Army asks Raytheon to build 213 Excalibur satellite-guided artillery shells for pinpoint accuracy
PICATINNY ARSENAL, N.J., 4 Dec. 2014. Artillery munitions experts at the Raytheon Co. Missile Systems segment in Tucson, Ariz., will build 213 M982 Excalibur satellite-guided heavy artillery shells for the U.S. Army under terms of a $15.1 million contract modification announced last week.
Officials of the Army Contracting Command at Picatinny Arsenal, N.J., are asking Raytheon to develop the Excalibur smart munitions under the option 5 Excalibur increment lb production option. Excalibur first was fielded in Iraq in 2007 for urban or complex-terrain engagements in which collateral damage must be kept to a minimum.
Excalibur has a ruggedized Global Positioning System (GPS) satellite navigation receiver and uses satellite signals to help guide itself to its intended targets. The 155-millimeter artillery shell can hit targets as far away as 25 miles, or detect and attack moving targets in cities and other complex terrain after being fired at high angles and high altitudes.
The contract modification announced on 25 Nov. brings the total of this Excalibur contract to Raytheon to $738 million, if all options are exercised, Army officials say.
The M982 Excalibur precision-guided, extended-range artillery shell is a fire-and-forget smart munition with better accuracy than existing 155-millimeter artillery rounds. These shells are fin-stabilized, and are designed to glide to targets with base bleed technology, as well as with canards located at the front of the munition that create aerodynamic lift.
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Although the M982 is perhaps the longest-range artillery ammunition in the U.S. arsenal, it has the ability to be fired nearly straight up from positions in cities or hilly terrain, engage its precision-guidance system at high altitudes, and detect and attack moving targets -- even individual vehicles -- with an accuracy of better than 65 feet from the desired aim point.
The shells are guided by GPS signals and inertial measurement units, and can be fired from the M109A6 Paladin self-propelled howitzer, as well as from the M198 and M777A2 towed howitzers.
Excalibur artillery shells come in three kinds: high-explosive; smart munitions that detect and attack moving targets; and shells able to identify and attack vehicles individually in cities and other complicated terrain.
Last summer Raytheon test-fired a dual-mode GPS- and laser-guided Excalibur S for the first time. Raytheon experts fired the smart munition initialized with a GPS target location, and scored a direct hit on a different, or offset target after being terminally guided with a laser designator, company officials say.
The new variant incorporates a laser spot tracker into the combat-Excalibur Ib projectile. "The performance of Excalibur S is very impressive and I am extremely encouraged by Raytheon's commitment to the next generation of Excalibur," said Army Lt. Col. Josh Walsh, the Army's Excalibur product manager, after last summer's test.
This test validated the laser spot tracker's ability to survive the forces of firing from a 155-millimeter howitzer and then hand off from the GPS to guide to a laser spot on the designated target.
The laser spot tracker will enable the munition to attack moving targets, engage enemy artillery that have moved after firing, or change the impact point to avoid casualties and collateral damage.
"A laser-guided variant of Excalibur gives the warfighter a precision weapon that accommodates target location errors, allows continued target attack when GPS is degraded or denied, and hit targets on the move at extended ranges," says Michelle Lohmeier, vice president of Raytheon Missile Systems' Land Warfare Systems product line.
Excalibur S also paves the way for Excalibur Ib customers to upgrade their Excalibur Ib guidance and navigation units with GPS and laser spot tracker capability, Raytheon officials say.
The same capability can also be built into the 5-inch Excalibur naval variant, Excalibur N5, that Raytheon has in development. The 5-inch Excalibur N5 variant could provide surface warships with extended-range precision surface fire.
The Army also is developing a GPS-guided 120-millimeter mortar round called the Roll Control Guided Mortar (RCGM) together with the General Dynamics Corp. Ordnance and Tactical Systems segment in St. Petersburg, Fla.
On last week's contract modification, Raytheon will do the work at various locations throughout the U.S, including Arizona, California, Iowa, Ohio, Missouri, and Massachusetts, as well as overseas in Sweden and the United Kingdom, and should be finished by April 2016.