I've mentioned the discontinued Crusader artillery system before in this blog. The Crusader was going to be a state of the art self-propelled artillery system with plenty of extra neato features to keep the pork flowing in many Congressional districts. It would also be a very capable weapon system. The reason they axed the program was due to the fact that we really didn't need the Crusader, since the jobs it was supposed to do could already be done by the Air Force.
All well and good, but that doesn't mean that we could improve the systems we already have. The main 155mm howitzer currently used is the Paladin. Basically a big gun mounted on a light tank chassis, the system has plenty of bells and whistles of it's own. It could be called Crusader Light, the major difference being the number of crew needed and the weight (more crew for the Paladin, more weight for the never-to-be-built Crusader).
So what's the problem? It's basically one of mobility. It seems that the Paladin is so big that it can't fit on the C-130 cargo plane. Take a look at the stats for the various C-130 varients and you'll see that they all have a cargo lift capibility of around 45,000 pounds. Well, the Paladin weighs 63,000 pounds. So it has to go by ship and be unloaded at the shore.
There's plenty of older towd 155mm howitzers. These are light enough to fit in the C-130, but they also have to have a Hummer or truck along to do the towing. But they CAN get to where they're needed in a hurry, even if they're slower and can't go off road.
The French have a solution to this problem. Just mount the 155mm on the truck that normally tows it. This means that it has better off-road capabilities than a towed system, and it's small and light enough to fit in the C-130. Good idea all around.
I came across this article on StrategyPage.com. It seems that the French could supply the U.S.'s needs for this interim artillery system, but the White House is playing it mum. They've ordered military personnel to not even mention the French system. This is obviously due to political reasons, since it wouldn't look good if the U.S. started to buy a foriegn weapon system after cancelling the Crusader.
My opinion is that it really isn't a good idea to play politics like this, but it probably won't hurt us if they do. We've got the Air Force to do the heavy lifting with precision bombing, and they do a pretty good job of it (they've certainly gotten plenty of practice lately). So the ground-pounders can wait for a new, light, self-propelled artillery system to be designed and developed by the U.S. defense firms.