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American ERCA Extended Range Cannon Artillery autoloader for self-propelled howitzer

American ERCA (Extended Range Cannon Artillery) autoloader for self-propelled howitzer is being tested for the first time at Yuma Proving Ground. The ERCA will provide faster and safer firing capabilities.

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The ERCA Extended Range Cannon Artillery autoloader was tested from a prototype of M109A7.  (Picture source US DoD)

The ERCA (Extended Range Cannon Artillery) itself is a massive undertaking in that everything is under development at the same time and it’s a platform that needs to be compatible with multiple howitzer configurations, multiple projectiles and multiple missions.

The ERCA program has been testing various components of its system for about four years. The newest component undergoing testing is a five-round limited capacity autoloader. It holds five projectiles and five propellant charges.
In the past ERCA Howitzer Test Bed (HTB) systems have been built on modified M109A6 Self Propelled Howitzers. Testing of the limited capacity autoloader is being conducted from a prototype M109A7 which has been modified and integrated with the ERCA Armament System.

The Yuma Proving Ground (YPG) has been instrumental in everything for ERCA development for the last three and a half years. The ERCA program was started on October in 2015 and since 100 test events on the ERCA program across multiple platforms were performed.

YPG Munitions and Weapons, ERCA Test Officer, Gilbert Moreno, has been a part of about 90 of those test events—he’s seen ERCA is all of its stages, “It started off with the propellant, projectile and gun tube and it evolved from that into a full weapon.”

Another part of the team are the gunners, who if this was a war zone, their position would be manned by soldiers. Artillery Gunner, Michael Gomez, has worked on the ERCA project about a year. His team consists of four gunners, they offload the ammunition, prepare it and then load it into the magazine, “The customer shows us their procedures and the steps to do, and our part is figuring how we can make it safe for us.”

Once the gunners insert the propellant into the autoloader magazine, the ERCA Autoloader Team takes over operations. The ERCA Autoloader Team monitors and controls the autoloader system from the safety of a remotely located connex box. “It’s doing everything by itself, all we are doing is monitoring the health of it, checking that it is updating us with what it’s currently doing, and making sure that it’s saying that everything is okay,” responds Dave Gatter, a Control Systems Engineer and member of the ERCA Autoloader Team.


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