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Non-Line-of-Sight Cannon (NLOS-C) Demonstrator

In August 2002, Crusader-developer United Defense was awarded a $27 million contract to begin work on a successor system, which company officials dubbed the "Objective Force Cannon." To ensure the U.S. Army maintains its superiority and dominance against future adversaries, in 2002, Congress mandated that a self-propelled non-line-of-sight cannon (NLOS-C) be developed for the Army by 2008. As part of that mandate, United Defense, L.P. was awarded a year-long Concept, Technology and Development (CTD) contract to demonstrate the feasibility of a 20-ton cannon system.

In only six months, United Defense responded by taking a 20-ton, 155mm, tracked cannon platform from the virtual drawing board to a fully operational demonstrator that will undergo firing and mobility assessments beginning August 2003 at Yuma Proving Ground near Yuma, Ariz.

The demonstrator features a modified BAE Systems M777, 155mm howitzer tube mounted on a platform developed by United Defense's Ground Systems Division in San Jose, Calif. The 23-ton demonstrator also features a fully automated ammunition loading system, a magazine capable of holding 24 100-pound artillery projectiles and an advanced band-track system propelled by a hybrid-electric diesel engine.

The "Objective Force Cannon" was the result of the efforts of Congress, the Army and industry to highlight the pressing need for organic, indirect fire support for future Army forces in light of the Department of Defense decision to terminate the Crusader program. The analysis presented to the Congress by the Army and the testimony of Army leaders convinced members that an urgent requirement continues to exist for responsive, all-weather, organic cannon artillery and a new howitzer must be fielded by 2008. The FY-03 appropriations bill increased the $195.5 million president's request for the program by $173 million to ensure that the NLOS-C can be delivered in the 2008 time frame.

The NLOS-C System Demonstrator was the first look at what Army platforms of the future could look like. Its primary purpose is to serve as a proof-of-principle test-bed that will demonstrate the feasibility of a 20-ton cannon platform and several advanced mobility technologies. These demonstrations will provide the data that the Army and its industry partners require as they develop the NLOS-C and its accompanying fleet of manned ground vehicles that will serve as the key combat systems for FCS.

With the Demonstrator's fully automated BAE M777 39-caliber 155-mm howitzer, a two-man crew can fire more than 6 rounds per minute out to a range of 18.6 miles (30 km) to give soldiers the ability to outmatch and outrange any adversary in any condition. The Demonstrator, which features a 24-round magazine, also gives soldiers the ability to conduct a fourround Multiple Round Simultaneous Impact (MRSI) mission at the push of a button.

Weighing only 24 tons, the NLOS-C Demonstrator features a 560-horsepower hybrid-electric propulsion system that enables top speeds of 55 mph (90 kph) over the road and 35 mph (56 kph) over varied terrain to give the U.S. Army quick maneuvering, big-gun fire support without the usual big-gun logistical footprint.

The NLOS-C Demonstrator's lithium-ion batteries also allow the system to travel up to 2.5 miles at 20 mph in silent mode - giving soldiers stealth mobility/silent watch capabilities that are critical in urban environments.

As part of the FCS family of manned ground vehicles, the objective NLOS-C system will be required to weigh less than 20 tons, be C-130 aircraft deployable and combat ready upon theater entry to ensure combat units can get to the fight and defeat threats more quickly. The NLOS-C Demonstrator has proven that a 20-ton class vehicle can support a 155-mm cannon and is a viable option for meeting the U.S. Army's artillery needs.

Together with the NLOS-C Demonstrator, United Defense has developed an advanced crew cockpit, designed to give soldiers a digital, real-time common operating environment - a first in a ground combat vehicle. United Defense is leveraging this technology and its application to help develop a new common crew station for FCS manned ground vehicles. This technology will give soldiers optimum situational awareness and enable them to receive critical fire support faster and more accurately than ever before.

The automation provided by the system will reduce the physical demands and stresses placed on the soldier and provide substantially increased firepower faster and more accurately than ever before. Unlike today's physically taxing cannon systems that require a soldier to lift and load a 100-pound projectile and propellant charge, NLOS-C Demonstrator technology gives the soldier pushbutton firepower. The NLOS-C Demonstrator integrates tactical software with robotic ammunition handling and auto-loading systems to create a fully automated 155-mm cannon system that enables a two-person crew to achieve what currently takes five soldiers to accomplish on the battlefield.

With the push of a button on a computer screen, the software automatically selects and loads the proper projectile and propellant charge, sets the fuze and fires. In November 2003 using this automated system, the NLOS-C Demonstrator successfully completed an 8-round fire mission at a rate of more than 6 rounds per minute at Yuma Proving Ground. This also marked the first time a cannon was fired using tactical software.

