Army Howitzers to Fire $70k Rounds

“In a test firing last year, several Excalibur rounds fired at a distance of 30 miles landed within one meter of their targets, on average,” usatoday.com reports. “It achieves this extraordinary range by gliding on wings at the apex of its firing arc, while the extraordinary accuracy comes via GPS guidance.” How great is that? Don’t answer! Because each 155-millimeter Excalibur howitzer round cost $70k. USA Today dutifully repeats maker Raytheon’s William Tell anecdote (“nine times out of 10, it’ll nail the younger Tell somewhere between socks and eyebrows”) and the argument that the price is actually a bargain . . .

Paladins today ordinarily carry 39 unguided howitzer rounds, which are produced by arms makers including General Dynamics (NYSE: GD ) and Esterline (NYSE: ESL ) and cost about $1,000 each. But because such rounds are “dumb,” Army experts estimate it can take anywhere from 10 to 50 unguided rounds to destroy a target that Excalibur can take out in a single shot. So on average, a Paladin firing unguided rounds might have to nearly empty its magazine to destroy a target that — if armed with Excaliburs — it could destroy with just one shot.

Replacing dumb rounds with Excaliburs . . . should permit a Paladin to destroy targets faster and destroy more targets, and to cause less collateral damage in the process. And because the Paladin won’t go through its ammunition as quickly, the Army won’t need to load, ship, unload, and reload as much ammunition — saving vast amounts of money up and down the supply chain. When you consider the efficiencies Excalibur permits on the supply chain “tail,” the Army may very well end up saving money by buying Excaliburs — even at 70 times the cost of a conventional howitzer round.

Right. The Army “may” save money with the Excalibur rounds. And the odds are high, because the Army is really good at saving money. Especially when it comes to ammo. Anyway….Raytheon. Buy! [h/t SS]

comments

  1. avatar Cameron S. says:

    And we need this because?

    1. avatar Gene says:

      I was just wondering this, too. Serious question: just how accurate and precise do these need to be in a practical sense? That accuracy is impressive, but would double or triple the precision potentially compromise a mission?

      1. avatar Xanthro says:

        Yes, it would.

        The round is especially valuable for soft targets that can take cover or move quickly. The enemy quickly learns to take cover and spread out at the sound of planes, within seconds of the first round landing, the ability to destroy the target is greatly reduced, as the target has taken cover and spread out.
        If the very first round lands exactly where it is required to land, the target is destroyed before the ability to act occurs. That is what you want.

        1. avatar Hannibal says:

          Yeah except if the target happens to move anyway this will miss them and instead of repeating you just blew 70k…

        2. avatar Gene says:

          That makes sense. Much appreciated.

        3. avatar Dr. Kenneth Noisewater says:

          Well, depending on the blast radius they’d have to move pretty quickly.

          Plus, depending on the situation, this round will likely replace Tomahawk missiles, which are a lot more expensive. How’s the cost compare to, say, the JDAM upgrade kits for 500lb bombs delivered by drone?

        4. avatar John Kersh says:

          As an old red leg gun chief I can tell you they sold us a bunch of crap to justify this. An 8″ artillery round before the day of GPS could take out a 50 gallon drum at 15 miles and do it in a very few rounds with a good crew and FDC. They claimed we would take 50 rounds to hit the target, This is a total fabrication.

          I don’t believe we needed a $68,000 round. Plus take a look at how much we use artillery in today’s environment. Field artillery, “we support the line”. Well when there is no “line” you use aircraft think about it.

      2. avatar Bob Clarke says:

        Gene, Let’s just say your neighbor was a terrorist and the military decides that they have to be eliminated but you and your family can’t be evacuated. Now unless your name is “Collateral Damage” you tell me. Just how important the ability to hit within one meter of their intended target is?

        1. avatar Gene says:

          I don’t know what the various radius’ are for blast, shock, or shrapnel, so I dunno. I’m not familiar with artillery (I’m an AF/SAC brat), so I was wondering how significant a yard or three is in terms of the big kaboom and it’s effectiveness.

        2. avatar BlueBronco says:

          The U.S. Military damn well better not be firing on American Citizens on American soil.

        3. avatar int19h says:

          If you’re firing a round that can land exactly where you want it to with 1 meter precision, I would assume that you’d also make it carry a load that is more or less contained to a comparable volume.

    2. avatar S.CROCK says:

      Think about this on the bright side. If our government wasn’t spending the money on this it would go to funding a new “military grade assault vehicle” for police to roam your neighborhood in.

