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Army Contracts For GPS Guided Mortar Round

by Greg on April 26, 2010

After fast tracking the selection process, the Army signed a contract with Alliant Techsystems (ATK) to speed delivery of a 120mm GPS guided mortar round to troops in Afghanistan. The Accelerated Precision Mortar Initiative (APMI) was a response to an urgent request for precision mortars from commanders in Afghanistan. The new GPS rounds should be in the field by November.

– Greg

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{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

Pete April 26, 2010 at 12:27 pm

November, I thought the pull-out was timed for December?. They are leaving it a bit late to be of any use. It would be better to wait until they are in Yemen before they do proper trials. The emeny there are less sophisticated and organised, so the results shold be far better.

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Dave April 26, 2010 at 5:45 pm

The target date to start bringing down the troop levels in Afghanistan is July 2011. And that's of course all dependent upon the conditions on the ground.

Even if everything goes perfectly it would still take a couple years to completely remove all soldiers.

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Pete April 26, 2010 at 9:29 pm

OK, thanks for that. However, before then the US will be delegated to ‘safe bases’ only, very much like the ‘green zone’ in Iraq when it was simply too dangerous for their troops to travel outside the zone unless in armoured vehicles and with massive fire support. Then it was a deployment outside of the cities in more bases as they did their withdrawal (I think the euphemism is ‘drawdown’). In this way the insurgents didn’t need to attack them anymore.

Anyway, that process from what I have seen has accelerated in Afghanistan since the major US defeat at the Battle of Wanat. I doubt that the conditions on the ground will be any different than they are now, except that there will be less evidence of any US forces. Somehow I don’t think this GPS round is going to make an iota of difference except to the shareholders of General Dynamics.

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Ing3nium April 26, 2010 at 11:03 pm

"major US defeat at the Battle of Wanat"

Significant, especially for those involved, but it is a joke to classify this as a MAJOR US defeat(48 American Troops, 36 casualties). Read a bit of military history.

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Bob April 26, 2010 at 5:01 pm

Given upcoming massive cuts in defense spending, will we be able to afford enough of these rounds to make much of a difference. They have to be expensive.

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Intex April 26, 2010 at 5:28 pm

"Given upcoming massive cuts in defense spending…"

What massive cuts are those that should be given?

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Byron Skinner April 26, 2010 at 1:39 pm

Good Morning Folks,

This will put a world of hurt on the bad guys. Now fast track the 81mm round and the 60mm rounds. The 81mm GPS guided round has already been successfully tested on Hunter and Predator “Warrior” UAV’s ay White Sands, so there would seem to be not much to be done getting it to the field.

ALLONS,
Byron Skinner

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FormerDirtDart April 26, 2010 at 9:37 pm

I think a 60mm GPS round is almost pointless. The amount of explosive weight lost to affix a GPS guidance system would likely make the round almost ineffective.

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Joe April 26, 2010 at 5:48 pm

As a former 11 Charlie, I support this message.

However, GPS is no reason not to bust the whole grid square with fire when there is no question about COB's being in the line of fire. Allah might akbar, but HE and WP shakes and bakes.

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US Army Retired April 27, 2010 at 12:04 am

What brilliant IDIOT came up with this high dollar idea. Mortars are INDIRECT fire and to do anything other than provide a barrage of fire is ignorant. With the kill radius what it is the mortar don't have to be precise and was never intended to be. That's the very reason we put rifling in our gun barrels. We have many other weapons that are intentionally accurate. The mortar is not one of those guns. This is an expensive stupid idea that some comany came up with to make millions or billions off of our government. It just shows the intelligence of our leadership. This is an assbackward idea just like the oxymoron of military intelligence. Probably another one of our brilliant military officers.

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blight April 29, 2010 at 1:59 pm

Most killing firepower is not pointed directly at the enemy and fired. Bombs are pretty much indirect as they lack guidance and/or propulsion. In the old days artillery was something you slathered on a grid square like butter on toast. But we're not fighting massed forces anymore. GPS means putting a mortar round onto a house with a wall around it, or nailing a house in the middle of a compound without bringing in a SDB or a JDAM from the air, or helicopter gunships, or a risky ground attack.

What worked in the old days isn't always relevant today, or we'd still be fighting in squares with pikes.

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jsallison April 26, 2010 at 11:01 pm

As a former cav troop ammo nco anything that lets the mortars do that voodoo that they do so well with fewer resupply runs is a good thing. Means more beer, Crapgame would love it.

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Crazy77 April 27, 2010 at 4:51 pm

Dig those positive waves baby.

