Making Arty Smarter

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The two companies competing to design a more precise way for the Army to put artillery on bad guys wrapped up a shoot-off last month at Yuma Proving Ground, Ariz.

BAE Systems and Alliant Techsystems are working with the Army to design and field a low-cost, low-tech way to make dumb artillery rounds smarter. Its called the Precision Guidance Kit, and the long and short of it is its basically a fuze screwed on to the end of a standard 155mm or 105mm round that houses a GPS guidance package and a series of spoiler-like fins to help it home in on its target.

The intent is to have a 50-meter Circular Error Probable with the PGK system. Later, the Army wants an even more precise artillery guidance kit that delivers a 10-meter CEP.

According to BAE:

The testing included 20 rounds of various test configurations including fully autonomous GPS guided rounds. BAE Systems fired M549 Rocket Assisted Projectiles (RAP) to a range of about 20.5 kilometers. All test objectives were adhered with all rounds functioning properly. The GPS guided rounds demonstrated the ability to acquire GPS within the desired time and the ability to maneuver within the required 50-meter CEP.

As Maj. John Moorhead, munitions branch chief at the Armys Training and Doctrine Command, wrote in the Jan.-Feb. issue of Field Artillery Magazine:

Commanders will be able to select PGK as the munition of choice when mitigation of collateral damage is a concern at extended ranges and precision munitions are neither available nor feasible. In addition, improved accuracy with PGK could lessen the logistics resupply burden. Depending on the mission, units could sustain fires longer without ammo resupply. This would free transportation assets for other missions on the battlefield

PGK will provide commanders the option of scalable precision to more closely match the round to the task. Instead of firing large numbers of projectiles to attack a target as specified today in AFATDS, the commander will be able to choose PGK to tighten up the shot group and achieve the desired effects with fewer rounds. Using PGKs, units will be able to service more targets in the same span of time, resulting in a better overall efficiency and use of UBLs. Firing fewer rounds also will decrease the crews susceptibility to counter-battery fires, increasing their survivability

Heres how the system will work:

Handling and storing PGK will differ very little from other fuzes; PGK will have the same dimensions as a standard NATO fuze. The only exception is it may require special handling if the wing-like control surfaces are exposed and fixed in the final solution.

Upon receipt of a fire mission requesting PGK, Cannoneers mate PGK to the projectile in a similar manner as with current fuzes. Using the enhanced portable inductive artillery fuze setter (EPIAFS), Cannoneers set/load (program) the PGK the same as any inductively set fuze, transferring all mission-essential data (fuze mode, howitzer and target location) necessary for PGK to function reliably.

It takes less than 10 seconds to pass all the fuze mode and GPS mission data to PGK. Once fired, the PGK-equipped projectile acquires GPS during flight and follows a normal ballistic trajectory to apogee (top of flight path) where the processor begins calculating the estimated miss distance to determine when to deploy the control surfaces (brakes or canards). At the optimal time during the descending leg of the trajectory, the control surfaces deploy and begin correcting the flight path.

Control surface deployment time is critical. The processor estimates the miss distance and uses the surfaces to make small corrections to the trajectory, guiding it to the intended aim point

And the anticipated timeline:

...The PM anticipates fielding of Increment 1 sometime in FY09. PGKs acquisition strategy will follow an incremental developmental approach to prove the concept. Once the program achieves a 50-meter CEP, production will begin for limited quantities of Increment 1 for fielding while development begins on Increment 2.

A long-range goal for Increment 3 is to leverage the 155-mm PGK technologies for PGK use with 105-mm projectiles. The initial version of PGK may be robust enough to meet the 105-mm howitzer requirements, but only time and testing will determine its compatibility...

Its about time the Army made their dumb artillery less, well, dumb. Maybe fielding the PGK in numbers will give artillery units a needed rebound from the provisional jobs theyre increasingly tasked with in todays counterinsurgency fight.

BAE Systems has some cool video of their version of the PGK with some downloadable grafix as well.

-- Christian

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