Minister for Defence Stephen Smith and Minister for Defence Materiel Jason Clare today announced that the Government had approved the purchase of an additional two artillery batteries of Lightweight Towed Howitzers, comprising 19 M777A2 155mm howitzers.

The cost of the additional 19 howitzers is around $70 million.

In October 2009, then Defence Minister Faulkner announced the Government would acquire four batteries of 35 M777A2 155mm Lightweight Towed Howitzers (M777s).

In May, the Government announced the cancellation of the acquisition of self-propelled howitzers, proceeding instead with additional towed artillery.

The additional acquisition announced today means Army will now have six batteries of M777 Lightweight Towed Howitzers.

The M777 Lightweight Towed Howitzer is the most advanced towed artillery system available in the world. It has a titanium and aluminium alloy structure able to fire up to 5 rounds per minute. It is capable of being transported by Chinook helicopters and C130 aircraft. The full mission system comprising of the howitzer, towing vehicle and crew transport vehicle is able to be transported by C‑17 aircraft.

The M777 Lightweight Towed Howitzers are also in service with the United States Army and Marine Corps and are currently supporting US operations inAfghanistan.

The use of the M777 Lightweight Towed Howitzers by US forces strengthens interoperability with our Alliance partner. There are also significant efficiencies in sustainment and training through the fielding of a single fleet of howitzers.

This acquisition decision means that the additional M777 Lightweight Towed Howitzers will be acquired off the current production line in the United States and avoids potential additional costs to restart such production. Government will consider additional support and facilities costs associated with this acquisition later in the 2012-13 Financial Year.