It’s official. The United States has provided, or soon will be supply laser-guided artillery shells to the Ukrainian army.
The 155-millimeter-diameter Excalibur shells, which focus a spot of laser light and can hit enemy vehicles in forests, revetments and alleys, could help the Ukrainians reduce the firepower advantage of the Russian army in Ukraine.
An unnamed US Department of Defense official confirmed the Excalibur layout in comments to reporters on Monday. “So, as you know, we organize training from Ukraine, Germany and England,” the official said.
“And so, we have everything from maintenance courses that we run, continuing to train ourselves in the use of artillery systems, both HIMARS [rocket launchers] and howitzers. We’re working on the Excalibur job, and that’s our big thing.
Despite its high cost – $100,000 per shell – the Excalibur is a natural choice for the Ukrainian military as it transitions to Western-style artillery. The Ukrainians already know how to use locally made laser-guided shells with their old Soviet guns.
The Ukrainian army has at least one type of laser-guided shell: the 152 millimeter diameter Kvitnyk, compatible with the army’s 2S3 self-propelled howitzers and D-20 towed guns. A Ukrainian company has also developed a 122 millimeter laser-guided shell called Karasuk that works with the army’s D-30 towed guns and 2S1 tracked howitzers.
Any drone or ground spotter with a laser designator can flicker a target. Videos of Ukrainian artillery strikes on Russian forces clearly illustrate the effectiveness of precision shells.
Standard practice for unguided artillery is to fire a few inaccurate ranged shots and then “walk” your fire towards the target while an observer on the ground or in the air corrects your coordinates.
However, whenever you see a single shell hitting a small target without any corrections, chances are the shell was guided by a laser. In some videos of the fighting in Ukraine, the laser glare is actually visible seconds before a shell explodes.
The Ukrainian army regularly inducts hundreds of new artillery pieces donated by its foreign allies. Most of the new guns, including the 126 M-777 howitzers promised by the United States, fire 155 millimeter shells. M-777s with the correct equipment are compatible with Excalibur.
The combination of new guns and new shells could help the Ukrainians mitigate the 10-to-1 artillery advantage the Russians have in eastern Ukraine. The Russian military has its own guided shells, but most of the time the Russians just fire a lot of shells inaccurately and rely on a raw rate of fire to make up for a lack of power and accuracy.
The Ukrainian army does not have enough weapons or ammunition to match the Russian army shell. But the Ukrainians could in theory achieve the same, if not better, results by directing a small number of more powerful – or more accurate – shells to land hits at the same or even better rate than the Russians can do with theirs. , less individually. – powerful artillery.
“The new shells are more effective than their Soviet equivalents, and therefore their consumption is lower,” explained Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov.
New guide the shells are even After efficient. The Russians could fire 10 shells for each of the Ukrainians. But they’re not necessarily likely to get more hits once the Ukrainians get Excaliburs.