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Trent Telenko April 27, 2010 at 8:19 pm

The military procurement cross over point for "all smart" is when the cost of GPS guidance of a shell or bomb is about a 10-15 times the cost multiple of a proximity or multi-function time fuse (about $300-$1000 dpending on the capability and the total numerical purchase).

Once you start producing a lot of GPS "fuse replacements" at $10k-$15K per unit, the logistical pay off of being 100% smart pays for itself in terms of diminished logistical supply chain costs.

We have reached that with point 120mm mortar precision guidance kits and have passed it with 155mm precision GPS "fuse kits" and 100% purchase of guided rockets for the MLRS/HIMARS launchers.

.

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Trent Telenko April 27, 2010 at 8:19 pm

By way of background, there was a huge problem getting time and proximity fuses for artillery in the mid 1990's because the end of the Cold War in 1989 killed military fuse purchases for a few years. During that dead time, the industrial base sources for military time and proximity fuse components went off-shore.

When the Army went to buy a new generation of fuses in light of what it learned from Gulf War 1, they found this out the hard way. New mechanical time fuses were not possible and affordable hardened electronics for the role were not there yet. This significantly upped the price of the new generation of multifunction artillery fuses due to the development involved and the smaller than Cold War numbers purchased.

If you have to go that route anyway, the delta difference between an advanced multi-function fuse and a low end GPS precision guidance kit is not that much and precision guidance covers many rules of engagement sins in terms of protecting careers higher in the command chain.

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blight April 29, 2010 at 2:00 pm

That's actually pretty interesting…I did not know that. But a GPS guidance system doesn't necessarily exclude mechanical backups, which is probably why they cost even more.

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Trent Telenko April 27, 2010 at 8:20 pm

Now that the US Army's 120mm mortar shells will get a GPS fuse kit of it's own in 18 months or less, this will cause changes in Taliban tactics that will result in further calls from units in Afghanistan for 81mm and 60mm mortar GPS guidance kits inside of two years.

Once the US Army has guided 81mm and 60mm mortar shells, it will be a very short time until it's Shadow and Raven class UAV's start lugging on of the above around.

This trend has a lot of interservice implications for things like Close Air Support.

Some old military hands would still like to use slide rules and quadrants for ballistic calculations to fire dumb artillery and mortar shells, but the industrial base, and the culture recruits are drawn from, supports both mil-speced I-phone type devices and precision guidance fuses with GPS.

The key is to train for the real enemy, whether it they are Chinese, Russians, Jihadis, smart Somali pirates or Leftie politican and Media pleasing JAG officers

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Thunderhead April 27, 2010 at 8:41 pm

What happens to these rounds when the bad guys field a GPS jammer?

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jsallison April 28, 2010 at 9:14 pm

lemmesee…home on jam? change the frequency? Tanks are always a good call, but then I’m prejudiced.

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blight April 29, 2010 at 10:02 am

What kind of CEP will be possible with a GPS guidance system? I'd always thought that mortars were kind of inaccurate to begin with, being smoothbores and all. Would there be a diminishing return?

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Chris Werb January 17, 2011 at 9:40 am

Traditional mortar engagement with unguided rounds will obviously still have a place, but the value to a beleaugured base that may have terrain masking, tube availability or other issues affecting its artillery support should not be underestimated. If you can see the enemy, your first GPS/INS round out of a clear blue sky will almost certainly land within lethal radius of him. If he's in the habit of disappearing when UAVs are around, this system will mean any exposed movement within quite a few kilometres of an OP will be very dangerous. That alone is worth the price ticket. It could also cut down on the use of $80k Javelin missiles which aren't capable against targets in defilade and have a much shorter range than even the 60mm mortar.

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blight April 29, 2010 at 1:56 pm

Vietnam: Lang Vei, Kham Duc, Lima Site 85, FSB Mary Ann. There might be more, but I don't have time for an exhaustive search, and not counting outposts, patrols and the like that get wiped out, as they are often not tabulated.

World War two, considering that pretty much all forward Pacific bases were lost early on is quite a list. As for the fighting in Europe, if you outnumber the enemy in tanks and keep the fighting on the front line, is there a base to over-run?

Don't recall anything for Korea, but considering South Korea was pushed into a little pocket near Pusan, then advanced as far as the Yalu until being pushed back to near Seoul, there is certainly a possibility of bases being overrun.

Of course, we assume that the NVA/VC, the NK/"Chinese volunteers" and the combatants of WW2, as nation-states, have access to sufficient resources to fight truly contestable battles. And then we assume that insurgents normally lack the capability of even taking the fight to an American firebase.

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