The M109 Self Propelled Howitzer Paladin

The M109 Self Propelled Howitzer, or Paladin is the most technologically advanced cannon in the Army arsenal. The original M109 Paladin saw its debut in Vietnam back in the 1960s and has undergone many upgrades and changes up through today with the M109A6 Paladin.  Serving in battle from the Vietnam War, throughout the Middle East and Iraq, the Paladin has stood the test of time and battle to become the most popular indirect fire platform in the Army today.

This artillery platform has a 4 man crew, weights about 32 tons and has a cruising range of 186 miles with a max speed of 35 MPH. It has a fuel capacity of roughly 133 gals.

The Paladin can operate independently. From on the move, it can receive a fire mission, compute firing data, select and take up its firing position, automatically unlock and point its cannon, fire and move out – all with no external technical assistance!  Firing the first round from the move in under 60 seconds, a “shoot and scoot” capability protects the crew from counter-battery fire.

The M109 Paladin is capable of firing up to four rounds per minute to ranges out to 30 clicks (kilometers), which is about 18 miles. The Paladin features increased survivability characteristics such as day/night operability, NBC protection with climate control and secure voice and digital communications. The crew remains in the vehicle throughout the mission.

Target acquisition and engagement parameters (tactical fire controls) are provided by the Paladin Platoon’s Battle Command Facility and the Platoon Operations Center (POC). The automatic fire control system (AFCS) and SINCGARS FM radios have changed the current requirements for surveyed firing points, aiming circles, and land lines.  In fact, in the past, it would take about 20 minutes to prepare a firing position and another 15 to 20 to displace. It was very manpower-intensive to emplace the battery before the Paladin, particularly the M109A6 variant.

The Paladin also features the following armament:

  • Primary: M126 155 mm Howitzer (M109), M126A1 155 mm Howitzer (A1), M185 155 mm Howitzer (A2/A3/A4), M284 155 mm Howitzer (A5/A6)
  • Secondary: .50 CAL M2 machine gun, MK 19 Mod 3 40 mm Grenade Launcher, or 7.62-mm M240 machine gun

Final Thoughts

Simply put, the M109 Self Propelled Howitzer (Paladin) is a very powerful and very effective form of indirect fire.  It helps prep the battlefield and has a critical role in combat.  What are your thoughts?  If you have experience with this weapon system I would love to hear from you.  Please leave a comment to tell us about your experiences with the M109 Paladin.

chuck holmes

Chuck Holmes
Former Army Major (resigned)

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5 thoughts on “The M109 Self Propelled Howitzer Paladin”

  1. I love it when you see some of the same artillery and armor pieces within the Army’s arsenal over the years. The Paladin is one of those that has survived sine Vietnam and has been upgraded via software and other technology. The hardware is designed so well that it stands the test of time!

  2. You know, there’s a reason everybody wants to have priority of fires when the OPORD comes down. As part of a dismounted reconnaissance unit, the Paladin holds a special place in my heart, because one of the #1 ways we kill the enemy is to find him and then drop a s**tload of artillery on him. A forward observer with a GPS, a map, a compass, and a radio teamed with a battery of Paladins can make the enemy’s life very, very miserable–or just plain put him out of his misery–very, very quickly.

  3. Amy Skalicky

    The M109 Paladin is a very cool gun. Computerization and advanced communications technology brought this weapon into the 21st century. What I find most fascinating about the M109 Paladin is the fact that it is used with the Excalibur, a GPS guided round, that can be shot 20 degrees off-angle and still hit its target, up to 24.8 miles away. The Modular Artillery Discharge System provides the technology for the M109 Paladin to be fitted with the Excalibur and not blow it to pieces. The details of this is interesting, but classified.

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