Military


XM982 Excalibur
Precision Guided Extended Range Artillery Projectile

The Excalibur 155mm Precision Guided Extended Range Artillery Projectile, also known as the M982 ER DPICM (Extended Range Dual Purpose Improved Conventional Munitions) Projectile, is a fire and forget, smart munition. It is intended to provide the Army with a capability to attack all three key target sets, soft and armored vehicles, and reinforced bunkers, out to ranges exceeding current 155mm family of artillery munitions. With its accuracy and increased effectiveness, the Excalibur was designed to reduce the logistical burden for deployed ground forces. It would also provide lower risks of collateral damage through its concentrated fragmentation pattern, increased precision and near-vertical descent.

Excalibur is a family of precision-guided, extended-range modular projectiles incorporating three unique payload capabilities divided into Block configurations. As designed, Block I consists of high-explosive, fragmenting, or ting unitary munitions to enhance traditional fire support operations with increased range, improved accuracy, and reduced collateral damage against personnel, light materiel, and structure targets. Block II consists of smart munitions to search, detect, acquire, and engage fleeting and short-dwell targets common to open-terrain battlefields. Block III consists of discriminating munitions to selectively identify and engage individual vehicular targets in urban environments by distinguishing specific target characteristics. It was also expected that Excalibur's precision capabilities would be used by Future Combat System (FCS) Non-Line-of-Sight (NLOS) Cannon units to provide close support to maneuver units in urban or complex terrain. Digitized lightweight 155mm howitzer systems would be used to develop and test Excalibur's capabilities before FCS NLOS Cannon is fielded.

The Excalibur development team combined US guidance expertise with Swedish airframe experience. The projectile would employ Global Positioning System (GPS)-aided inertial guidance and navigation, free spinning base fins, four-axis canard airframe control, base bleed technology, and a trajectory glide to achieve increased accuracy and extended ranges beyond 30 km. The FCS NLOS Cannon would incorporate an inductive fuze setter to transfer target and fuze data to the integral fuze.

Teamed with Raytheon Systems Company, General Dynamics Ordnance and Tactical Systems was tasked with developing the Army's new 155mm guided projectile. The XM982 utilized a modular concept to provide a multiple warhead payload capability. In addition to submunitions, the projectile can carry two SADARM sensor fused submunitions or a single Unitary warhead. The XM982 as designed was expected to provide 40% greater range and increased effectiveness over the existing M864.

The XM982 projectile began development at the US Armament Research, Engineering and Development Center's (ARDEC) Artillery and Mortar Division of the Fire Support Armaments Center. The government's projectile design combined the technologies of base burn and rocket assist to achieve significant increases in range capability and would, potentially, be the longest range artillery projectile in the US Army inventory. It was designed to contain 85 dual purpose XM80 grenades with XM234 Self Destruction Fuzing providing both anti-materiel and anti-personnel effects while virtually eliminating hazardous duds.

The XM982 Extended Range Projectile was initially developed jointly by Raytheon TI Systems' [RTIS] (Guidance and navigation systems), Primex (Projectile design and manufacturing), and KDI (Fuzing) to deliver a state-of-the-art, high performance, extended range weapon which will result in substantial savings to the U.S. Army. Weapons to be equipped included the towed M198 and XM777 (Joint Light Weight), and the M109A6 Paladin and XM2001 Crusader self-propelled howitzers (SPHs).

In addition to overall E&MD program management responsibility, RTIS would design, develop, and manufacture the guidance and control for the XM982 round. PRIMEX Technologies, Inc., in St. Petersburg, Florida (formerly Olin Ordnance), and KDI in Cincinnati, Ohio, were major subcontractors to RTIS for the XM982. PRIMEX would supply the projectile structure and payload. KDI would be supply the XM982 projectile safe and arm device and DPICM fuzing.

The projected features included:

  • Low cost per kill.
  • Increased Survivability by allowing greater stand-off from threats and faster defeat of potential threats.
  • Extended Range 155mm Artillery Projectile:
    Nonballistic flight path.
    To achieve a range of at least 37km when fired from 39-caliber howitzers.
    To achieve a range of at least 47km when fired from the 52-caliber ordnance fitted to the XM2001 Crusader.

  • Fire-and-Forget GPS/INS (global positioning system/inertial navigation system) Guidance.
  • Modular Payload:
    64 XM85 DPICMs
    2 SADARMs (Sense and Destroy Armor)
    Unitary

  • Modular Design:
    XM982 would have the same guidance and tail sections for all three warhead options.
    Also would use the same technology with the GPS receiver and guidance package that was used on the XM171 ERGM Program.

The M982 round was intended for use on the planned Crusader self-propelled howitzer. While that system was in development it was to be used on existing platforms, such as the M109A6 self-propelled and M198 towed howitzers. The cancelation of the Crusader eventually turned focus on the use of the round with the planned NLOS-C element of the FCS program. This would be in addition to existing M109A6 and M198 howitzers in service, and M777 towed howitzers that were brought into service in the years after the Crusader program had been cancelled. The M777 howitzer required a software update to its fire control system to be able to fire the M982, meaning that only howitzers brought up to M777A2 standard or above were capable of utilizing this capability.

Excalibur was fielded in Iraq with its first use in combat in the third quarter of FY07. Reports said the munition performed well in combat operations. Development of the muunition had in fact been accelerated to provide this capability to warfighters who had requested ways to achieve more accurate artillery fires in light of nature of operations being conducted in Iraq and Afghanistan. In fact Army planners had long forseen benefits to such rounds. Excalibur would be the munition of choice when the following requirements or conditions might exist: Collateral damage must be minimized, complex terrain limits conventional projectiles' effectiveness, the target is beyond the range of conventional cannon projectiles, precise fires on an objective must be maintained to allow friendly assaulting troops to close to within 150 meters of their indirect fires, or tactical or survivability considerations require platforms to fire from compartmentalized terrain (forest, defiles, urban areas, etc.), in a direction other than directly on line with the target.

Commanders would be able to engage targets with the Excalibur unitary in urban operations, making the most of the round's accuracy to limit collateral damage to the immediate target area. For example, it would be the optimum munition when the enemy uses "hugging tactics," that is when they might operate on the periphery of schools, hospitals, churches or congregations of innocent civilians. Excalibur's accuracy and fuzing options would allow commanders to engage targets protected by terrain variations. Excalibur could often be the only cannon projectile able to range a given target. Lastly, the self-guiding projectile would travel nearly vertically (high-angle) as it leaves the firing platform and then alter its flight path (left/right, up/down) to reach the target location.




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