L118 Light Gun

Infobox Weapon
name=Gun, 105mm, Field, L118

caption= Arguably the most famous L118 Light Gun, in use as the One O'Clock Gun at Edinburgh Castle
origin= United Kingdom
type= Towed howitzer
used_by= British Army
others (see article)
designer= Royal Armament Research and Development Establishment
manufacturer= BAE Systems Land and Armaments
weight= 1858 kg
length= 8.8 m
width= 1.78 m
height= 2.13 m
caliber= 105 mm
rate= 6-8 rounds per minute
max_range= 17,200 m
breech= vertical sliding block
carriage= box trail
elevation= -100 to 1250 mils
traverse= 6400 mils on its platform and 100 mils left or right
The L118 Light Gun is a 105 mm towed howitzer, originally produced for the British Army in the 1970s and widely exported since, including to the United States, where a modified version is known as the M119A1. The proper name for it is "Gun, 105mm, Field, L118" but it almost always just called "the Light Gun".



From 1961 until the mid-1970s, the British Army used the 105 mm Pack Howitzer L5 with L10 ordnance (OTO Melara Mod 56) as its light artillery weapon, variously replacing 75 mm How, 4.2 inch mortar and 25 pdr in some eight regular artillery regiments. It fired the US M1 type ammunition (called 105 mm How in UK). This widely-used howitzer was originally designed in Italy for the Alpini, and was light enough to be lifted by Westland Wessex helicopters or towed by Land Rovers. However, it lacked range (making it potentially vulnerable to counter-battery fire), was not notably robust, had poor sights and was not entirely popular although its light weight and compact size were redeeming features.

In 1965 a General Staff Requirement was approved for a new 105 mm weapon system because the pack howitzer 'lacked range and lethality'. Key characteristics included use of 105 mm Fd Mk 2 ammunition designed for the L13 ordnance of the Gun Equipment 105 mm L109 (better known as Abbot self-propelled gun), 6400 mil traverse by one man, maximum weight 3500 lbs, dimension limits imposed by internal carriage in Chinook helicopters and Andover transport aircraft, and the ability to fire immediately after being under water for 30 minutes.

The new gun, soon designated 'Light Gun', was designed by the government Royal Armament Research and Development Establishment (RARDE), Fort Halstead, Kent. Prototypes were tested in 1968. However, it soon emerged that some increase in weight was needed for a gun with the requisite robustness and several assemblies were substantially redesigned.

The Abbot ammunition uses electrical instead of percussion primers and provides greater lethality and range than the US M1-type ammunition. It is an entirely different design to the US M1 type ammunition and the two are not interchangeable, although 105 mm Fd Mk 1 uses the M1 shell, which is shorter with less HE than the 105 mm Fd Mk 2 design. The original Light Gun requirement was to use 105 mm Fd Mk 1 ammunition in training. However, in 1968 this was changed to allow a second ordnance capable of firing US 1935 pattern (ie M1) ammunition.

The L118 uses the L19 ordnance on the L17 carriage. The L19 ordnance is slightly shorter than the L13 used by Abbot and hence has slightly less maximum range.

Original production, which was authorised in late 1975, was by Royal Ordnance Factory, Nottingham (Government owned) which has since been incorporated into BAE Systems Land and Armaments. Deliveries started in 1976.

In British Service

Light Gun first entered service with the British Army in 1976. The new weapon was heavier than its predecessor, but new, more capable helicopters such as the Puma and Westland Sea King, which could carry the new weapon, were also entering service at the same time.

However, a new vehicle, the Land Rover 101 Forward Control ("Land Rover, One Ton") was designed as the prime mover in the field for the Light Gun (and the Rapier air-defence missile launcher). Since the end of the 1990s, the British Army has been using Pinzgauer ATVs as their gun tractors. In Arctic service, and elsewhere, the gun is towed by the Hägglunds Bv 206 and is fitted with skis when over snow.

In 1982, the Light Gun saw intense use in the Falklands War. Five batteries (30 guns) were deployed to the Falkland Islands. During the final phases of the battles around Port Stanley, these guns were firing up to 400 rounds per gun per day, mostly at "Charge Super" i.e. the most powerful propellant charge for which they were designed. They were a significant factor in the British victory. Since then, British forces have used the Light Gun in combat in the Balkans, Sierra Leone, Iraq and Afghanistan.

At present, the British Army deploys the Light Gun with 29 Commando Regiment RA, 7th Parachute Regiment Royal Horse Artillery and 40 Field Regiment RA. These units support Marine Commando, Air Assault or Light formations. Other regular batteries are temporarily converted to the Light Gun from the AS-90 self-propelled gun as necessary for operations.

Three regiments of the Territorial Army (100 Regt. RA(V), 103 (Lancastrian Artillery Volunteers) Regt. RA(V) and 105 Regt. RA(V)) are also equipped with the Light Gun. The Honourable Artillery Company, 104 Regt. RA(V) and other units use the Light Gun for ceremonial purposes.

Those University Officer Training Corps with "Gun Troops" train with the L118.