    3. avatar scoolbubba says:

      Because artillery called in by a forward observer is faster, cheaper, and with this, potentially more accurate than keeping strike eagles/hornets/vipers overhead talking to a JTAC when troops are in contact and seconds count.

      1. avatar dh34 says:

        Exactly. if you think $70K is expensive per round, try close air support. On call CAS, with LGBs as the weapon of choice makes this a bargain. Plus this gives an option for airstrike precise munitions at the Brigade level.

        Any time you can use one or two rounds of precision ordnance it’s a good thing. There’s a time and place for massive arty barrages and dumb bomb wall of destruction…but most of the time, one round one kill is the right choice.

      2. avatar Geoff PR says:

        At 50 km, what’s the TOT on a round like that?

      3. avatar Redleg says:

        Artillery can fire 24/7/365, it’s not hampered by the weather like close air support is. When the infantry is requesting fires, it’s because they need it RIGHT NOW. I want to give them what they need as accurately and as fast as humanly possible. If this projectile will allow me to do so with less rounds required to suppress and destroy the enemy which = less time required until “end of mission” = less time that the infantry is being shot at = saving the lives of my brothers in arms in the process, then I’m all for it!

        1. avatar 2hotel9 says:

          Problem is higher command will deny use of the more expensive rds cuz they are afraid of being labeled as wasters of finite resources, a consideration that gunbunnies and grunts never entertain while the fire is flying both ways and all officers above major obsess about. You know the drill!

    4. Having been intimately involved in this program for a good bit of my career, I can give you a short answer. Logistics. Think of the enormous costs, far beyond the simple costs of rounds involved, in storing, transporting, and maintaining dumb rounds, and that is when the logistical paths are uncontested. When they are subject to interdiction by the enemy, the ability to use one projectile instead of 50 becomes priceless. “Dumb” rounds also do not have the range of this weapon, and create far more collateral damage.

      1. avatar Yellow Devil says:

        “Amateurs talk tactics, professionals discuss logistics.”

        1. avatar Redleg says:

          True that.

    5. avatar Larry says:

      If you have to ask “We need this round because?” Because if you’re on the sharp pointy end of the stick being shot at from some rag head who’s dug into a bunker and you can’t stop them, this round will hit the bunker, do over pressure and case the bad guy’s ear drums to meet- in the middle of their head. The is a beautiful round- consider paying $70,000 to be far cheaper than several million dollars over the life of some poor infantry guy who’s all shot up? Pay the $70K- and at 30 miles it’s accurate to within 1 meter? Oh hell yeah! Considering that the average American soldier/Marine will be at least 500 meters away.

    6. avatar BR549 says:

      …… we need it because the globalists need SOMEONE to develop these weapons, and who knows, after the Clintons, Bushes, and Obama have finished giving all our secrets away, those weapons will be used by the UN mercenaries right here in River City.

  2. avatar Southern Cross says:

    And you can hear the cry of anguish from the Government Accounting Office when the order to “Fire For Effect” is given.

    1. avatar John says:

      ^ This.

    2. avatar Larry says:

      And we all know what John Rambo and Colonel Troutman said in “Rambo III”- “Well Sir, we can’t surround them,,,” and the Colonel says “Don’t be flip, John” and then John Says,,,,,”F’m” remember? =D

      No war has ever been won by the beancounters. Every war has been won by some poor rifleman down in the mud taking out the bad guys one bullet at a time. During Vietnam, the average 500 pound Mark 82 bomb cost something like $590 dollars. During the same time period, a bullet for a sniper cost 13 cents. Hence the Marine Corp slogan of “13 cent killers”

  3. avatar Ralph says:

    The Paladin must be an amazing weapon of war, since it’s capable of hitting the enemy with either artillery shells or money.

    1. avatar full.tang.halo says:

      The greatest of projectiles…

  4. avatar Scrubula says:

    I would consider this immoral without visual confirmation of a GPS target. I can just imagine these getting slightly off coordinates and landing 200 meters off target because of human error.

    1. avatar Mark N. says:

      And how, might I ask, is that any different than a current artillery shell? GIGO is just as much in effect whether it is a smart or a dumb munition. Friendly fire is a common occurrence in battle, whether it is bombs, mortars, tank munitions, rockets, or artillery shells. The longer the range, the greater the likelihood of error. I would assume, however, that since this is a guided munition, it may allow for the use of a laser designator, and not just GPS.

