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Howitzer fired inside Lawton city limits Thursday

It's not every day you see a howitzer fired within the Lawton city limits.

But that's exactly what happened at the reception preceding the Lawton Chamber of Commerce's Multi-Domain Banquet on Thursday. A crew from the Shawnee-based Alpha Battery, 1st Battalion, 160th Field Artillery, 45th Combat Infantry Brigade, shot a sand round for demonstration purposes.

"It's kind of unique, as you can see, because typically, you don't find that big of a howitzer on the back of a small vehicle like the humvee," said retired U.S. Navy Rear Admiral Sam Kupresin, vice president of business development for Mandus Group, Rock Island, Ill.

The company's engineers have developed a unique technology they call a hybrid soft recoil. It's able to mitigate a lot of the recoil impulse from the discharge of the cannon without degradating the cannon's performance. It's the reduction in recoil force that allows Mandus Group to mount this big of a gun on the back of a small vehicle, Kupresin explained.

Kupresin says the vehicle stays in place extremely well  so well, in fact, that the gun crew could take a second shot at the exact same coordinates.

"Mobility is the key in future warfare for lethality, survivability. It's how we will have to do warfare. We're already doing it that way. So you're not in static, fixed positions, but you're constantly moving around.

"Towing artillery, we feel, is not the way to go in that type of a battle environment, that having self-propelled artillery is much more appropriate for that type of warfare.

"So the issue is using conventional recoil technology, which has been in existence for over 100 years, going back to World War I. You can't take enough of the recoil force out of the discharge to mount big guns on small vehicles like that."

"The barrel that we're using is the same cannon barrel that is used on the current towed M119 howitzer that the Army uses. It's called the M20 cannon. And so our firing characteristics are exactly the same: 8-10 rounds a minute for the first three minutes. As the barrel starts to heat up, you start to reduce your rate of fire down to about three rounds per minute, sustained, based on the heat of the barrel. So there's no difference in rate of fire from that standpoint.

"But there is a big difference in how the gun is emplaced and displaced and serviced in comparison to the towed howitzer. It's much easier to do it this way, because you don't have to unhook the gun from its prime mover, wheel it around, put it in place, dig it in, fire, then try to heft it out, taking up the base plate and everything like that. You just set the brakes, the crew gets out, positions the gun, gets the fire mission, elevates, traverses, and boom. It's all done by a gunner's display unit. So there's a lot less physical labor involved with firing our gun," Kupresin said.

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