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Army's howitzer plan creates defense jobs in Elgin



This year, an $11 billion cannon was supposed to roll off an assembly line in Elgin, the beginning of a new era for the indirect-fire weapon known as a howitzer.

Called the "Crusader," the vehicle had a cooled 155mm gun that could fire 10 rounds a minute, even at different angles so the projectiles would arrive at the same time.

But, in 2002, then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld announced his decision to cancel the project because it did not fit into his vision of better, smaller, faster armed forces. In canceling the Crusader, Rumsfeld acknowledged it would have been better than the 40-year old Paladin howitzer system then in place.

Now, the U.S. Army is revamping the 40-year-old Paladin self-propelled howitzer system, and assembling the vehicles where it had once planned to build the Crusader: in a 150,000-square-foot facility located in the Fort Sill Industrial Park in Elgin.

The company producing the new Paladin " BAE Systems " said the new model M109A6 will integrate better into American forces, dubbing the larger, heavier Crusader a "Cold War-era" weapon. He said the new Paladin system would be based on the lighter Bradley Fighting Vehicle System chassis.

"We tried to draw commonalities between the existing howitzer and the Bradley Fighting Vehicle. They have similar tracks. It's easier for mechanics to work on existing vehicles," said spokesman Ryan May. "The Paladin is going to remain in service for the next 40 years." "Ben Fenwick

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