  5. avatar Broken 3ight says:

    You know, I sometimes miss the good old days when civilized nations would just hand a conscript a cheap 50 year old rifle, point him in the direction of the enemy, and blow a whistle into his ear till he starts running. Much more cost effective way of waging war.

    1. avatar Taylor TX says:

      I love how you threw civilized in there haha

    2. avatar JDub says:

      …but “civilized” nations never trade blood for treasure.

  6. avatar Scot says:

    Great idea, but in the event of a real war, against a peer or near peer, GPS will be gone.

    1. avatar Mark N. says:

      Debatable. All the major potential combatants rely on GPS now.

      1. avatar Scot says:

        Maybe, but I wouldn’t bet on the satellites not being targets, once the open signals get degraded again. Unless every combatant has their own set of GPS satellites.

        1. avatar LTC F says:

          GPS is very easy to jam. Doesn’t even take a near competitor. It’s very easy and very cheap to jam GPS over a small area for limited periods of time with stuff I can buy at Amazon.

        2. avatar John Smith says:

          Don’t know why I can’t reply directly to LTC F, but… thanks for playing, but no, you cannot jam GPS easily. You can jam it for omnidirectional antennas on the ground, but NOT for directional antennas pointed up– and thousands of feet above your jamming antenna.

          Got to get a jamming drone high over the target, with your jamming antenna pointed down at the shell for that.

        3. avatar Jus Bill says:

          Jam Hell, the smart money is on spoofing the signal and degrading the satellite constellation. The signals are unencoded, and the satellites unprotected.

        4. avatar LTC F says:

          I don’t need to jam the shell. I need to jam the observer. If the observer doesn’t know where he is to one meter, he can’t tell where the target is within one meter, so the precision round is worthless.

          Spoofing is harder than jamming. Commercial GPS is not encoded, military GPS is. They use the same satellite constellation and normally there is no error included in the commercial signal…but if we choose to we can induce error in the commercial signal. It won’t matter to the Tom Tom in your F150 if you’re off by five meters. To a guidance system on a projectile being off five meters at every waypoint means your precision guided weapon is no longer all that precise.

      2. avatar Scot says:

        I sure hope that the military is still teaching how to use a map and compass anyway.

        1. avatar Matt Richardson says:

          Can’t speak for everybody, but the Army is.

        2. avatar Scot says:

          Glad to hear it, I got out in ’80, and remember both various orienteering courses, and watching a artillery TOC run a call for fire drill.

        3. avatar Redleg says:

          They are. My daughter just graduated from her Army ROTC Leader Training Course at Fort Knox this morning and a big portion was old school, traditional land navigation. She’s working towards being a doctor but still had to learn land nav.

      3. avatar int19h says:

        Except for Russia, which relies on GLONASS.

        (and yes, it is fully operable now, with 24 satellites in orbit)

    2. avatar Geoff PR says:

      Yup. Denying GPS will be high priority. MEMS INS is being worked on currently.

      Set it, and forget it.

  7. avatar Gunr says:

    Is this suppose to replace drones? Do we need both?
    Looking at it from the Governments point of view, Who cares, as long as it doesn’t effect our lavish pay and health benefits, the taxpayer will pick up the tab! Ho, Ho, SOS, different day.

  8. avatar Mike says:

    This is rather late, we’ve been firing Excalibur shells from the new M777 towed howitzers for a few years now; the M109 Paladin is quite old and due for replacement. They (Excalibur shells) generally aren’t used because of their cost, and because situations where they would be most useful are not common.

    1. avatar John G. says:

      The M109 was “due for replacement” when I started my career at The Bomb Company back in the 80’s. I wouldn’t hold your breath on it being replaced in the US inventory any time soon. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/M109_howitzer

    2. avatar Xanthro says:

      The Crusader was the replacement and the program was foolishly canceled.

    3. avatar Redleg says:

      Yeah, they’ve polished the hell out of that turd. I was on an old M109A2 in Germany in the 80’s. Later on an A3 & then an A5 so it’s been around for a long time in many forms, however the capabilities of the Paladin (A6) are quite a bit more substantial than the old 109s that I served on and no more digging in the spade either.

      I miss the old M110 8″ howitzer though, now that was a blast to fire!

      1. avatar 2hotel9 says:

        I did time in 2/12 FA at Ft Sill just as they were turning out the lights on 8in. Sad to see that big bitch go.

        8in SP, The Gang With The Biggest Bang!

