Janes Defence Weekly
February 3, 2014
Canada, US team-up on howitzer life extension
The Royal Canadian Armed Forces have enlisted support from the Picatinny Arsenal’s Program Executive Office Ammunition (PEO Ammo) to extend the life of its C3 Howitzers.
According to Luke Helsel, C3 evaluation team lead at the US Army Armament, Research, Development and Engineering Center (ARDEC), which is providing support to the program, a variety of tests will be conducted on the aging systems during the coming year, to identify problematic areas.
These will include mobility trials, during which the howitzers will be equipped with strain gauges, to measure tension in stress areas. The guns will then undergo a range of firing drills at the Yuma Proving Ground, in a variety of positions, using different quantities of propellants. The dynamic and structural analysis will include a wealth of modelling and simulation iterations. These will extrapolate scenarios based on existing data, which should substantially reduce testing needed.
“We have worked closely with the Canadians over a range of artillery issues, including those related to the M777 light towed howitzer,” says Martin Kane, a business manager at Picatinny Arsenal. “This was a natural evolution.”
The Canadian army, which has about 100 C3 Howitzers that date back to the 1950s, uses them mostly for militia training. This is partly because 105 mm ammunition is cheaper, than the 155mm charges used in the 37 mainstay M777s which Canada ordered from BAE’s Global Combat Systems, for use in the Afghanistan conflict.
The Royal Canadian Armed Forces have been riddled by bungling in their procurement operations, which have delayed or cancelled a variety of land, sea and air programs. This coupled with across the board cuts by the Harper Government make replacement of the aging C3s, a near impossibility within any reasonable time frame. The hope is thus that the life of the Howitzers, which were already upgraded once (by RDM Technology, a Dutch firm, which no longer supports the system), can be extended another decade or so. The C3s are based on the workhorse M101A1 platform, originally manufactured by Rock Island Arsenal, which has not seen service in the United States since the mid-1980s.
The C3s could get dramatically increased attention by the Canadian government in coming years. A key below-the-radar use of the howitzers is in avalanche prevention, through blowing up unstable snow formations. Current Liberal Party leader Justin Trudeau, who is leading in most recent polls to become prime minister after the next election, lost his younger brother Michel to an avalanche in 1998. Since then, the family, once led by the late Pierre Elliot Trudeau, a former long-time prime minister, (and father of Justin Trudeau) has long made avalanche prevention a priority.
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