WASHINGTON — The U.S. Army has decided to cancel the science and technology research effort that could have led to a program to develop a strategic long-range cannon, the service confirmed.
Long-range precision fires is a top priority for the Army when it comes to developing a modernized force capable of facing off against advanced adversaries like China. The cannon could’ve provided a way to achieve artillery ranges of 1,000 nautical miles.
Congress directed the Army to stop funding the weapon in its fiscal 2022 appropriations act, and “based on that direction, the Secretary of the Army decided to terminate the [strategic long-range cannon] project this year,” Army spokesperson Ellen Lovett said in a May 20 statement to Defense News.
The decision also “eliminates potential redundancy, and ensures we effectively use tax dollars to achieve modernization objectives,” she wrote. “Pursuing the effort could cost billions of dollars even if the science and technology effort succeeded because the Army would have to enter into a development program, procure the system, and create entirely new units to operate it.”
The Army still has four other long-range fires programs set to reach operational Army units in 2023: the Extended Range Cannon Artillery, the Long-Range Hypersonic Weapon, a midrange anti-ship missile and the Precision Strike Missile.
“Any unused funds originally allocated to LRC [the long-range cannon] will be reapplied against other S&T projects in accordance with the direction of the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisitions, Logistics and Technology,” Lovett stated.
During a House Tactical Air and Land Forces Subcommittee hearing last week, Army acquisition chief Doug Bush told lawmakers the decision to cancel the S&T effort for the strategic long-range cannon was to avoid “redundancy” and “potential cost implications.”
Although full cost estimates are not normally made for programs in the S&T phase, Bush noted: “We did feel we had sufficient information based on similar programs that are in development and to understand the rough scope of such an effort, and the secretary believes that was enough information to support her decision.”
Some work on the cannon’s S&T effort was ongoing, but the Army had mostly taken a pause as it waited for a National Academy of Sciences report on the weapon’s technical feasibility, Brig. Gen. John Rafferty, who oversees the service’s long-range precision fires development, told Defense News in March 2021.
The independent study, congressionally mandated in FY20, was expected to be released last year, but was not yet made public by press time. Beginning in September 2020, the committee at the National Academy of Sciences held five meetings, the last of which took place in January 2021, according to its website.
According to FY21 budget justification documents, the Army planned to spend roughly $70 million in FY22 on advanced development of the program, but subsequent documents from FY22 and FY23 showed no plan to continue funding the effort beyond FY21.
The Army spent $62 million in FY21 to assess various aspects of the technology needed for the long-range cannon.
Jen Judson is the land warfare reporter for Defense News. She has covered defense in the Washington area for 10 years. She was previously a reporter at Politico and Inside Defense. She won the National Press Club's best analytical reporting award in 2014 and was named the Defense Media Awards' best young defense journalist in 2018.