  9. avatar Joey says:

    To everyone who is questioning why we need this, you obviously have never been in a pickle of a situation where you had to call for fire in order to suppress an enemy. 70k a round is well worth it rather than dealing with an increased risk of fratricide. I’m by no means in the artillery branch, but this round delivers when it’s needed most and is fantastically accurate. I suggest instead scrap the JSF-35 and F-22 blunders, keep the A-10 and invest more into training soldiers than pointless money pits.

    1. avatar MrT says:

      right! is it expensive, no doubt. Is a million dollar (or 1.4 million dollars depending on source) 1000lb cruise missile too expensive as well? Or should we send 100 bombers with 20000lbs dumb-bombs to take out the same target, like we did in WWII?

      however isn’t the result of such expensive weapons (lets ignore how thrifty our gov is for a moment, and the political issues that cause us to be in armed conflict) that we don’t need a draft, that we don’t have to have 200000 casualties in Iraq or Afghanistan, as we did in Vietnam?

      You are trading tax dollars for american soldiers.

      I am not making claims about not having a draft is good or bad, or the reasons we went to wars good or bad, that impact the lower causality rate has on the decisions made, is good or bad…..I am just saying that I have a hard time looking a soldiers family in the face and justify that firing one 70k round would have ended the firefight sooner and prevented their soldier from getting shot, because we saved some money by firing 100 dumb shells and taking 60 minutes to finally hit the target.

    2. avatar sean says:

      That would be great. And logical.
      However, the A-10s are really old. I can’t imagine they would last much longer. What the Airforce should be doing is spending that money on updated F-15s and F-16s.

      1. avatar 2hotel9 says:

        Why not just build new A 10s. There is a concept DoD has already shat all over.

        1. avatar John G. says:

          The tooling is probably long gone by now. The original contractor (Fairchild if I recall correctly) kept it for about a decade hoping for follow up orders but none came. The price they quoted for new A-10s were enormously high, on par with a high end corporate jet, and that was hard to justify since the original A10’s were so basic that they didn’t even have an autopilot.

        2. avatar Bob Clarke says:

          Having the original tooling or not,if the Air Force decides that there is a need or desire (and the Air Force HATES the A-10) to keep an aircraft in service they can make it happen. Look at the B-52 fleet.
          By Air Force estimations the BUFF will remain on duty for close to a hundred years.
          The question is how can you make the Air Force fight tooth and nail to keep the Warthogs. It’s simple really, just have someone write up a serious proposal to give the A-10’s and the close air support mission where it should be, with the Army!

        3. avatar 2hotel9 says:

          Actually, JohnG, America has a very robust and innovative aviation industry which is fully capable of building anything needed. The political will, on that other hand, is entirely lacking.

      2. avatar Scot says:

        I don’t think that any ‘F’ designated aircraft can perform the job that the A-10 was designed for.

        Fast-mover drivers don’t like close air support missions for ground troops because it’s not sexy, and their aircraft are too thin skinned.

        1. avatar Jus Bill says:

          Also because:
          – An F is designed to kill other fighters, not ground troops. They don’t even do well on helicopters.
          – The F pilots don’t sit in a titanium bathtub that prevents ground launched metal from making new butt holes for them.
          – The F’s would fall out of the sky at the A-10’s strafing airspeed.
          – The only place an F can loiter is behind a tanker.
          – The F-16 has one engine. Catch a bird and kiss the ground.

        2. avatar Bob Clarke says:

          Back when the AC-130 Gunships were first introduced in the Viet Nam war they were known as FC-130’s.
          The F/AC-130 crews used to call them “The Fabulous Four Engined Fighters.” You can imagine how well that went down with the supersonic fighter pilots! After much complaining and hurt feelings, the designation was changed to AC-130 to sooth the hurt feelings of supersonic boys.

        3. avatar 2hotel9 says:

          And never forget that Air Force fought tooth&nail to stop A 10 from ever even being built, going so far as to wage a very nasty political fight to take it away from Army Air Corps and then sit on it. All they wanted was high altitude interceptors and ICBMs.

        4. avatar Jason Lynch says:

          Scot,

          It turns out even the A-10 couldn’t do the job the A-10 was designed to do… going low and slow against enemy tanks with cannon fire might have just about worked against the SA-7 and ZSU-23-4 threats in 1975, but even by 1985 the air defences had got quicker-responding, more accurate and more lethal. Hence the significant losses A-10s took in 1991, even after they gave up the low level gun runs.

        5. avatar Scot says:

          Four aircraft. At least that’s the number available on several sites.

          Out of how many sorties? 8,000 or so?

