SELF-PROPELLED HOWITZER TANKS COULD SOON FEATURE ROBOTIC ARMS
By Michael Wang
The self-propelled howitzer is a reliable tank that the U.S. Army uses during battle, and they’ve shown consistency in accuracy and lethality. Now, these self-propelled howitzers are getting an upgrade to make them more efficient during battle and require less manpower to reload the machine to continuously fire at America’s enemies.
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What Is the Self-Propelled Howitzer?The self-propelled howitzer is included in the family of self-propelled artillery, which is a class of heavy military ranged weapons that launch munitions farther than regular firearms can. However, self-propelled howitzers are tracked or wheeled artillery systems that have the ability to move quickly, which is their main advantage compared to towed howitzers. These artillery systems are used as support for combat weapons. In combat, these systems make full use of their mobility for attacks that include “shoot-and-scoot” in order to avoid counterattacks. Most modern self-propelled howitzers are fully or partially armored, which means that these vehicles are protected against any exterior threats. They also provide protection for the crew controlling them. They provide 360-degree ballistic protection for the crew compartment as well as “overhead burst protection.” Additionally, they’re supported by other vehicles that carry ammunition for them. The capabilities of this tank are impressive, as its firing range can reach up to 18.1 kilometers with standard artillery. The artillery shell weight also affects the distance that the tank can fire, and different artillery can lead to different maximum firing distances. According to military.com, when the self-propelled howitzer is firing the standard 95-pound M107 HE and M864 DPICM shells, the range is 18,100 meters. When the howitzer tank is firing 97-pound M549 RAP rounds, the range extends all the way to 30,000 meters! This ammunition handling system is quite impressive, as we see an incredible jump from the standard rounds to the heavier ones. But something everyone wants to know is, “Can a howitzer destroy a tank?” Absolutely, yes. The self-propelled howitzer definitely has the potential to destroy a tank. These tanks can easily destroy enemy combat vehicles and even are able to “incinerate a tank’s crew.” But the heaviness of the ammunition that allows the tank so much combat dominance has been taking a toll on those loading up the shells.
Updates to the Self-Propelled HowitzerRecently, the Army Futures Command granted a $1 million contract to Sarcos Technology and Robotics Corporation to test out a robotics system that could handle and move artillery rounds, decreasing the amount of human effort needed to reload the tank. This came to fruition in the hopes of expediting the process of aiming and reloading the ammunition that the howitzer tank needs to fire. Plus, the weight of the shells posed a danger to troops manually reloading them, causing excess strain over time. The way Sarcos is planning on solving these issues is to leverage a robotic arm that was specifically designed to be integrated into the U.S. Army’s arsenal of self-propelled howitzer systems. The Army plans to use the robotic arm to double the range of their artillery while also remaining consistent in “keeping pace with the complex tasks” of firing and calibrating shots. With an automated system, having robotic arms to help carry and load the artillery rounds would increase efficiency and lethality to our enemies. This ammunition handling system could change the game for the U.S. Army during battle. Interestingly enough, there is already a system like this in use. The Panzerhaubitze 2000 operates using an automated system that requires “one fewer human artillery crew member in the vehicle.” So far, the system has proven successful, making a great case for the use of robotic arms in the howitzer.
Robotic Arms Lending a Helping HandIt looks like there are promising changes happening to the howitzer tanks. The U.S. Army is excited to implement the upgrades, as it would mean less manpower is required to operate the tanks. The self-propelled howitzer has proven that it’s reliable and useful during battle due to its long range and damage. We’re excited to see how the howitzers tanks will operate with their futuristic robotics arms at the helm.
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The appearance of U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) visual information does not imply or constitute DoD endorsement. U.S. Army Photo by Staff Sgt. Richard Wrigley 2nd ABCT, 3rd ID, Public Affairs NCO
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