The NLOS-C Demonstrator is powered by a hybridelectric drive system, that incorporates major components and subsystems from United Defense's Future Combat Systems Tracked platform. This platform has completed more than 2,000 miles of testing and was originally developed under the joint US/UK Future Scout and Cavalry System/TRACER Program.

The hybrid-electric system features a 400-horsepower Caterpillar model 3126 diesel engine integrated with a United Defense Series 85 motor/generator rated at 300 kW. The system can deliver up to 560 peak horsepower, and is designed to accelerate nearly twice as fast as traditional systems, while consuming only half the fuel. Throughout 2004, United Defense drove the NLOS-C Demonstrator more than 500 miles over road and varied terrain to evaluate the hybrid-electric system.

The NLOS-C Demonstrator features an advanced, 18-inch band-track system that reduces weight, track noise, and maintenance. Band track is a high-performance, low-maintenance alternative for the segmented metal track traditionally used for tracked combat vehicles. Lightweight and continuous, band track travels smoothly around suspension components with minimal vibration and noise. Dramatically reduced noise and dust signature enhance survivability, along with reduced rolling resistance and improved vehicle agility. Band track is competitively priced with metal track and offers significant life-cycle cost savings due to reduced maintenance and longer life.

The Army's newest self-propelled artillery system fired its 1,000th test round on 14 April 2005, capping many months of testing that began at Yuma Proving Ground in August 2003. The Non-Line of Site cannon is a one-of-a-kind artillery system, capable of firing a round every 10 seconds and maintaining a sustained rate of six rounds per minute at ranges of nearly 15 miles.

BAE Systems has successfully fired a four-round Multiple Round Simultaneous Impact (MRSI) mission from the Non-Line-of-Sight Cannon (NLOS-C) Concept Technology Demonstrator (CTD). The firing achievement was reached in late August 2005 at Yuma Proving Ground, Arizona. The NLOS-C CTD, which features a fully-automated Zone 4, 38-caliber, 155-mm howitzer, fired six four-round MRSI (pronounced "mercy") missions. During each mission, all rounds impacted within four seconds of each other. The missions were fired at Zones 2 and 3 using a combination of M231 and M232 Modular Artillery Charge System (MACS) propellants.

This firing mission is the first time a U.S. howitzer fired a MRSI mission using more than one type of standard MACS propellant. The ability to fire multiple types of MACS propellant increases the number of the howitzer's firing ranges between the gun's minimum and maximum ranges, giving soldiers more mission flexibility on the battlefield. NLOS-C's ability to fire MRSI missions will enable us to deliver more firepower with greater effects faster and more accurately than ever before.

The MRSI mission demonstrations were conducted to prove the viability of the architecture and functionality of fire mission equipment software for the NLOS-C Increment 0 prototypes. While program engineers were not originally planning to demonstrate MRSI missions using the NLOS-C CTD, they felt the system's software was robust enough to attempt an early demonstration. As a result, they have successfully demonstrated a capability that wasn't expected to be proven until late 2006, when hardware tests would begin on the NLOS-C Firing Platform.

The NLOS is also a much lighter vehicle; weighing in at 23 tons in its Full Combat Configuration, compared to the Crusader, which weighed in over 40 tons. For a light vehicle, it packs a punch. As a demonstrator, officials said the NLOS shows great promise as a key component of the 21st century's Future Combat System, or FCS.

This is the lead system in manned ground vehicles for the Future Combat System. It will be one of eight FCS variants across the combat vehicle family, but all will use the same chassis. An actual prototype is scheduled to arrive at Yuma proving ground in the summer of 2007, with an operational capability two years later.

As America's longest overland artillery range, Yuma Proving Ground sees a great deal of firing activity throughout the year, hosting both US weapon systems and those from friendly foreign nations. The testing capabilities of the proving ground closely matched what needed to be with the NLOS cannon. The NLOS cannon promises to be a fixture at the proving ground for many years as it evolves and matures into an operational combat system. The 100-pound projectiles fired by the NLOS cannon demonstrator continue to fly through the clear desert skies of southwest Arizona.

While the demonstrator is the first look at what Army platforms of the future could look like, it is not a prototype for the NLOS-C that is part of the Future Combat Systems (FCS). It is simply laying the groundwork for future NLOS-C programs by serving as a proof-of-principle test-bed that will provide direction to the Army and its industry partners as they design and integrate the Army's future NLOS-C, which is scheduled to be fielded by 2010. Much of the technology developed for use with the demonstrator may be transferred to the future NLOS-C.

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Page last modified: 07-07-2011 02:43:04 ZULU