          You consider that (4/8000 = .0005 or 0.05%) to be ‘significant loses’?

          Do you have better numbers?

  10. avatar Wheelsucker says:

    Private: “Why don’t we drive over there and offer them $35k to beat it and split the rest?”
    Sarge: ” ‘Cus that asshole Farago spilled the beans on the interwebz and now they’re gonna want the whole $70k.”
    Private: “Sucks for those fellas..”
    Sarge: “to hell with them fellas.”

    Apologies to Joesy Wales, Outlaw.

  11. avatar Bob says:

    This is old news. Been putting these down range for more than 5 years now. 70k is cheap compared to the cost of an air strike. Or kia troops; to be blunt, soldiers are not cheap and represent considerable investment.

    Also the paladin is being upgraded to A6 status. been a project for 5 years or so by BAE. Search paladin integrated management. I think they are into low rate initial production (LRIP) by now.

    1. avatar TheBear says:

      Yeah… I used to be a Javelin gunner.

      Compared to $40k a round, 70 is a bargain!

  12. avatar Larry says:

    Makes a group or even a battalion strength TOT rather expensive…. Do they still do TOT in the modern army?

    TOT = Time On Target the coordinated fire from a large number of guns so that they all (including several rounds from each gun) arrive at the target at the same time.
    In WW2 this took a lot of math work to set up modern computer systems allow a 4 o5 round TOT to be fired from a single gun.

  13. avatar jimmyjames says:

    Nothing is to good for our friends (read enemies).

  14. avatar Matt Richardson says:

    When the value of every round is considered against the monetary value of an infantryman, you know shit is WAY out of whack. But whatever, I’m just some dumb “hippie” who rails against the military industrial complex.

  15. avatar Stephen Rivera says:

    Agree. Non news. They Aren’t going to be using them as the primary munition anyway this is no different than an infantry platoon lugging CLU and a few Javalins around instead of AT-4 s.different situations require different tools. As a former grunt, I can say, if you’re about to be overrun, I could see the value of using the precision stuff there….

    1. avatar Lord Wulfgen says:

      This was my first thought. With this kind of precision, Danger Close is a lot more palatable. And I also would much prefer these rounds on call, rather than relying on Javelins. For so many reasons.

  16. avatar Anon in CT says:

    $70k is damned cheap for a first round kill on a dug in fighting position or a halted vehicle. Compare to the cost of a guided small diameter bomb (plus the cost of putting the plan to drop it into the air) or using a TOW or Javelin missile – never mind the cost in lives of using infantry to clear the position with rifles and grenades (even if you are a heartless bean-counter and care nothing for our troops, training and deploying an infantryman costs a significant multiple of $70k.

  17. avatar 2hotel9 says:

    My, Gawd. Do any of you people remember “copperhead”? I do. What a massive waste of money and time.

    If this rd will actually work great. Just remember “copperhead”. Absolute waste of,,,,every f*cking thing.

    1. avatar John G. says:

      Copperhead is a product of early 70’s technology. Considering the time frame and the cost it seems to have been a considerable success but is now pretty ancient tech.

      1. avatar 2hotel9 says:

        copperhead never achieved success, 26 years and a couple hundred million dollars not withstanding. And this is the same crap. Yet another techno pipedream that WILL let down troops in combat.

        1. avatar LTC F says:

          Copperhead was fine. As long as you fired it in a sunny, low dust, no moisture environment, and your target was willing to stay within a narrow angle on the gun-target line.

          The other 99.5% of the time…it was pretty useless.

    2. avatar DJ says:

      Copperhead was abandoned for a bunch of reasons, doesn’t mean the concept isn’t sound.

      1. avatar 2hotel9 says:

        Yes, it has. In the end, though, it all comes down to FO/FIST/FAC, FDC and gun crew training. Guided ordinance is always trotted out as a replacement for troops/training and it never quite works out that way.

