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Army Ships Precision Guidance Kits to Artillery Units in Afghanistan

by Matt Cox on May 10, 2013

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U.S. Army artillery units in Afghanistan now have a screw-on fuze that converts standard 155mm howitzer rounds into precision-guided indirect firepower.

The Army recently fielded the XM1156 Precision Guidance Kit, or PGK, to A and B batteries of the 2nd Battalion, 15th Field Artillery Regiment in Regional Command East.

PGK allows for more precise artillery and for fewer civilian casualties on the battlefield. The field artillery has already proven the effectiveness of expensive “smart” munitions such as the Excalibur round. Now they have a cheaper alternative, which still provides the same effective results, according to an Army press release.

“By using the PGK, fire supporters can support the maneuver commander with a more lethal and accurate form of fires,” Sgt. 1st Class Cameron Neal, the battalion fire support noncommissioned officer for 2nd Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment, said in the release. “By being more accurate, we can reinforce the maneuver commander’s confidence in his fires, allowing us to be relevant in the current fight.”

The PGK allows field artillerymen to attach a precision guidance capability to the projectiles used in the M109A6 Paladin and M777A2 Lightweight 155mm Howitzer weapons systems.

The system is compatible with two standard artillery rounds, including the M795 High Explosive and M549/A1 Rocket Assisted Projectile.

The PGK system uses built-in software, a Global Positioning System receiver, and small “canards,” or aerodynamic fins, to provide more accuracy to the round’s trajectory. As the round follows its ballistic trajectory, the GPS receiver provides the round’s current location and flight pattern.

The system compares that data to the target’s coordinates. With this “should hit” versus “will hit” data, the fins rotate to make small corrections to the ballistic trajectory that ultimately guide the projectile on a more accurate path.

Spc. Evan Clayton, an advanced field artillery tactical data system operator with 1st Platoon, Battery B, said the difference in accuracy between rounds fired with conventional fuzes and those fired with PGK were noticed immediately.

“Our rounds are always on target, that’s something we pride ourselves on as a platoon,” he said. “But watching the PGK’s impact on top of each other, round after round, was definitely impressive. The accuracy was definitely noticeable.”

The 15th Field Artillery Regiment is not the first unit to receive the PGK. Training on the equipment actually began in Afghanistan in March. Initial fielding of the system will be complete by the end of June.

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{ 42 comments… read them below or add one }

NavyGuy2007 May 10, 2013 at 12:39 am

Interesting! Now that's creative, never would have thought you could to that to a ballistic round!

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joe May 10, 2013 at 2:40 am

Essentially it's just a miniaturised version of the 'business end' of a gps-guided bomb…

Nice to see that they're continuing to make things *cheaper*, though. Excalibur is an awesome piece of kit, allowing truly ridiculous levels of effectiveness/close fire for supporting artillery, but the shells are damn expensive.

Air force goons aside, tube artillery remains an exceptionally cost-effective way of providing massive fire support on spec, and anything that makes it more efficient has to be good.

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bespoke May 10, 2013 at 12:26 pm

It's not just cheaper and smaller, it's hardened – the force on an artillery shell is supposedly something like 10,000 to 15,000 g, so designing electronics to survive this is a major challenge.

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blight_ May 10, 2013 at 3:17 pm

The R&D to get around that is why the Copperhead got so expensive…

Everyone else who's sent electronics down an artillery tube has Copperhead to thank.

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majr0d May 10, 2013 at 1:39 pm

Artillery is never impacted by weather and belongs to the guy on the ground, tremendous advantages over air.

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USS ENTERPRISE May 10, 2013 at 5:48 pm

"Never impacted by weather". Man. If the barrel of the artillery piece bends even a little, than you need to correct that. Rain on its own can make that barrel out of sync, which is weather related. Also, more importantly, what about wind?

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wpnexp May 20, 2013 at 12:35 pm

That's what the GPS and software corrects for. I suppose a hurricane would cause it to miss, but frankly can't imagine any fighting going on during a hurricane.

