A joint project between two defense firms is helping the United Arab Emirates acquire specific kinds of artillery for their military forces.
In May, BAE Systems and Abu Dhabi's Emirates Defense Technology (EDT) announced plans to develop an artillery system involving the M777 155 mm lightweight howitzer. The howitzer would be integrated with an armored modular fighting vehicle.
"This agreement affirms our desire for an enduring industrial partnership in the UAE," Stephen Luk, BAE Systems' head of campaign management, said in a press statement on the plan. "The M777's credentials are unmatched by any other 155 mm lightweight howitzer. It would provide the UAE armed forces with a high quality howitzer that is easy to use and reliable in combat."
Colin Rothwell, group chief financial officer of EDT, said EDT is delighted to collaborate with BAE Systems in the UAE for the M777 lightweight howitzer. This agreement reinforces EDT's commitment to partner with the world's leading military companies to provide the most up to date and proven equipment, technology and solutions to our clients, he said.
The news of this use of the M777 lightweight howitzer represents a trend around the world as military systems seek to acquire portable artillery for the field.
Andrew Hunter is a senior fellow in the International Security Program and director of the Defense-Industrial Initiatives Group at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Hunter served on the House Armed Services Committee from 2005-2011, and was appointed as director of the Joint Rapid Acquisition Cell in 2013.
“It's an interesting case.” Hunter told the Gulf News Journal recently, citing a case study on international joint development that shows the British-designed M777 howitzer is popular with a range of world governments.
It's also something that is used in the American military, as well.
“After the Gulf War, the U.S. decided it needed a lightweight, maneuverable howitzer.” Hunter said.
Hunter said the U.S. makes its own artillery adapted to the British design. which was invented in the era of the Falklands war.
As for international demand, Hunter said Australia, Canada, Saudi Arabia and India are purchasing or have purchased M777 howitzers.
“They anticipated they would see other customers for it.” Hunter said of stakeholders conducting research on the howitzer’s marketability.
Part of what makes the M777 popular, Hunter said, is its portability and lightweight versatility, which could make air delivery easier, so that the artillery doesn't have to be delivered by boat.
“It's a pretty specialized capability.” Hunter said.
Media stories on the M777 howitzer say it is half the weight of other 155 mm towed howitzers and provides a rapid reaction capability that delivers decisive firepower when needed most in sustained combat conditions. With 1,090 M777s in service with ground forces in the United States, Canada, and Australia, the M777 is the only battle-proven 155 mm lightweight howitzer in the world.