    3. avatar Gene Forsythe says:

      As someone whose advanced age gives away the fact that I was involved with both the development process (during live fire testing at WSMR and Yuma) and actual field use, I can say that Copperhead MET all of its design parameters. It was ultimately concelled becuase it was too expensive to field in adequate numbers and its operating constraints proved to be too restrictive. Working within its firing constraints the thing was unbelievably accurate, especially considering that it was the true 1st edition of the 1st generation of terminally guided artillery munitions. The problems with it in the field were several. First, we could never keep the cost down, so we couldn’t field enough of them to let troops practice with live rounds (there was no way to create a training round that costed less than a live round), much less have enough in the logistics chain to shoot them in enough numbers to be effective. Second, even though we knew the constraints on firing them at actual targets, you needed near perfect weather conditions to assure that the receiver sensor would pick up the laser reflection from the ground designator. Not so much of a problem today, but back in the 80s and 90s it was an issue with the tech we had then. Third, the initial idea was to use them against tanks and mobile equipment, but we proved that it was possible in many situations for “mobile” to mean that the target could maneuver enough to depart the maximum impact footprint for the round. Since It could only adjust its impact point so much, a rapidly moving target would “escape’ at times. Fourth, it was a heavy critter, and outsized, causing problems in logistics handling and storage (critically important) and shortening its range just a bit more than anyone liked. BTW, we had some sharp operators of remotely controlled targets on a couple ranges that learned to pull the same stunt (escaping targets) with the original and improved TOW missiles by rapidly changing speeds or stopping in the last few seconds before the missile closed on target, when the TOW gunner didn’t have time left to adjust sighting within the missile’s flight parameters. In the spirit of fairness for testing and training we had to pull those guys in and tell them they weren’t allowed to “watch the TOW close on target” as an enemy vehicle driver wouldn’t (in theory) see the TOW coming during actual combat operations.

      1. avatar 2hotel9 says:

        All my experience with copperhead was that it was a failure. Waste of time, money and effort. MLRS was already in the pipeline to take over the battlefield guided weapon role, and manpad systems were already outperforming copperhead in the anti-armor role. Inertia in DoD has always been one of our worst problems.

        1. avatar Redleg says:

          MLRS replaced my beloved M110. In hindsight it was for the best but I was sure bitter at the time.

        2. avatar 2hotel9 says:

          Is MLRS even still in inventory?!?!? I did like driving that 10 ton Oshkosh B’gosh, though. Way more fun than the old 5ton trucks.

  18. avatar Jeff says:

    They`d like these to be $70k/round. The last batch was in the $100-120k/round. Under the original development effort they were supposed to be $50k/round. Compared to the cost of air support this is cheap. so long as your personnel are in range of your artillery, you have 24/7 support. You don`t fire these things without accurate mensurated coordinates. The targeting errors are less than the blast/frag radius for a given round. The Army knows these things are too expensive. There is another device called Precision Guidance Kit that converts a conventional 155mm round to GPS guidance, and it`s substantially cheaper.

    1. Yes, we were working on those. They do not have quite the range, but are way cheaper.

  19. avatar Piet Padkos says:

    When pennies count, the Javelins are only $70k away…

  20. avatar DM says:

    Didnt realize howitzers fired .22 caliber

  21. avatar uncommon_sense says:

    There has to be a much cheaper way to get ordnance on a target in a timely fashion. Maybe that is my next career.

    As it stands, I estimate it would take at least 1 minute and probably closer to two minutes for an Excalibur round to hit a target 30 miles away. A lot can change in 2 minutes during battle. Why not just have drones overhead ready to drop ordnance? I cannot see how a guided gravity bomb can cost much more than $5000. There wouldn’t be much to it: just a camera, video transmitter, receiver, and actuators on the flight control surfaces. A consumer version of such a device would cost less than $200. And if we want to rely on GPS, then all the device needs is a GPS receiver and actuators.

    By the way I have to think that any weapons that rely on satellites (whether drones or GPS) would be useless against the Russians in an all out war. Why? The first I would do if I were the Russians is destroy all of the U.S. satellites. While they are tiny targets, they are basically sitting ducks. All the Russians would have to do is detonate a large bomb within 100 meters of a satellite and the blast wave, if it didn’t outright destroy the satellite, would send it tumbling into oblivion.

    1. avatar Jeff says:

      dumb bombs cost about $1,000. The guidance kits are $20-30k each. The real cost is the airplane. Amortized cost of the plane plus maintence and fuel. In addition, the aircraft have limited ordnance and loiter time.

      1. avatar Jus Bill says:

        Except, as noted above for the A-10. But it’s too effective at ground support, and all we have now are O&M costs. Mods will provide contractor pork. After all, the pilots flying B-52s every day are not as old as their planes.

        1. avatar Geoff PR says:

          Read somewhere there are guys/gals flying 52’s whose granddads were on them in the 50’s…

    2. avatar HJ says:

      No blast waves in space. Hard to hit things in Low Earth Orbit, much less geosnyc orbit. Also. No blast waves in space.