Rest Pal May 10, 2013 at 1:26 pm

What is even more creative and mind-blowing is the fact that after a decade of fighting, at least hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollar burned, thousands of dead soldiers, and hundreds of thousands maimed, the "number one and lone military superpower of the world" is still struggling against a group of fighters wearing sandals and living in caves, a group that have no carriers, no destroyers, no submarines, no fighter jets, not drones, no bombers, no tanks, no armored vehicles, no satellites, …

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RunningBear May 10, 2013 at 2:26 pm

Struggling no, tolerant of politicians yes.

Given the green light to obliterate the sandal wearers, the stone age can be had in hours.

Removing their R&R facilities in Pakistan would make the sandal wearers a bit weary.

Don't confuse the political tolerance for lack of ability on the battlefield.

Take off the shackles and watch them shine! :)

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USS ENTERPRISE May 10, 2013 at 9:10 pm

The story behind Korea, Vietnam, and practically every military exercise the US has been in since WWII. Let the soldiers fight. Let the folks from West Point take it all. General Lee wouldn't have been as good as he was if he let a bunch of muling politicians dictate is moves. LET THE ARMY DO ITS JOB, "POLITICIANS".

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Dixon May 13, 2013 at 10:47 pm

Time of flight of the artillery round make guidance of this nature possible. 155's can be in the air 30 to 45 seconds or more. Small adjustable canards can make a difference in the flight path in that amount of time. – FAOCS 14-70 (for those who know what that means)

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d. kellogg May 10, 2013 at 7:41 am

The intention from this program's onset was that it would allow less ammo (weight reduction) to be carried by the FCS artillery platform, as fewer rounds would be needed to neutralize a target (area effect becoming passe and precision fires on point targets becoming preferred).

It is, or at least was, envisioned to be adaptable to both the 155 and 105mm artillery in US (and surely eventually our allies') inventory.

There is even an offshoot called APMI, Advanced Precision Mortar Initiative, that ports over to 120mm mortar rounds.

Personally, I would like to see the effort expanded to be compatible with 127mm naval ammo, although the demands of the fuzing system would considerably lessen a given gun turret's rate of fire (but thern again, the precision means massed bombardment isn't needed).

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majr0d May 10, 2013 at 1:42 pm

Excaliber was part of FCS not PGK. (I worked on FCS and was responsible for many of the simulations for the Infantry school to determine FCS' potential effectiveness)

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USS ENTERPRISE May 10, 2013 at 8:04 am

JDAMs for the M777. Hmm. That could do some damage.

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scott May 10, 2013 at 1:44 pm

i think yes

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FormerDirtDart May 10, 2013 at 9:36 am

While this system doesn't have the vastly reduced CEP of the Excaliber, it certainly tightens the shot group of standard rounds.

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wpnexp May 20, 2013 at 12:59 pm

Especially out to extended ranges, where to round has more time to drift off course, and is more likely to be affected by winds. With this system, the artillery really needs to start extending the range of its cannons, to be able to attack more targets. We also need to be able to endanger enemy artillery with more than the GMLRS.

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Prodozul May 10, 2013 at 10:31 am

Can't help but think of the Looney Toon's when looking at this…

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drone May 10, 2013 at 11:48 am

Not to diminish the achievement but surely they could make it a bit more aerodynamic, surely that shape must cut down maximum range considerably

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d. kellogg May 10, 2013 at 12:18 pm

Bear in mind this is only an early iteration.
Just as with Excalibur (M982), they aren't going to stop just at this design, but refine it further as the technology matures.
As to causing range reductions, I'd anticipate that, like Excalibur, they will refine the aerodynamics and control algorithms to allow it to adjust its trajectory into a modified glide slope and slightly improve range, eventually.

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FormerDirtDart May 10, 2013 at 1:53 pm

What you are referring to as a non-aerodynamic shape is a plastic covering that provides environmental protection and linkage when setting the fuse. It is removed just prior to loading.
I direct you specifically to slide #4
http://www.docstoc.com/docs/28829847/XM1156-Preci

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drone May 10, 2013 at 3:46 pm

Ahhhh… I hadn't seen it in the buff! Thanks for clearing that up :)

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Ronnie May 10, 2013 at 6:55 pm

At last a Lonny Gunner who knows…. what's on and what's not on, who does what and who's up who and who has paid.
Armchair civvies. LOL

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Stan May 10, 2013 at 7:29 pm

As someone fully engaged in the civvy experience I resent your mischaracterization. I limit my armchair theorycrafting to military and space exploration.

