As of December 27, 2023, the United States has sent 198 155mm howitzers to Ukraine. Over half of these guns were M777 towed artillery pieces. In addition to the U.S., Canada and Australia have provided M777s to Ukraine. With so many howitzers sent to Ukraine from allied stockpiles, the Army signed an agreement with the manufacturer of the M777 to put it back into production.
On January 4, 2024, BAE Systems announced the production of major structures for the M777 under an Undefinitized Contract Action limited to $50 million. Supply chains in the U.S. and United Kingdom will produce titanium structures which form the basis of the howitzer. While BAE starts delivering on the program, details and the total value of the contract will be finalized with the Army.
“This restart of production of the major structures for the U.S. Army’s M777s comes at a critical time, with howitzers deeper on operations in Ukraine,” Vice President and General Manager for BAE Systems Weapons Systems UK John Borton said in a company statement. “The U.S., as well as Canada and Australia, has donated M777s to Ukraine. We understand that they are performing well and we are very proud of our role in supporting our allies. The M777 will remain at the forefront of artillery technology well into the future through the use of technical insertions, long-range precision guided munition developments, and flexible mobility options.”
The lightweight howitzer system is easy to tow and transport, with six howitzers fitting into a C-17 Globemaster III cargo plane. However, the M777’s reduced mobility compared to self-propelled howitzers makes it more vulnerable on the battlefield. Spotter drones used by both Russia and Ukraine make it easier to zero in on established artillery positions when they fire and employ counter-battery fire against them. As a result, many of Ukraine’s M777s have been damaged or destroyed.
With advanced air defense systems on both sides of the conflict, the use of fires in the Russo-Ukrainian War has fallen mostly to artillery. The Army’s move to acquire more M777s will replenish its stocks and ensure that the force is equipped to fight a similar war. BAE noted that total orders for the M777 currently exceed 1,200.