Raytheon EXCALIBUR Goes from Strength to Strength

Shaped Trajectory Capability Vastly Enhances Utility

 

When the US Army called on Raytheon to solve an urgent operational requirement for precision fire effect a dozen or more years ago, few could then have realised what a ‘magic sword’ the resulting EXCALIBUR round would prove to be. With over 10,000 rounds manufactured to date – and over 1,500 fired in anger by US (both Army and Marine Corps) and Allied troops – EXCALIBUR has proven its worth, improved its effectiveness in three successively-improved variants and given the user huge savings as technology insertion and economies of scale have had a beneficial effect on pricing.

The first issue that strikes the investigative observer is range. From 39-calibre tubes (as prevalent throughout the US forces), EXCALIBUR is routinely achieving ranges of 40km, with an average impact less than 2m from the target, according to Paul Daniels, Senior Manager, International and Growth Programs, Precision Indirect Fires at Raytheon Missile Systems in Tucson, AX. “That is the longest range for 155mm projectiles in the US military and it’s difficult to do better in terms of accuracy since that is about the limit available when using GPS,” he told Mönch Online News (MON).

Internationally, users with 52-calibre tube artillery are achieving ranges of 50km or more. The US Army is now investigating the use of longer-tubed artillery – the Extended Range Cannon Artillery (ERCA) programme features a 58-calibre tube, with which Raytheon has, “fired [EXCALIBUR] out to 62.5km and – with some improvements I can’t talk about – we see a path to 70km,” Mr Daniels told MON.

The second issue, watching footage from the recent Lot 14 firing acceptance tests, [see video below] is that the round has a very nearly vertical angle of fall onto the target. The twin benefits of that are optimisation of terminal effect – explosive effect and fragments are directed directly towards the target rather than into adjacent space – and reduced potential for collateral damage. “We have seen some ingenious uses for using EXCALIBUR’s precision – such as taking out a sniper position on a specific rooftop corner, for example,” Mr Daniels stated.

 

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Far and away the most impressive issue, however, is what the EXCALIBUR Shaped Trajectory capability brings to the battlefield. “The army wanted the capability to allow the user to select the angle of attack and the angle of fall, to be able to attack targets off-axis and masked by terrain or structures,” the Senior Manager explained. And what that does – or can do – is little short of mind-boggling, as the video below eloquently demonstrates. Of course, there is a trade-off between capability and range – since the extreme manoeuvrability the round demonstrates in this mode demands use of accrued energy, this type of attack profile is impossible at the extended ranges quoted above. But the ability itself is a paradigm shift in precision indirect fires capability – and the fact that Raytheon went from concept to capability in under six months is testament to the deep well of experience and know-how it can draw upon.

 

 

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All this comes at a cost: but not an additional cost. The Shaped Trajectory capability is a software upgrade – an upgrade administered via an external port and requiring no disassembly. The US Army is currently engaged in applying the upgrade to its inventory of EXCALIBUR 1B rounds and the capability has added further impetus to the strong interest coming from the global market, according to Daniels. And, although there is a current negotiation under way for future productions lots, the price at $66,500 per round has been the same for the last six years, Mr Daniels told MON – which compares very favourably with the original price of $170,000 twelve years ago.

There is no other round of this type that can operate in a GPS-denied environment – and nobody else currently has a shaped trajectory-type capability,” he concluded.

A fuller version of MON’s interview with Mr Daniels will appear as the Technology: the Final Frontier column in MILITARY TECHNOLOGY’s April issue.

 

Publish date

02/22/2019

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