery could move to another location. It didn’t take a genius to figure out that in a serious conflict involving tools like attack helicopters, massed artillery and rocket fire, and nifty toys like artillery-locating radars that backtrack the paths of incoming shells, that amount of time outside the vehicle was going to get a lot of people killed.
The M109A6 Paladin addressed these issues via computerization and communications upgrades. Secure SINCGARS radios replaced the wires, while inertial navigation systems and sensors attached to the gun automatically tell the crew where they are and where their shells are likely to land. No aiming circles. No surveyed fire points. No wire lines. Just move into the assigned position area somewhere, calculate data, receive orders from the platoon operations center, use FBCB2 (aka “Blue Force Tracker”) to verify the location of “friendlies,” and use the automatic fire control system to send the shell on its way. Then move immediately, receive another target, lay and fire again, using the PDFCS (Paladin Digital Fire Control System).
Improved armor added even more protection to the new system, and an upgraded engine and transmission made the M109A6 speedier. On-board prognostics and diagnostics were installed to improve the vehicles’ readiness and maintainability. Finally, more shells were made available, as ammunition stowage was made safer, and the load was increased from 36 rounds to 39 rounds of 155mm shells. Some of which can be M982 Excalibur GPS-guided shells.
Even with the Paladin’s computerization and fast, safe set-up and take-down, however, a noticeable capability gap exists between the M109 and newer self-propelled guns like Britain’s AS90 Braveheart, Germany’s PzH-2000, or innovative long-range systems like South Africa’s G6. America’s comparable XM2001 Crusader/ XM2002 ARRV was canceled as an $11 billion Cold War relic in 2002, and the light 155mm NLOS-C died with the 2009 removal of the Future Combat Systems ground vehicle program.
That leaves the M109 Paladin PIM as the only chance for American industry to hold its own in the global marketplace.
A total of 975 M109A6 Paladins were produced for the US Army, and another 225 or so were produced for Taiwan. Full rate production ceased in 1999. BAE built a small final batch to fill out an Army National Guard request, which finished in 2001. Most other countries who use the M109 (Belgium, Brazil, Chile, Denmark, Egypt, Greece, Israel, Kuwait, Morocco, Norway, Oman, Pakistan, Portugal, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Spain, Thailand, Tunisia, Iran on its own, soon Iraq with US support) employ previous versions, ranging from M109A1s to M109A5s. These would require additional upgrades for PIM conversion.
PIM: A New M109A6 Paladin
Adam Zarfoss, BAE Systems’ director of artillery programs:
“Artillery is playing an important role in operations in Iraq, with the Paladin providing critical fire support with both standard and precision munitions… The M109A6-PIM is the next step in Paladin development to ensure this essential fire support system remains ready and sustainable for soldiers in the HBCT(Heavy Brigade Combat Teams) through its projected life beyond the year 2050.”
The M109A6 Paladin Integrated Management Program is designed to maintain this fleet, and upgrade some Paladin systems to the latest configuration. The initial goal was 600 M109/M992 vehicle sets, but that has been lowered slightly to 580.
BAE Systems and the U.S. Army have signed a memorandum of understanding that will establish a Public-Private Partnership (P3) to develop and sustain the Army’s M109A6 vehicles throughout their lifecycle. The establishment of a P3 will capitalize on the strengths and capabilities of each organization to ensure the cost-effective and on-time reset of the current fleet of M109A6 Paladin self-propelled howitzers and M992A2 Field Artillery Ammunition Supply Vehicles (FAASV), as well as the planned production of the M109A6/M992A2 Paladin Integrated Management (PIM) systems.
Parties to the memorandum signing include BAE Systems leaders, US Army TACOM (Tank, automotive & Armaments COMmand), The Army’s PEO-GCS (Program Executive Office for Ground Combat Systems), the Army’s PKM-HBCT (Project Manager – Heavy Brigade Combat Team), and the Anniston Army Depot in Alabama. The memorandum was signed during the AUSA 2007 conference in Washington, D.C.
BAE Systems has significant experience with public-private partnerships thanks to Britain’s “future contracting for availability” innovations. In the USA, meanwhile, it has a long standing and successful partnership with the Red River Army Depot in Texas to remanufacture and upgrade the USA’s M2/M3 Bradley fighting vehicles.
The Army’s PM-HBCT will manage the M109 RESET activities. Anniston Army Depot will retain labor and lead the majority of the program, including the M109A6-PIM production process, through the public-private partnership. They will be integrated into the PIM Integrated Product Development Teams (IPDTs) structure during the design phase, and will support the manufacture of the prototype vehicles.
Those prototypes were originally slated to be delivered to the US Army for test and evaluation in 2009, but changes to the program meant that the prototype contract wasn’t even issued until October 2009. That moved prototype delivery back to May 2011.
