ST. PETERSBURG, Fla., 4 May 2011. First it was the satellite-guided artillery shell, and now the U.S. Army's 120 mm mortars are joining the ranks of previously unguided munitions that have been improved to offer smart-munitions precision guidance that enables these infantry-carried, tube-launched explosive shells to hit within 30 feet of their intended targets.
Infantrymen drop mortar shells into short tubes that loft the explosives in a high arc toward their targets. Historically, mortars have been unguided and notoriously inaccurate. Infantry soldiers have used these weapons to saturate relatively large areas of resistance, but have shied away from using mortars in close proximity to civilians, schools, hospitals, and friendly forces where the risk of collateral damage is great.
Smart mortar rounds could change all that. Smart munitions experts from the General Dynamics Corp. Ordnance and Tactical Systems segment in St. Petersburg, Fla., on Monday demonstrated a tactical version of the General Dynamics 120 mm Roll Control Guided Mortar (RCGM) at Yuma Proving Ground, Ariz., in cooperation with the Army's Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center (ARDEC) at Picatinny Arsenal, N.J.
The Army also is developing a GPS-guided 155 mm artillery round called the M982 Excalibur, which offers heavy artillery precision guidance at long and short ranges. Building the Excalibur smart artillery shell are experts at the Raytheon Co. Missile Systems segment in Tucson, Ariz.
The General Dynamics RCGM mortar, meanwhile, provides Army infantrymen with precision-strike capability using a Global Positioning System (GPS) receiver embedded in the mortar shell. Army mortar crews enter target coordinates into the smart mortar with a computer. The RCGM uses M934A1 mortar parts, GPS receiver, M734A1 fuze parts, and General Dynamics Roll-Controlled Fix Canard (RCFC) technology.
During tests at Yuma Proving Ground, Army and General Dynamics experts used live RCGM mortars and guided them to within about 30 feet of their intended targets from distances of about one-half to three miles. Each GPS-guided 120 mm RCGM mortar round costs less than $10,000, says Michael Wilson, president of General Dynamics Ordnance and Tactical Systems.