      1. avatar uncommon_sense says:

        A conventional bomb exploding in space anywhere near a satellite will indeed send the satellite tumbling into oblivion. While there is no atmosphere to convey a shockwave, the gases that blast away from the bomb have considerable momentum (low mass and ginormous velocity) that is more than adequate to push a satellite and render it unrecoverable.

        Remember, rocket engines are basically just controlled, prolonged explosions where we direct all of those escaping gases in a useful direction — whereby the reaction force to those escaping gases pushes the payload where we want.

        1. avatar Russ Bixby says:

          The station keeping RCS on any satellite would get it back where it needed to be unless it was actually damaged – in which case orbit would be irrelevant.

          Even were there to be a problem with station keeping, since GPS transmits TLEs along with time data, even a wayward bird would be useful once its modified orbit was made known to it – a process which’d take about 270 minutes.

          Space ain’t a-tall like y’all learned from Arageddon.

        2. avatar uncommon_sense says:

          “The station keeping RCS on any satellite would get it back where it needed to be …”

          Are you sure about that? We wouldn’t be talking about a satellite that is slowly drifting from its defined orbit. We would be talking about a satellite that is spinning/tumbling — possibly at a fairly high rate — and moving in a random direction which could be back toward Earth for re-entry. Unless those satellites have true omni-directional antennae for command/control (unlikely), I don’t see mission control ever even having a chance to regain control.

          Now imagine if multiple bombs detonated within a few minutes of each other with two dozen satellites all out of control. I would be stunned if mission control would be able to deal with that mess. Oh, and if the Russians did start an all out war where they attacked our satellites, why wouldn’t they also bomb mission control on the ground and take out our ability to regain control of wayward satellites?

      2. avatar Russ Bixby says:

        GPS isn’t geosynch; were it, the system would be unable to differentiate twain north and south.

        That said, no blast waves in space. EMP, maybe, but delivery’d be a bitch.

    3. avatar John Smith says:

      Except there is no blast wave in a vacuum– I do not know what the range of a “bomb”, especially a fragmentation bomb, is in a vacuum, but the gas blast radius is very short.

      Some simple calculating indicates that the pressure wave from a typical explosive would be down to 1 PSI at about 125 times the radius of the size of the explosive body. Assuming spherical (probably the best case). So… ten pounds hi-ex; roughly 125 times 6-10″. Call it 60 feet max for 1 PSI pressure, which would probably (I’m guessing) damage a satellite; at least blow off the solar panels.

      That ain’t much margin for error, and don’t forget that your target may well be moving faster than the sum of the interceptor velocity– plus the velocity of the expanding gas. You have to be in front of it. Right in front of it.

      Likewise with shrapnel. Your interceptor is probably not traveling at orbital velocity, so your shrapnel can’t catch it from behind. Not even close. You have to be in front of it, or very close. Though the fragmentation fragments will not slow down like in air; their destructive range will increase dramatically, though they will spread out just as quickly.

      This is not easy. It’s doable, as both the Americans and Chinese have demonstrated. But it’s not easy.

      Frankly, the blast radius is so short, you might as well be aiming to hit it. The margin for error is exceedingly thin for a successful “near miss”.

      1. avatar uncommon_sense says:

        ” Your interceptor is probably not traveling at orbital velocity, so your shrapnel can’t catch it from behind.”

        I think you have stated the most difficult problem to overcome when trying to shoot a satellite out of space: those things are moving really, really, really fast!

    4. avatar 2hotel9 says:

      Why not just have A 10s onstation to deliver pinpoint accurate fire? And B 52 is still a potent, effective munitions delivery system that can loiter well out of enemy range and lay rds precisely on target, all weathers and conditions.

      1. avatar Geoff PR says:

        The B-1s are doing that now in theatre.

    5. avatar Jus Bill says:

      Folks, don’t forget that a couple of years ago the Navy shot an out-of-control [Russian] satellite out of orbit from a Guided Missile Cruiser at sea using an off-the-shelf SM-2 missile. And the Chinese duplicated that from a shore battery last year. It’s becoming routine.

      1. My group helped support that effort!

      2. avatar last marine out says:

        and in real war , you can never know where everyone is .. samples we were shelled by our own Navy ships, and we were also were also bombed by our Air Force , Howitzers have no true eyes , any let’s not forget weather, rain, snow, GPS falls under MURPHY’s laws…. Radio’s break etc, …..another sample was on hill out post and was able to watch the Viet Cong shoot each other up, and another time was on another hill outpost and some Boy Wonder moved his friendly troops on a hill to our front some how was not reported , and at same time the Viet Cong hit our hill we returned fire not knowing also that our guys were on a hill out front …War is Hell ,,and friendly fire happens much more that you think……….

