Navy Test-Fires Ship Variant of Army's Excalibur Precision Artillery Shell

Raytheon’s sea-based Excalibur N5 projectile will more than double the maximum range of conventional 5-inch munitions and provide the same accuracy as the land-based version. (Photo: U.S. Department of Defense)
Raytheon’s sea-based Excalibur N5 projectile will more than double the maximum range of conventional 5-inch munitions and provide the same accuracy as the land-based version. (Photo: U.S. Department of Defense)

The Navy quietly conducted a ground test of a precision-guided projectile the Army fires from cannons, manufacturer Raytheon revealed this week.

The test of the N5 naval variant of the Excalibur projectile took place in September at Yuma Proving Ground, Arizona, John Hobday, senior manager for advanced programs with Raytheon's Land Warfare Systems division, told Military.com on Monday.

"What we have done is leveraged and reused the components ... in a round that can be fired from the Navy 5-inch gun," Hobday said. "Part of [the test] was to establish the fact that it did work with the existing 5-inch rounds."

The N5 round was previously fired from a naval 5-inch gun in a 2015 test at Yuma. The follow-on test indicates the Navy's continued interest in the technology, although a timeframe for moving forward has not been made clear.

"What comes next is the Navy deciding where their priorities lie," Hobday said. "It's a positive indicator that they have allowed us to release this information."

The Excalibur projectile offers double the effective range of the conventional shell currently used with the MK-45 5-inch gun aboard Navy destroyers and cruisers. It can fire out to 40 kilometers, or almost 22 nautical miles, compared with the current range of just over 20 kilometers. The projectile also offers accuracy inside two meters.

And, Hobday said, it would be a smart investment for the Navy because the service will be able to "leverage other people's money" by taking advantage of an existing program. Testing, he said, shows the projectile could be used in the existing 5-inch gun without major changes being required.

If the Navy does invest in the N5, Hobday said he expects costs to stay pretty steady at roughly $70,000 per round.

The service might also be able to take advantage of an update Raytheon is developing for the Army: a laser-guided variant known as the Excalibur S that allows the round to seek and engage moving targets.

"What this becomes is almost, for the Marine Corps, an adjunct to close-air support," Hobday said.

Raytheon's announcement came on the first day of the Navy League's Sea Air Space expo near Washington, D.C., where the company conducted a briefing on the technology.

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-- Hope Hodge Seck can be reached at hope.seck@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @HopeSeck.

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