The U.S. Army is working on what it believes could be a “game-changing” weapon in its efforts to counter advanced adversaries like China.
The Strategic Long-Range Cannon (SLRC) project is aiming to deliver an artillery piece that can enable precision strikes from beyond a 1,000 miles away. The technology is still in its development stages but the Army hopes to test this artillery piece by 2023, according to the Washington Times.
The technology behind the SLRC remains in development but is just one effort led by the Pentagon to equip its forces with “long-range precision fires” around the world and prepare for advance U.S. military doctrine to counter China or other military powers in a potential future conflict.
“If you look at doctrinally how the U.S. military uses long-range fires to shoot and then maneuver … it’s one of the most important capabilities that we have as an entire Department of Defense,” Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy told The Washington Times.
China’s recent focus on anti-access, area-denial weapons systems could threaten the U.S. ability to move and launch counter-attacks in disputed international regions, such as the South China sea where the U.S. has worked to counter military Chinese posturing.
China has reportedly purchased Russian-made S-400 missile defense systems which could stall or even entirely prevent U.S. ships and planes that attempt to protect free passage in the South China Sea. China may also possess anti-satellite missiles able to disable U.S. satellite communications systems.
The long-range artillery could give a high-tech form of suppressing fire for U.S. military movements through heavily controlled regions and allow strikes against targets more difficult to reach by seaborne or airborne strikes.
“That integrated system challenges even our most sophisticated aircraft and challenges our most sophisticated ships to gain access to the area,” said Col. John Rafferty, director of the long-range precision fires cross-functional team. “That layered enemy standoff at the strategic level was really the fundamental problem. One of the ways to solve that problem is to deliver surface-to-surface fires that can penetrate this [anti-access, area-denial] complex, disintegrate its network and create windows of opportunity for the joint force to exploit.”
Rafferty has previously suggested the Army could reach its goal for such long-range cannons by adopting rocket-boosted artillery shells to be paired with the Army’s existing M109 howitzers.
McCarthy said such artillery advancements could turn the tables against China.
“We have run all the simulations that shows the feasibility we’ve procured, the material to start this,” McCarthy.
As the project proceeds, one of the Pentagon’s primary concern is preventing the cost from becoming prohibitive.
Pentagon officials told the Washington Times that some of the project research is already underway at the Army’s Research and Analysis Center at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico.