The U.S. Army announced, six companies were selected to prepare concepts and designs for an Extended-Range Cannon Artillery (ERCA) autoloader program currently under development. The companies chosen by the Army for the program are Actuate (formerly Aegis Systems, Inc.); Apptronik, Inc.; Carnegie Robotics LLC; Pratt & Miller Engineering; Neya Systems, LLC; and Hivemapper, Inc. — will work under the Army Capability Accelerator and the Army Applications Laboratory as part of the Field Artillery Autonomous Resupply “cohort” and will come up with novel, outside-of-the-box concepts for the autoloader.
The goal is for the companies, not familiar choices for artillery contracts, to work under the Army Capability Accelerator and the Army Applications Laboratory and emerge with atypical concepts for the autoloader. Their specialties include robotics, mobility technology, artificial intelligence, self-driving technology and computer mapping. The goal is completion of an automatically-loading and self-propelled howitzer by 2023, although the autoloader feature has a 2024 deadline. A platform for the ERCA is already under development at Picatinny Arsenal, N.J., and will be moved next month to proving grounds in Yuma, Ariz., for a “transition assessment” to check 20 to 30 performance measures.
Apptronik is a robotics company spun out of the Human Centered Robotics Lab at the University of Texas at Austin. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania-based Carnegie Robotics specializes in robotic sensors and platforms for defense, agriculture, mining, infrastructure and energy applications. It was founded out of Carnegie Mellon University’s National Robotics Engineering Center. Pratt & Miller has been focusing on technology challenges in the motor sports, defense and mobility industries. Neya Systems, also from Pittsburgh, is another robotics company focused on advanced unmanned systems, off-road autonomy and self-driving vehicle technologies.
The Extended-Range Cannon Artillery (ERCA) program is one of the Army’s near-term efforts within its No. 1 modernization priority — long-range precision fires — as adversaries have developed their own cannon artillery that out-ranges American capability. The current 38-caliber turret will be replaced with a 58-caliber version to accommodate a 30-foot gun barrel from which the ERCA projectile will be fired. Other efforts within the ERCA program include developing an improved projectile that can reach beyond 40 kilometers in range. In tests, the ERCA howitzers have demonstrated an ability to strike targets with XM-1113 high-explosive rounds 37 to 43 miles away.