The M109A7's name is boring but what it does is terrifying.
Anniston Army Depot workers have begun production on the M109A7 Self-Propelled Howitzer, a vehicle that looks like a tank but is actually a large gun. And it can fire its ammo as far away as 40 miles with deadly accuracy. The family of vehicles is officially called the M109A7, but unofficially it's often referred to by a name of a previous model, the Paladin.
Although the contract runs four years and will bring $25 million dollars to the depot, the depot commander points out the work will preserve current jobs at a time two wars have ended and Congress is looking for places to cut budgets.
There won't be an increase in workload, or anything of that nature," said the commander, Col. Brent Bolander. "What it'll provide is a sustainment and a little bit more predictability as it pertains to that type of weapon system, to both the workforce and the folks in the surrounding community."
Mark Signorelli, Vice President and General Manager of BAE Systems, says the first of the vehicles should roll off the depot assembly lines in December, but prototypes were on display at an "induction ceremony" Wednesday at the depot.
Among the speakers at the ceremony were U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Alabama), who said his armed services committee has two goals and programs like this one help reach them.
"We make sure that our military is so well-prepared and so well-equipped, that if we get into a fight, it's not a fair fight," said Rogers. "The other thing is, if we get into a fight, it's on their homeland."
"It makes you feel better for the work that's coming into the depot," says Johnny Johnson, an electronics leader and longtime employee. "We've been trying our best to put out a good product for many years...everybody really believes in putting out a good product for our soldiers."
Johnson repeated what Brigadier General David Bassett said earlier in the ceremony, that the vehicles' ultimate customer is the war fighter.
Copyright 2014 WBRC. All rights reserved.
1720 Valley View Drive