Thursday, March 31, 2016

Smart Fuses Make Smart Artillery Affordable

I worked on the PGK project while I was at Yuma Proving Ground.  A year ago, this article was published in
WASHINGTON — The US Army has awarded Orbital ATK with a $120 million contract modification to make kits that turn conventional 155mm artillery into a near-precision shell.

The kits are meant to limit civilian casualties and collateral damage, allowing the use of artillery where it would have otherwise been ill-advised — in a congested area or near friendly forces.The guidance fuzes would be fielded to the Army, the Marine Corps, Australia and Canada. Deliveries are scheduled to begin in early 2016, following low-rate initial production, which began in January.

In 2006, ATK — which has since merged with Orbital — was awarded one of two technology demonstration contracts from the US Army to develop the XM1156 precision guidance kit (PGK) for the 155mm howitzer artillery system. In 2013, it won a $58 million contract, with a base requirement and two options for a year of full-rate production; the recent award was option one.
120 million is a nice chunk, but it is not much in the overall DOD budget.  These kits are well worth having.  The article claims that the fuses only cost about 10K each.  That would be 100 fuses per million dollars, or 12,000 fuses total.  I expect the price to drop with mass production.  This is already a significant price drop from the Excaliber round, which I also spent an extensive number of hours supporting.  The Excaliber round current cost of production is about 68K or about seven times as expensive as the PGK.

The range for both of the rounds is about 25-30 km.  I can envision a Tom Clancy type novel, consisting of the consequences of jihadis obtaining a couple of M777 howitzers and 50 of the PGK fuses with the shells to go with them, and how they would be deployed in the U.S.A.

Here is a video of the Precision Guidance Kit (PGK) to make smart shells out of “dumb” standard rounds.

Link to video

It is a great feeling to see that some of the many, many hours I put in on RDT&E is paying off.

Think of how few rounds you need, in comparison with the massive artillery barrages in WWII, when you have this sort of accuracy at your fingertips.
“During this demonstration, PGK delivered 90 percent of rounds fired within five meters accuracy of the target positioned 27 kilometers from the gun position.”
 It probably costs 10K just to get a plane off the ground, not to include the risk to pilot and the plane.

A simple “dumb” round costs about $500. So you can have 21 “dumb” rounds for 1 PGK. But that does not consider the costs of shipping those rounds, transporting them in a combat situation, and storing and guarding them.
Nor are you assured that 21 “dumb” rounds will achieve what you are likely to get with 1 PGK. You have to fire to see where the dumb rounds hit, then adjust them into the target, which gives the target time to react, disperse, get under cover, start counter battery fire...

The over all cost and effectiveness figures are all on the side of the PGK.

There are some times when you need massed fire.  You do not need precision munitions for that.  But have enough precision munitions, and there is a good chance you will not have to use mass fires, nearly as much.

 ©2016 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice is included.
Link to Gun Watch


John Dough said...

Might wanna re-think that maximum range thing:

Anonymous said...

This is what the rest of the world (inner city homie sights spray and pray included) has yet to figure out about serious, Liberty loving and Freedom defending Americans.

We aim. We forever strive to improve our aim. We only want to eliminate the target we aim at and seek to dispense with it absent unneeded and unwarranted damage. 1991 was the first time the world got to see it on a large scale and they still have yet to pick their jaws up off the floor.

I suspect that jaw still being on the floor has something to do with stories like this one. We just keep right on improving our aim.....