The Light Gun appears to owe a number of its features to the QF 25 pounder, unsurprisingly since RARDE was the successor to the Design Department, Woolwich. Among these features are its vertically-sliding block breech, and a box trail instead of a split trail; a traversing platform is normally used with it. Its comparatively light weight is also attributed to the nature of the steel used in the carriage and ordnance, and other weight-reducing features including its narrow wheelbase.

The narrow wheelbase prevents the ordnance rotating the 3200 mil required to 'unfold' the gun. Because of this, the gun features a knock-off hub on one side allowing the ordnance to be rotated by removing one wheel. With a well trained gun crew, this contributes approximately 30 seconds to the time required to deploy the gun.

When being towed in the unfolded position, the A-Frame is fitted to the front transom in order to support the elevating mass. A recent modification makes it possible to keep the gun in this position indefinitely at speeds up to 40 mph. For long distance transport or traversing rough terrain, the barrel is reversed and clamped to the end of the trail. For storage, the gun is in the unfolded position with the barrel elevated to an angle that balances the elevated mass on the yoke and therefore relieves pressure on the elevating gears.

When first introduced in the British Royal Artillery, the L7 or L7A1 dial sight and its carrier, incorporating an integral elevation scale and internal lighting powered by Trilux nuclear light sources, was used to aim the gun for indirect fire. Since Light Gun entered service after the introduction of Field Artillery Computer Equipment (FACE) it never, unlike Abbot, had gun rules. Therefore it has a single Quadrant Elevation scale. These optical indirect fire sights are now only used in recruit training. The L7 sight is a modified version of a German Leitz instrument.

The guns also have a direct fire telescope and were originally issued with a night telescope using image intensification.


The 105 mm Fd Mk 2 ammunition has two propelling cartridges and a blank cartridge (for saluting purposes). The normal cartridge has 5 propellant zones (Charges 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5). A supplementary Charge 4½ is also available for high angle fire to improve charge overlap between charges 4 and 5. It is peculiar to Light Gun and was not used with Abbot. A separate "Charge Super" cartridge is used for firing to maximum range.

Both Charge 5 and Charge Super project beyond the end of the metal cartridge case. Unlike the M1 ammunition, which is 'semi fixed' and loaded as a complete round, 105 mm Fd is 'separate'; the shell is loaded and rammed by hand then the cartridge is loaded. By the time L118 entered service sub-zones A and B originally used with Abbot had been replaced by a spoiler to reduce the minimum range at high angle fire when this was required.

The 105 mm Fd Mk 2 projectiles are the same as used with Abbot, apart from the current introduction of a new L50 HE shell and L51 red phosphorus smoke shell. The new HE is slightly longer than current shells, uses insensitive plastic bonded explosive and provides significantly greater lethality, which the supplier claims is equivalent to 155 mm HE M107. A base-bleed HE shell, maximum range reportedly 21 - 22 km, was developed in the late 1990s but has not entered service.

ubsequent enhancements

During the early 1990s all UK L118 were fitted with a Muzzle Velocity Measuring Device (MVMD), a radar, and its power supply.

In 2002 the British Army's L118 guns completed replacement of their optical sights with the Artillery Pointing System (APS) [http://www.selex-sas.com/datasheets/LINAPS.pdf LINAPS] . This is a self-contained system that uses ring laser gyros to determine azimuth, elevation angle and trunnion tilt angle. It also includes facilities for navigation and self-survey using Global Positioning System, inertial direction measurement and distance measurement. All this can be used anywhere in the world to lay the gun without external references. An upgraded APS may also perform some ballistic calculation functions including muzzle velocity prediction using Kalman filters or a neural network.

A capability enhancement program that started delivering improvements to UK guns in 2007 aims at reducing weight and improving some components. Weight reduction measures include replacing some steel components with titanium. The MVMD is also more tightly coupled with the layer's display unit of the APS, reducing electrical power requirements.



There is a version of the Light Gun, known as the L119, which has a different barrel (the slightly shorter L20 ordnance with a percussion firing mechanism) for firing the widely used US M1 type ammunition (UK 105 mm How). In British service this was only used for training at the Royal School of Artillery while stocks of 105 mm How ammunition lasted. Britain disposed of its last L119s in 2005. However, it is popular with many export customers who still rely on M1 ammunition.


The L119 was further modified and produced under licence for adoption by the United States Army.

Other Variants

During the 1970s a third variant, with the L21 ordnance, was developed and prototypes produced. This was for Switzerland and used Swiss pattern 105 mm ammunition. It did not enter service.

The Indian 105 mm light gun appears to share many features with the UK equipment. In the late 1960s India introduced the Value Engineered Abbot variant with the 105 mm Fd ammunition.


The Light Gun, either L118, L119 or carriages with both ordnances, is used by:

* (59)
* (4)
* (Army and Marines) (36 and 18 respectively)
* (6)
* (12)
* (40)
* (12)
* (20)
* (60)
* (34)
* (34)
* (39)
* (21)
* (56)
* (6)
* (31)
* (82)
* (122 + 16 saluting)
* (548)
* (12)

Production facilities were established in Australia (for Australian and New Zealand), where it is called the 'Hamel Gun', and the US as M119A1.

External links

* [http://www.armedforces.co.uk/army/listings/l0048.html British armed forces web site]
* [http://www.fas.org/man/dod-101/sys/land/m119.htm FAS M119A1 web page]

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