By January 2012, BAE had completed Phase I of the Army’s formal Developmental Test Program, with 5 vehicles returning for refurbishment, and 2 remaining at Aberdeen Proving Grounds for further tests. Full testing of all vehicles is set to resume in June 2012, and the Milestone C approval to proceed with Low-Rate-Initial-Production (LRIP) is scheduled for June 2013.
In the production phase, Anniston Army Depot will be responsible for induction of vehicles, overhaul of critical components like the gun system, and modification/ upgrade of the cab structure. BAE Systems will be responsible for materials management,. The partially assembled cabs, along with overhauled components, will be provided to BAE Systems for integration with the new M109A6 PIM chassis. Areas involved in production will include York, Pennsylvania; Aiken, South Carolina; and Elgin, Oklahoma.
PIM: The Weapon
This is not really new production, but it is a major upgrade.
The partnership will re-use the main armament & the entire cab structure. Any additional range will be achieved via improvements in projectiles, not the gun. Maximum rate of fire may be increased via the new loader assist, but like all non-actively cooled cannon, tube temperature becomes the limiting factor over time for sustained rate of fire.
What will be new is the chassis, which has kept to the 1950s configuration through the M109′s various upgrades. The new chassis are being fabricated & assembled with Bradley common components (e.g. engine, transmission, final drives, etc.) to create more commonality across America’s Heavy Brigade Combat teams. BAE Systems expects a growth in overall weight of less than 5%, with additional growth potential built in just in case.
The M108A6 PIM also incorporates select technologies from the Future Combat Systems 155mm NLOS-C (Non-Line-of-Sight Cannon), including an automated projectile loader and modern electric gun drive systems to replace the current 1960s-era hydraulically-operated elevation and azimuth drives. The electric gun and ammunition handling components, as well as the air conditioning system, will be powered by a BAE Systems’ Common Modular Power System (CMPS); its 35 kW of 600-volt direct current which can be used for voltage conversion, and can support other power loads required within the Paladin platform.
The Paladin Digital Fire Control System has continued to receive upgrades, and is being produced by BAE and Northrop Grumman. GPS is currently provided via older PLGR systems, with data sent to the Dynamic Reference Unit – Hybrid (DRU-H inertial navigator), but the obsolescence of electronic components within this box means that DRU-H and possibly PLGR are on the future replacement list. These are likely to be the extent of the near-term modifications, however; unlike the M1s and Bradleys, Paladin is not slated to receive the next-generation networking systems from Future Combat Systems or its survivors.
Contracts and Key Events
Unless otherwise noted, US Army TACOM in Warren, MI issues the contracts to BAE Systems Land & Armaments’ Ground Systems Division in York, PA.
The PIM LRIP award is expected in Q3 2013, and will involve just 72 PIM systems. Key components of the PIM production vehicles, including the chassis, will be sent to the Elgin facility from BAE Systems manufacturing facilities and suppliers. As part of final assembly and checkout, BAE Systems will use Fort Sill for mobility and firing verification.
July 30/12: Videogames & Telemetry. David Musgrave is the Army’s project lead for fire control software development on the M109A6 PIM, and he’s having a problem:
“We were encountering some problems with firing tests. I started asking questions looking for objective use data. How often does subsystem X fail? When it does fail, what was the user trying to do at the time? How often does a user perform Y task? The truth was I couldn’t get any decent answers. I was frustrated that there was a very limited information channel from our system back to us while it was being used.”
He thinks the solution might involve taking a tip from the videogame industry, which uses “telemetry” to track how people are interacting with the games, and what they’re using or not using. A presentation from BioWare’s Georg Zoller was especially inspirational, and Musgrave has a good head on his shoulders when it comes to the reality of implementation in the Army. He sees huge potential benefits for program managers, units, and soldiers alike, but only if the system doesn’t interfere with the weapon in any way, and the program doesn’t try to do too much. The biggest technical challenge will be finding a reasonable method to reliably get the tracking data back to a central server. See also US Army Article | Full RDECOM Power Point Presentation [PDF].
Jan 17/12: A $313.1 million cost-plus-incentive-fee contract modification for PIM engineering design, logistics and test and evaluation services, which will complete the Engineering, Manufacturing & Design phase. Work will be performed in York, PA, with an estimated completion date of Jan 31/15. One bid was solicited, with 1 bid received (W56HZV-09-C-0550).
In discussions, BAE representatives added that the 7 prototype PIM vehicles (5 howitzers, 2 resupply vehicles) delivered in May 2011 have logged over 7,500 miles, fired over 2,600 rounds, and come through extreme temperature testing to complete Phase I of the Army’s Reliability, Availability and Maintainability (RAM) tests. Testing will resume in June 2012, and the next step after that is a June 2013 Milestone C decision, which would begin low-rate initial production. BAE release.
Oct 24/11: A $9 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract to provide refurbishment and analysis services for the PIM Bridge 3 effort. Work will be performed in York, PA, with an estimated completion date of Nov 30/12. One bid was solicited, with one bid received (W56HZV-09-C-0550).
