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M119A1 105mm Lightweight Towed Howitzer

The M119A1 is a light weight air mobile air droppable (by parachute) or Towed Howitzer with an average crew of seven soldiers. It provides direct and indirect fire support to highly mobile light infantry divisions and separate brigades. The howitzer can be quickly moved and employed to provide maximum fire power with a minimum of combat loaded weight. It also provides a low silhouette and requires no recoil pit. These aspects combined makes the M119A1 Howitzer one of the most lethal weapon systems in the Army inventory.

The M119A1 has greater range, is lighter and has a more rapid rate of fire than its predecessor, the M102, which it replaces in light/ airmobile/airborne units. The M119 weights 4,000 pounds ( complete with BII). The prime mover is the HMMV truck. The M119 is air transportable with its basic load of ammunition by the UH60 helicopter and is dual lift capable with the CH47 Chinook. The M119 fires all current 105-mm ammunition and new propellant is being developed to give the M119 an increased range to approximately 19K with the rocket assisted projectile.

The M119A1 was originally designed, developed, and produced by Royal Ordnance, Nottingham, England as the L118/L119 British Light Gun. In the L118 configuration, the weapon uses separate loading 105mm Abbott type ammunition. The L118 served with distinction during the Falkland Islands conflict. The L119 is identical to the L118 except for the cannon tube which is reconfigured to fire all NATO standard 105mm semi-fixed ammunition.

The U.S. Army, based largely on the success of the L118 during the Falkland Island campaign, purchased operational testing weapons to determine the feasibility of using this weapon in the U.S. Army's new Light Division concept. Key in the Army's evaluation was the ability to airlift an entire Division artillery within the severe light division air transport constraints. The M119A1 easily met this critical challenge. Once the operational questions were satisfactorily answered, the U.S. Army negotiated both a production contract and a license agreement (for production within the U.S.) with Royal Ordnance in 1987.

While the original design of the L119 met or exceeded all the operational requirements, the U.S. Army has carefully selected certain components for redesign to improve both maintainability and safety. In addition, the U.S. Army has an ongoing system improvement program. Some of the more significant changes which have been incorporated into current production, include:

  • Added U.S. standard fire control (digital)
  • Increased low-temperature capability from -25 F to -50 F
  • Improved interchangeability of spare/repair parts
  • Simplified tail light assembly (standard M198 Howitzer lights)
  • Improved trail access cover
  • Reduced maintenance on the elevating clutch
  • Increased trail life
  • Improved maintainability on: Saddle and Cut-off gear

The M119 was first fielded to the 7th Infantry Division, Ft Ord, CA, in December 1989. Since the initial fielding, it has been reclassified the M119A1 and fielded to the 82nd Airborne Division in July 1991 and to the 101st Airborne (Air Assault) Division in August 1992. Army fielding of the M119A1 wass completed in 1995. The Army National Guard received many new items of equipment in Fiscal Year 1996 through Department of the Army funding, including M119A1 howitzers. The M119A1 will reach the end of its service life around 2008-09.

The howitzer, light, towed, 105-mm, M119, is used as a light, indirect fire support weapon for a light infantry division. The prime mover for the M119 is the M1069 or modified M1037 HMMWV. The M119 can be transported in either the firing configuration (gun extended aft) or the travel configuration (gun folded forward above trail frame). The travel configuration is 4 feet 1.5 inches shorter and 2 feet 9 inches lower than the firing configuration. The travel configuration is used for all modes of transport except external helicopter transport and rail transport on non-cushion-draft flatcars.

The M119 has one recuperator, with a static charge of 750 pounds per square inch gauge (psig). It also has a direct-fire night sight with sealed tritium tubes. Tritium (H3) lamps are part of the fire control devices normally attached to the M119 in its operational configuration. However, the shipper disassembles these devices from the weapon and ships them separately in a special protective container. During transport, this container is packaged in a larger container. The tritium (H3) in the lamps is gaseous hydrogen with not more than 2 percent of the hydrogen in the form of tritiated water. The maximum energy of H3 is 8.6 kiloelectronvolts (keV); the average energy is 5.6 keV. The maximum permissible body burden is 2.0 millicuries. Thus, tritium is not a highly hazardous radioactive material. It is not readily absorbed into the body as a gas, but it is totally absorbed in the form of water. Therefore, care must be taken in handling units containing broken lamps. This is accomplished by minimum handling and thorough washing after any handling.



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