There's a video making its way around Twitter showing Ukrainian soldiers on a nighttime combat mission. Their goal is to hit a Russian tank, and their weapon is an M777 howitzer. Rather than sling-loading it with a helicopter or pulling it with a five-ton BAE FMTV truck, it looks like they found the nearest machine and made it work. In this case, it's a Ford Super Duty with a 6.0-liter Power Stroke diesel.
I'm no combat expert, but I've spent a lot of time around diesel pickups. Anyone who has will tell you the 6.0-liter Ford is a mixed bag when it comes to reliability, which you think would be pretty important in a scenario like this. I mean, imagine if you were on your way to execute a carefully planned operation and your tow rig's head gasket blows. That's exactly the type of thing that would happen to a six-oh.
Ironically, there's a series of modifications that Power Stroke owners make to their 2003-2007 trucks called "bulletproofing." This involves upgrading the water pump, installing an engine oil cooler and EGR cooler, replacing the factory head gasket, and adding aftermarket head studs. These tweaks typically fix or prevent the 6.0-liter's most common issues, which can quickly become catastrophic. We can only hope that's been done here.
While the M777 may seem like an oversized load for a truck that normal people can buy, it's nowhere near as heavy as its predecessor. BAE Systems says it weighs less than 10,000 pounds, while the M198 that came before it was more than 15,500 pounds. I reached out to The War Zone Deputy Editor Joseph Trevithick who said much of the same.
"The M777 was specifically designed to be very light for a 155mm howitzer," he told me. "The developmental program was named Lightweight 155mm Howitzer (LW155)."
Because of that, the M777 is under a diesel F-250's max tow capacity and well under an F-350's highest rating—it's hard to tell in the video which one this truck is. Either way, it's still recommended that these artillery devices are pulled by workhorses with air brakes. That just isn't always an option, especially in wartime.
"Unlike the look of a cannon/artillery piece that most people might be familiar with, with a big gun on a carriage and a trail of some sort (or a split one), you'll notice that this thing has a very odd looking carriage and is towed by the barrel end," Trevithick continued.
As someone who's never served in the military, I found that super interesting. It simply hooks up to the Super Duty's pintle hitch. That's smart thinkin'.
The video shows the soldiers loading back into the Ford once the job is done, running a dirt road with part of the crew in the bed. It might have been a little unorthodox, but hey, anything is fair game when you're in a situation like the war in Ukraine.
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