Jan. 27 (UPI) -- Six companies were selected to prepare concepts and designs for an Extended-Range Cannon Artillery autoloader, the U.S. Army announced.
The companies chosen by the Army for the program are Actuate; Apptronik, Inc.; Carnegie Robotics LLC; Pratt & Miller Engineering; Neya Systems, LLC; and Hivemapper, Inc.
The goal is for the companies, not familiar choices for artillery contracts, to work under the Army Capability Accelerator and the Army Applications Laboratory and emerge with atypical concepts for the autoloader. Their specialties include robotics, mobility technology, artificial intelligence, self-driving technology and computer mapping.
"Sourced from across the country, the selected companies represent a range of technologies and expertise all aimed at developing autonomous resupply capabilities," a statement on Friday by the Army Futures Command said.
The goal is completion of an automatically-loading and self-propelled howitzer by 2023, although the autoloader feature has a 2024 deadline. A platform for the ERCA is already under development at Picatinny Arsenal, N.J., and will be moved next month to proving grounds in Yuma, Ariz., for a "transition assessment" to check 20 to 30 performance measures.
Despite an eight-week delay because of the "normal challenges" of building the prototype, Brig. Gen. John Rafferty said on Friday that the program remains on schedule. The prototype will arrive at Yuma in the second or third week of February.
In tests, the ERCA howitzers have demonstrated an ability to strike targets with XM-1113 high-explosive rounds 37 to 43 miles away.