Oct 5/11: A $9.8 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract for the PIM Bridge 1 effort. Work will be performed in York, PA, with an estimated completion date of Nov 30/11. One bid was solicited, with 1 bid received by the U.S. Army Contracting Command in Warren, MI (W56HZV-09-C-0550).
Oct 5/11: A $7.9 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract to buy the PIM’s T-2 Armor Kits. Work will be performed in York, PA, with an estimated completion date of Sept 30/12. One bid was solicited, with 1 bid received by the U.S. Army Contracting Command in Warren, MI (W56HZV-09-C-0550).
Oct 5/11: L3 Communications Corp. in Muskegon, MI receives a $7.9 million firm-fixed-price and cost-plus-fixed-fee contract, to develop a common transmission for the Bradley Family IFV/CFVs, and the Paladin Integrated Management vehicles. Work will be performed in Muskegon, MI, with an estimated completion date of Nov 15/13. One bid was solicited, with one bid received by the U.S. Army Contracting Command in Warren, MI (W56HZV-09-C-0098).
June 7/11: An $11.6 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract modification, to buy PIM ballistic hulls and turrets. Recall that the new PIM chassis are being fabricated & assembled with Bradley common components.
Work will be performed in York, PA, with an estimated completion date of April 30/12. One bid was solicited, with one bid received (W56HZV-09-C-0550).
May 2011: The 7 PIM prototypes are delivered to the U.S. Army, on schedule. Source.
Oct 28/10: BAE Systems announces that they are on track to deliver 7 Paladin/FAASV Integrated Management (PIM) prototype vehicles to the U.S. Army on schedule, under the $63.9 million August 2009 research and development contract, announced in October 2009 (5 M109s, 2 FAASVs).
The initial PIM vehicles are conducting contractor testing in Yuma, AZ and Aberdeen, MD before they are delivered for government testing in January 2011.
June 15/10: An $8.7 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract, for Paladin PIM line replaceable units. Work is to be performed in York, PA, with an estimated completion date of June 30/12. One bid was solicited with one bid received (W56HZV-09-0550).
Jan 20/10: BAE Systems unveils its upgraded PIM (Paladin Integrated Management) vehicle to military customers, Congressional representatives, community leaders and employees at a ceremony held at its York facility. This is the 1st vehicle built under the Oct 5/09 contract. BAE Systems release.
Oct 5/09: BAE Systems announces a $63.9 million contract from the U.S. Army Tank Automotive & Armaments Command for 5 prototype M109A6 PIM self-propelled howitzer vehicles, and 2 prototype M992A2 Field Artillery Ammunition Support Vehicles (FAASV).
Nov 4/08: BAE systems announces a $20 million contract from the US Army’s TACOM Life Cycle Management Command, to purchase and deliver 140 Paladin Digital Fire Control Systems (PDFCS) kits, and more than 60 spare components to support the system. They will be added to the 450 or so kits that have already been ordered under this contract.
Some of the kits under this contract will be installed on vehicles at fielding sites across the world, while others will be shipped to an Army Depot where they will be used on the Paladin reset line. Work will be performed by the existing workforce at BAE Systems facilities in York, PA; Sterling Heights, MI; and Anniston, AL beginning in September 2009. Deliveries are scheduled to be complete by January 2010.
Oct 9/07: BAE Systems and the US Army sign a memorandum of understanding (MoU), establishing a Public-Private Partnership to develop and sustain the Army’s M109 Family of Vehicles throughout their life cycle. BAE Systems release.
Oct 8/07: BAE Systems unveils the M109A6-PIM Paladin upgrade at the AUSA 2007 show in Washington DC. BAE Systems release.
Unveiling & Partnership
- US Army (Sept 1/11) – Army developing new self-propelled howitzer
- BAE Systems – Paladin Integrated Management (M109A6 PIM)
- GlobalSecurity.com – M109 155mm SP Howitzer. The M109A6 Paladin has a separate, subsidiary entry.
- Wikipedia – M109 Howitzer. Good list of purchasing countries.
- US Army Tank & Automotive Command – Paladin/ M109 Chassis Team
- Maine Military Authority – Capabilities: M-109 Howitzer. “Maine Military Authority stores M-109 Howitzers for the United States Army Security Assistance Center (USASAC). These Howitzers are available for sale to foreign militaries. Maine Military Authority has the capability to rebuild M-109 Howitzers and return them to fully Mission Capable (FMC) status. MMA has rebuilt 72 Howitzers to date for USASAC.”
- NDIA National Defense Magazine (May 2010) – Army Resuscitates Mobile Artillery Program. Some NLOS-C technologies will move to the M109 Paladin PIM.
- US Army (April 15/11) – Army harvests technology from canceled programs. Paladin PIM benefited from NLOS-C.