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wpnexp May 20, 2013 at 1:04 pm

Excellent site, thanks for the post.

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Leeretarmy May 10, 2013 at 12:31 pm

That must be some impressive software to guide a spin stabilized round not sure of the RPM's Rotations per minute and arty round has but it must be up there.

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EW3 May 11, 2013 at 3:24 pm

You raise an important point.

I'd think it can be used only with smoothbore artillery.
The RPMs would make the GPS have a lousy fix and not sure how the forward mounted fins could handle the rotation.

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EW3 May 11, 2013 at 7:23 pm

Just realized that the tracking unit is not rotationally connected to the shell.
The shell spins but the traking unit is stationary.

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oblatt1 May 10, 2013 at 2:19 pm

This is just manufacture PR, 90% of the time in Afghanistan we are firing at empty space, this is just a system for an expensive precision miss

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wpnexp May 20, 2013 at 1:10 pm

You realize we may actually fight other enemies besides the Taliban don't you? Go see what type of weapons the Chinese are building. They are buying lots of artillery, and armor, command posts, radars. Actually, with the Chinese, extending the barrel life for tube artillery is likely going be of significant importance.

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Guest May 10, 2013 at 3:39 pm

The troops are also getting better bullets:
http://nation.time.com/2013/05/09/better-bullets/

I wanted to send this to this site's tip page:
http://defensetech.org/tip-us-off/

but it only allows one submission per user.

Is there a way to send additional tips/links?

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FormerDirtDart May 10, 2013 at 4:13 pm

I believe that ammo was initially introduced in theater in like the late summer/fall of 2010.

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DonM May 13, 2013 at 7:19 pm

With greater precision, there is an opportunity for similar lethality overmatch with a smaller caliber. A standard caliber for Mortar, Artillery, Tanks main cannon, and air defense rounds would permit each platform to perform multiple missions, reducing the need to reorganize and cross attach between missions

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SFP May 23, 2013 at 2:38 am

While this system doesn’t have the vastly reduced CEP of the Excaliber, it certainly tightens the shot group of standard rounds.

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unblocked June 6, 2013 at 4:16 pm
The Friends July 9, 2013 at 5:58 am
mcmリュック August 19, 2013 at 11:09 pm
halloween pumpkin backdrops January 3, 2014 at 9:47 am
nice guy May 10, 2013 at 9:50 pm

No offense intended but I believe RB is just joking and you are a naïve idiot in actually taking it seriously. What Rest Pal said is plain truth. Do you dispute any part of it?

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d. kellogg May 14, 2013 at 7:43 am

Excalibur works, albeit expensive when compared to PGK.
(think Copperhead of the current generation: yes it works, but there are cheaper alternatives.)

As to PGK NOT being part of FCS: any of the early discussions and their PowerPoint presentations I've seen generally depicted PGK being fired from tiple-7 howitzers or the NLOS-C, moreso than being shown as something slated en masse to feed the Paladins.
Then again, NLOS-C was "new sexy" much like F-22 and F-35 to the USAF, so don't be showing all the new tech can still be fired from old hardware.

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wpnexp May 20, 2013 at 12:55 pm

Honestly Adin, majrOd coud have played a part in getting the program cancelled instead of blindly promoting it. Did you think of that? Also, even cancelled, the program will likely bring forward systems that will serve the military properly. Think before you post.

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wpnexp May 20, 2013 at 12:48 pm

Yes, I do. Restore Palestine (his real handle) has a adgenda to denigrate and demoralize us. Except he has been on the losing side of history since a young man named Canaan tried to humilate an honorable man named Noah. Rest Pal thinks civilized people should use raped women, the mentally ill and children to be suicide bombers to do their fighting. The stone age can be brought to them in minutes if we wanted to. Rest Pal doesn't understand grace and mercy when he sees it.

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