Army testing new battle equipment at Yuma proving grounds

YUMA, Ariz. (KSAZ) -- Soldiers in the U.S. Army can be sure of one thing, that the equipment they use in the field of battle will work, every time. That's because tanks, trucks and artillery are being tested every day at the U.S. Army Proving Grounds in Yuma.

Recently, there was an important demonstration there of a new piece of long range artillery. The special demonstration was for the Secretary of the United States Army, Mark Esper. The big gun is part of the Army's new Extended Range Cannon Artillery program (ERCA). It's supposed to fire a rocket assisted shell up to 70 miles away.

The Secretary, along with everyone else, is shuffled off to a bunker near the howitzer. Even with concrete walls, however, the big gun's firing can still be heard and felt inside. In that test, the full range of the gun was cut short. To test its full power, the Army had to move it to the Air Force Goldwater Bombing Range, because the proving grounds aren't big enough.

"We talked a good deal about all the test equipment and the expertise we find here in Yuma," said Esper.

The question is, however, why does the Army need a gun that can fire a projectile 70 miles away?

"The army has begun a renaissance," said Esper. "There is a lot underway in the Army."

Esper said the mission is changing, from one of counterinsurgency, such as the war still being fought in Afghanistan, to a national military strategy that targets someone else.

"We have returned to an era of Great Power competition marked by strategic competitors such as Russia and China," said Esper. "Those would be far different fights. God forbid than what we've experienced the last 17-18 years and continues today in Afghanistan."

Esper said all you have to do is read the latest headlines.

"You can't help read the newspaper the last week about what's happening in the Black Sea area," said Esper, referring to an incident in the Black Sea where Russian ships rammed, fired upon, and captured three small Ukrainian ships and their crew. "We need the ability to reach out and touch adversaries at greater distances than they can reach out and affect us."

That's where Yuma comes in. The proving grounds will be a busy place, as the Army tests new guns, tanks and other weapons to give pause to those who would do us harm.

"It's important because we want to make sure we deploy systems that work when we expect them to, that they deliver to the soldiers what they need, when they need them," said Esper. "We want to make sure that we work and we get what we pay for, and that's what Yuma does."

Testing at the U.S. Army Proving Ground in Yuma began in 1945, when the Army tested World War II bridging equipment over the Colorado River.