The US Army has awarded a $1-million contract to Sarcos Defense to test a robotic arm for self-propelled howitzers.

The robotic solution is intended to reduce fatigue and injuries among soldiers due to the prolonged lifting and placing of heavy ammunition into the artillery system.

As part of the deal, the US-based firm will demonstrate and assess the dexterous robotic arm to see if it improves the ammunition handling and maneuvering of the howitzers.

The test also aims to ensure that the cutting-edge technology would meet army requirements in terms of shock and vibration absorption and withstanding extreme temperatures.

If the trial is successful, the hi-tech arm will be integrated into the US Army’s Extended Range Cannon Artillery (ERCA) system.

“The [ERCA] system is used extensively in the US Army for long range precision firing, but the downside to this system is the weight of the ammunition needing to be hand-loaded by soldiers in the field,” Sarcos vice president Reeg Allen explained.

He further stated that the company’s ultimate goal in developing a howitzer robotic solution is to “help the army successfully accomplish their missions with lower rates of injury by having a robot lift.”

The ERCA System

The US Army’s ERCA is an upgraded, self-propelled howitzer based on the M109A7 featuring a new cannon, breech assembly, and improved turret.

It can fire rounds farther than 70 kilometers (43 miles), more than doubling the 30-kilometer (18.6 miles) range of 155-millimeter artillery.

The service is currently building 20 prototypes of the ERCA system, including two for testing and evaluation.

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The remaining 18 ERCA prototypes will be handed over to the army by the end of 2023.

The system is expected to boost the army’s firepower, striking enemy air defenses and targeting troop formations from stand-off ranges.