The Marine Corps program, called Precision Extended Range Mortar, or PERM, is aimed at developing and fielding precision-guided mortar rounds able to better pinpoint targets compared to existing mortar rounds.
The rounds are configured with a GPS antenna and an inertial measurement unit, or IMU, which tells the round how it is flying, said Raytheon program manager Ty Blanchard.
In a recent test-firing, three rounds landed within 10 meters or less of the desired target, Blanchard explained.
“Three of the GPS-guided rounds flew to the required range and hit within the required distance of their targets. One round was fired to the minimum range requirement and impacted just a few meters from an off-axis target,” Blanchard added.
The rounds were fired from a Marine Corps M327 120mm Rifled Towed Mortar. Raytheon and Israeli Military Industries are jointly developing PERM.
The idea with PERM rounds is to give a combat commander the ability to destroy an enemy target at longer ranges using fewer rounds. A typical mortar round travels about seven to eight kilometers. the PERM rounds can reach distances up to 16 kilometers, Blanchard added.
“It has an extended range so you don’t need as many mortar systems to cover a specific area. Also, it requires less personnel and fewer rounds. You don’t need to fire as many rounds to hit a target so that reduces your logistics train. The second and third order effects are massive,” Blanchard explained. “You can do a lot more pre-mission planning. There are a litany of advantages which give the commander so much more flexibility.
PERM rounds are engineered with small fins called canards designed to increase glide and extend the range of the weapon.
“We get lift from the canards so we are able to glide and reach longer ranges. We developed this round with Marine Corps funding and we will deliver 42 rounds to the Marine Corps next month,” Blanchard said.
The Marine Corps plans an upcoming shoot-off of GPS-guided mortar rounds between Raytheon and ATK, Blanchard said. The winning vendor will be awarded a procurement contract to deliver rounds to the Corps.
In the future, Raytheon plans to add semi-active laser guidance to its PERM round in order to increase the options provided to commanders.
While PERM is primarily being developed for the Marine Corps, the round is able to fire from an Army smooth-bore mortar tube as well as from a Corps rifle tube, Blanchard added.