Aug. 31 (UPI) -- The Watervliet Arsenal in New York is to manufacture full-bore chrome tubes for the U.S. Army's lightweight M777A2 towed howitzer system, as well as for the U.S. Marine Corps, which has the same howitzer system.
The chrome-plated tubes leverage a newly-tested manufacturing process that increases barrel life of the guns by almost 50 percent and enables easier maintenance, the Army said.
"Although chrome plating on weapon systems is not new, what is new is that full-bore chrome barrels for the M777 gun only began testing in 2013," George Roach, product manager for the order, said in a press release. "To date, we have only manufactured 15 full-bore chrome barrels and with these orders, we will now be able to go from prototype development and limited production into full-rate production."
"Given that there are more than 1,000 of these gun systems in the Army and Marine inventory, there is potential for the arsenal to receive more orders for full-bore chrome barrels as these orders only reflect about 20 percent of the inventory."
The $15 million Army order for 100 chrome-plated tubes is similar to a $13 million U.S. Marine Corps order for more than 100 chrome-plated tubes awarded at the same time.
The Marines began testing the chrome tubes in 2016, finding they were easier to clean than steel tubes and that thousands of rounds could be fired before they started to show wear.
The Watervliet Arsenal will begin delivering the tubes to the Army and Marines in 2019.