AUGUST 8, 2016, PICATINNY ARSENAL, N.J. – Working with Picatinny Arsenal, Vermont and Massachusetts National Guard Soldiers fired live rounds with new M777A2 and M119A3 howitzers at Joint Base McGuire-Dix on July 27.
The live-fire exercise marked the conclusion of an 18-day training, in which new equipment training (NET) instructors taught members of both National Guards how to use these howitzers.
All the work associated with delivering the M119A3 howitzers is done at Picatinny, including engineering the weapon’s design, modifying the weapon, and managing the fielding events for both weapon platforms. The howitzers are managed by the Program Management Office for Towed Artillery Systems (PM TAS), part of Picatinny’s Program Executive Office Ammunition (PEO Ammo).
These upgraded howitzers include a digital fire control system, which pinpoints the howitzer’s precise geographical location and where the cannon tube is pointed. This allows Infantry Bridge Combat Teams (IBCTs) to get rounds on target faster and more accurately than prior versions, ultimately helping to save Soldiers’ lives by allowing them to complete their mission and get out of harm’s way before the enemy can return fire.
As part of Army force structure changes, PM-TAS is facilitating the conversion of active and National Guard Units to composite IBCTs consisting of one battery of six M777A2s and two batteries of six M119A3s each.
Last year Picatinny provided these digitized howitzers to the New Jersey National Guard. Its new battery fired the digitized M777A2 lightweight Howitzer, a 155mm cannon. Meanwhile, the two existing batteries continued to fire the M119, a 105mm cannon, which was upgraded from the M119A2 to the digitized M119A3 as part of the effort.
“It’s a significant increase in how fast we can process fire missions and provide field artillery fire for the maneuver units that we support. It also gives us added flexibility when supporting those units,” said Capt. John Macuga about the M119A3 Howitzer. Macuga is the battery commander of Alpha Battery 1st Battalion 101st Field Artillery, which is part of the 86th Brigade Combat Team from the Massachusetts National Guard.
“The Picatinny Team and its fielding team have been outstanding,” added Macgua. “Not only were they experts on the equipment, but they were expert NET instructors too. My Soldiers very much appreciated their input, especially because we had only a week or so to learn about it. They taught us everything that is new about this howitzer and helped us make equipment improvements along the way.”
At this year’s live-fire exercise, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Vermont delegates were invited to attend. The PEO Ammo workforce was also invited to watch the live firing.
“It’s rare that I have the opportunity to see our products in person and in action,” said Michelle Mollino, cost analyst with PEO Ammo.
“So it was very rewarding seeing them and the people we support. I enjoyed watching them in action and having an opportunity to talk with some of the Soldiers. Truly amazing to watch, and a worthwhile experience.”