Artillery vehicle

Inside the army mission to build a course correction artillery

For years, enemy armored vehicles, troop formations and weapon systems have been deliberately concealed for the specific purpose of evading US Army precision-guided weapons such as guided Excalibur artillery shells. by GPS.

A proven success since its first use in Iraq in 2007, Excalibur has been used to locate enemy targets within one meter thirty kilometers away, changing the paradigm of ground warfare. Enemies have now learned this ability and have taken decided action to counter precision strikes. Hiding in areas obscured by terrain can make it extremely difficult for Excalibur shells to attack and destroy certain enemy targets, as GPS-guided shells typically follow a parabola-like trajectory and descend on stationary targets.

Now the military is changing that in an accelerated fashion with the development of a new advanced 155 millimeter artillery round called the Shaped Trajectory, a projectile capable of adjusting course in flight and changing direction as needed to destroy otherwise obscured or inaccessible. targets.

“We want to get to the point where we have targeted aiming munitions. Counterintuitively, this lowers the cost per kill. It’s going to be expensive ammunition, but when you know it’s going to seek out and destroy the target you’re shooting at, it certainly reduces the amount of ammunition you have to fire at it,” said Major General John Rafferty, director. of the Army Future Command’s cross-functional long-range sniper team, the national interest in an interview.

Course-correcting rounds can also greatly increase attack speed, as a target can be hit more quickly and accurately without the forces needed to bombard or overwhelm an area with artillery fire.

“It helps reduce the timeline from sensor to shooter. You need a certain level of fidelity. You need to know that the target is what you think it is. You might not need to have all the details that add extra time to analysts. We can close the loop from sensor to gunner much faster, which is so important, but these targets often require ammunition that can correct their trajectory,” Rafferty said. .

Instead of being limited or confined to a standard guided round path, which descends in a direct and known manner, the “shaped path” round can be pre-programmed by a spotter to perform a “high GU turn”, altering its path. course to destroy obscured or hidden targets, the developers explained to the national interest.

“The projectile itself has fins and canards that allow it to steer,” Rafferty said.

Therefore, if a drone beyond the range of enemy ground fire uses high-fidelity cameras to find a hidden target, a data link can send the real-time video to ground maneuver, command and control with mechanized units in position to fire a “shaped trajectory” course correction round to destroy the target. This not only shortens the time between sensor and shooter, but also greatly improves survivability by allowing ranged precision attacks beyond line of sight.

The Army is already using some of its “shaped trajectory” Excalibur shells as part of an ongoing process of exploring and developing a family of advanced 155mm artillery shells designed to extend range, Change course in flight to hit hidden targets, attack moving targets, and customize explosion effects to destroy enemy armor.

Rafferty explained that as part of this broad effort, the military is also developing an enhanced lethality version of Excalibur called “Hit-to-Kill”, which will have a target-seeking sensor and use maneuverability to correct course. and head towards the target to Destroy it.

Kris Osborn is the defense editor for the national interest. Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a highly trained expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army – Acquisition, Logistics and Technology. Osborn also worked as an on-air military anchor and specialist on national television networks. He has appeared as a guest military pundit on Fox News, MSNBC, The Military Channel, and The History Channel. He also holds an MA in Comparative Literature from Columbia University..

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