Over the next year, the Army will be evaluating Soft Recoil Gun (SRT) technology for light combat vehicles, starting with a pair of HUMVEES equipped with 105mm howitzers. A soft recoil could not only make it possible to equip relatively light vehicles like HUMVEES or medium-sized tactical trucks with up to 155mm cannons, it could also make the light artillery easier to survive.
AM General has partnered with Illinois-based engineering firm, Mandus Group Integration of the latter’s SRT system into HUMVEE and truck prototypes called Hawkeye and Brutus. The Mandus Group first introduced its system in 2016 and, in collaboration with AM General, has shown it to the Army in brief demonstrations with the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions, as well as during the Army’s annual Northern Strike exercises in Michigan.
In the coming months, the team will hand over a pair of Hawkeye prototypes (HUMVEE 2CTs with soft recoil and 105mm howitzers) to the Army’s Towed Artillery Systems Program Manager (PM-TAS) at Picatinny Arsenal in New Jersey for “characterization” tests .
Regis Luther, AM General’s chief technology officer, says SRT can enable heavier weapons to be carried in light vehicles by reducing recoil shock by up to 60%, reducing the chance of recoil-induced rollover, and cushioning the fatigue load caused by recoil Vehicle chassis.
At Hawkeye, the system combines external stabilizers, which look like legs spread out behind a backhoe loader or in front of a heavy tow truck, with a hydraulic system inside the howitzer barrel. The external stabilizers quickly retract for stowage when the vehicle is in motion and hydraulically lower when it is time to fire the weapon.
Howitzer firing is mitigated by the configuration of the gun barrel and SRT hydraulics, explains Regis Luther, AM General’s chief technology officer.
“Shortly before shooting, the gun barrel is in a retracted position. How it is [commanded] to fire [the barrel] moves forward until just before the end of its journey. When the round fires there is a large restoring force and the hydraulics alternate from moving the barrel forward to absorbing and slowing the rebound of the shot force. ”
“The freedom of movement is longer than with a non-soft recoil weapon,” says Luther. The effect is that the vehicle moves less while the weapon moves more. The technology allows the weapons to be placed directly on smaller, elusive platforms, rather than dragging them behind light or medium-weight tactical vehicles.
“With SRT, we can shoot and scoot in about half the time,” explains Luther.
“The towed artillery is pulled behind a drive engine thanks to its weight. When they fire they have to separate it from them [tow vehicle] and fire it on the spot. With the 105mm Hawkeye, all we have to do is put down the stabilizers, aim and fire the gun. When you’re done, reinsert the gun, pull up the stabilizers, and start moving. This shortens the burning time by a few minutes. ”
By the time it takes opponents to locate the source of the rounds landing on them, the Hawkeye has already moved to another location. Due to the explosion radius of the typical enemy counter-artillery, a quarter of a mile is enough to survive, says Luther.
SRT also enables larger charges to be fired than otherwise possible. Integrating the weapon into a single platform allows for greater stealth and hiding ability than a vehicle and towed artillery combination. The agility of a single platform traversing off-road terrain is also better than towing.
“Hawkeye can be moved by plane, train, ship or other means of transport and takes up less space by combining a trailer and truck into one. It’s just better usable, ”adds the CTO of AM General.
Thanks to the special chassis tuning, adding a howitzer with SRT does not significantly increase the Hawkeye’s center of gravity and, according to AM General, does not affect its weight. The company claims to have fired over 100 rounds of tests at various ranges and targets from Hawkeye, which it says it has also completed extensive reliability tests.
AM General is promoting the scalability of its SRT integration, which could enable the transport of weapons up to 155mm in medium-weight tactical vehicles. The company’s Brutus 6X6 truck prototype features a 155mm howitzer with soft recoil technology, a combination that could potentially replace the 155mm guns normally pulled behind 8X8 Stryker vehicles.
The AM General / Mandus team has reportedly offered Brutus as a candidate for the Army’s new wheeled howitzer, designed to accompany high-mobility Stryker vehicles into battle.
Applying the technology to other platforms like the army Mobile protected firepower (MPF) light tanks could also be on the maps.
“We’re looking at mortars up to 81 mm and applications up to the M1 Abrams [tank] 120mm main weapon. Soft recoil technology applies to anything that fires in a similar way and has the same effects on [platform]. They lower the engine by one or maybe two vehicle sizes, ”says Luther.
For all the potential that the integration of SRT could bring, the awareness of the technology seems to be little known within the army. Neither Army Headquarters nor the Combat Support and Combat Service Support Program Office (PEO CS & CSS) knew which army unit was performing the Hawkeye’s characterization tests.
“Characterization” does not represent a formal interest strong enough to get funding rolling for a potential Hawkeye acquisition. However, the army’s enthusiasm for improving the mobility of its light infantry troops through acquisition efforts (from MPF to infantry squad vehicle) in recent years suggests that the idea of putting larger weapons on small agile vehicles is on the service’s attention draws itself.