The American-supplied M-777 Lightweight Artillery Gun is one of the most advanced howitzer in the world. USA supplied large number of M-777 ammunition including the Excalibur Guided Artillery round to Ukraine. The US supplied M-777 guns are helping the Ukrainian Armed Forces to maintain essential firepower on the battlefield. So what type of roles is the M-777 playing on the Ukrainian Battlefield?
According to information cited by the US “Wall Street Journal”, observing the ongoing war in Ukraine, the number of countries interested in the US M777 ultralight howitzer is “decreasing”.
However, the manufacturer British Aerospace Systems, is considering restarting production of this type of artillery, to supply the US Army, to offset the number of M777 artillery that has been given to Ukraine.
With the continuation of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, the Western countries, led by the US, have gradually relaxed restrictions on heavy weapons aid to Kiev. From May to early June this year, Ukraine has continuously received more than 100 M777 ultralight artillery pieces, provided by the US, Canada and Australia.
In the confrontation in the Donbass region, Russia and Ukraine used more than 2,000 artillery pieces as the main combat fire of both sides; however, the Russian artillery completely overwhelmed the Ukrainian artillery .
Although the M777 howitzer has performed quite well in Afghanistan and Iraq since it entered combat service; In fact, the M777 is considered the “most advanced” towed howitzer and it is also the main equipment of the US Marines and airborne troops.
However, in an all-out war as fierce as in the Ukrainian battlefield, the M777 howitzer has not yet shown many roles in combat. So why is there such a big difference between the M777 in the hands of the US military and the Ukrainian army?
“Ultra-light cannon”, as can be seen from the name, the biggest feature of the M777 is “lightweight”, this is the biggest and arguably the only advantage of this cannon.
The M777 is the world’s first towed howitzer using a large number of aluminum and titanium alloy materials; Its total weight was 3.7 tons, only half the weight of a conventional towed howitzer, and its maximum weight did not exceed 4.22 tons.
The M777 cannon can be lifted easily by the CH-47 “Chinook” helicopter, or the UH-60 “Black Hawk” helicopter in emergency situations; military transport aircraft C-130 “Hercules” can transport 2 guns in each sortie.
But everything has its duality; To achieve light weight, the M777 also had to sacrifice a lot in other features. The barrel length of the M777 is only 39 times the diameter of the 155 mm round, completely incomparable with the traditional 155 mm cannon, with a barrel length of 52, 55 and even 60 times the caliber respectively.
Due to the super light weight of the whole cannon, in order to balance the strong recoil when firing, the M777 is equipped with a dual-head recoil reducer, but this type of recoil reduction speaker, also affects the accuracy of the round when fired and the gun range is also not beneficial when firing certain types of ammo.
To avoid overturning due to recoil during firing, the M777’s cannon is also designed to be low to reduce the center of gravity; However, this design makes it difficult for gunners to load ammunition, thereby affecting the rate of fire. The M777’s “regular” rate of fire is 2 rounds/minute, and the “quick fire” rate is 4 rounds/minute; thus, the rate of fire is also lower than that of the traditional 155 howitzer.
For the US military, they have a need for rapid global deployment in a short time and there is no shortage of air transport vehicles such as helicopters; so what they claim in the M777, is “totally light and relatively strong”.
The main combat environment of this type of artillery is the weakly defended rear of the enemy, and the M-777, in conjunction with a number of armed helicopters, provides fire support for infantry combat; rather than on the Donbass front, these guns are responsible for the main firepower.
Therefore, according to the criteria of the US military, the advantage of the “lightness” of the M777 is amplified and the more disadvantages are avoided, it will be more better.
However, when it comes to the Ukrainian battlefield, Ukraine lacks the M777 moving helicopter, plus it takes longer to deploy and recover artillery than self-propelled artillery, so slow fire rate; Therefore, the flexibility of the M777 was not fully promoted to support.
The Ukrainian Army’s M777 cannon can only be used in areas where the Russian Army is thinly defended, to carry out raids in a “shoot and run” tactical style.
Where the Russian Army is well defended, the M777 cannon can be completely suppressed by the more perfect artillery systems of the Russian army.
On the other hand, most of the US-aided M777 artillery pieces to Ukraine have been stripped of important electronics such as digital fire control units, digital communications units and muzzle velocity radars and no front-line communications and reconnaissance equipment.
Without these components, the M777’s advanced fire control system only had automatic cannon adjustment and it could not reach its full potential. After all, the US does not want these fire control components of its these guns, falling into Russian hands.
In the hands of the US military, “high mobility light artillery” with excellent performance; but it can be said that it has completely lost its advantage when in the hands of the Ukrainian Army.
Right in the first week, the M777 cannon was put into the battlefield by the Ukrainian Army, the Russian army eliminated an M777 battlefield with 2S3 self-propelled artillery by the method of mobile raids.
In the following time, the Russian Army’s radar and UAV reconnaissance force continuously hunted and successfully suppressed many M777 artillery positions; even seized intact many Ukrainian M777 howitzers left on the battlefield.
As can be seen, a completely different performance of the “super cannon” M777 in the hands of the US and Ukrainian armies; thereby further affirming the importance of systematic warfare in modern conflicts.