    6. avatar ropingdown says:

      The way to take out orbiting satellites isn’t with blast, but with electro-magnetic impulse. Just launch a nuke and blow it in orbit. Should take out most of what matters. If it doesn’t? Launch another one, fast, before the nukes headed your way turn your deserts into glass, and your children into ashes.

      1. avatar uncommon_sense says:

        Yes, every nuclear bomb generates an electromagnetic pulse that will certainly fry unprotected electronics and electrical equipment. The keyword was “unprotected”. Critical electronic military systems are “hardened” to protect them from electromagnetic radiation weapons as well as electromagnetic pulses.

        I have no idea just how much of an electromagnetic pulse a GPS satellite could survive. If a nuke detonates 200 miles away, my best guess is the satellite would be fine. If a nuke detonates a few miles away, even a hardened satellite may not survive.

        The only foolproof countermeasure that I can imagine is to temporarily shield the satellite completely (which means it would temporarily cease to be available in the GPS constellation) and then resume operation after the nuke detonates. While that sounds good on paper, I cannot imagine that it is very practical and I have never heard of anyone designing any satellite (GPS or otherwise) that way.

        1. avatar Russ Bixby says:

          You’d have to be damned close, even with a large nuke.

          Space is a nasty place, what with cosmic rays, gama and x-rays from the sun, solar storms and so on.

          All satellites (military and not) are very well shielded. They have to be.

        2. avatar uncommon_sense says:

          Russ,

          Shielding a satellite from X-Rays, gamma rays is a different matter. Shielding from cosmic rays is effectively impossible because they penetrate pretty much everything. When I spoke of shielding, I literally meant a Faraday shield to prevent an electromagnetic pulse from inducing damaging voltages on internal electronics.

          GPS satellites have antenna feeds aimed at Earth which connect to internal electronics. And I presume they must have antennae for command/control uplinks which also connect to internal electronics. Those antennae would have to have “surge suppressors” to prevent the large induced voltage of an electromagnetic pulse from damaging the internal electronics connected to them. The problem is that surge suppressors can only handle a limited amount of energy (voltage/current/time) and I don’t know at what point the electromagnetic pulse from a nuke would exceed the ratings of the surge suppressors.

  22. avatar Lolinski says:

    These guys fail math. 10-50k for 10-50 “dumb” shots is more expensive than 70k for one “smart” shot?

    1. avatar Xanthro says:

      No, the round fired cost is not where there is potential savings. A Paladin can hold about 35 rounds, transporting those rounds cost money. Often the transport cost is more than the ordinance cost. Airlift drops of ammunition cost way more than the ammunition. Even things like water are heavy and cost a ton of money to get to forward areas.
      Logistics costs a huge amount of money. Saving money on logistics not only saves money, but it frees up potential to deliver something else.
      So, if 10 unguided rounds cost $10,000 to fire to achieve the affect of one $70,000 round, that might not seem like a savings, but if the cost of getting those additional 9 rounds to the FOB means less small arms ammunition, less food, and less medical supplies (and it absolutely means there is less of something else) that needs to be taken into account.
      Logistics is often a trade off of what can be delivered. It’s why the Marines train to retain magazines, because then additional magazines don’t have to delivered. That weight savings means more water and ammo and things that are needed.

  23. avatar Michael Davis says:

    Look at naval railgun. Dumb rounds @ $500 a pop. Funny that ‘top secret’ release this year and original YouTube dated 7 years ago. I first saw this on an early nova 35+ years ago. Worth the look.

  24. avatar Greg Summers says:

    Nice video. However each target had been GPS surveyed before the video shoot. I very seriously doubt that any enemy is going to let a soldier wander up to the vehicle to get the exact GPS coord for the 1 – 2 metre accuracy required for the long range engagement.
    You would need 3 laser range finders (triangulation), 2+ km apart from each other, each that been GPS surveyed and linked Arty targetting program.
    This seems like a Military Industrial Complex and Corps of Artillery con job.

    1. No, you do not. You just need your own position (obtained with your own GPS) and a laser rangefinder to give you distance and direction. The military has laser rangefinders that work to 20K, if you can see something that far.

      1. avatar Russ Bixby says:

        Saved me the trouble.

        Flippin’ chairborn rangers.

        1. avatar Scot says:

          Yep, the old way, using maps and registration points, worked fine. As long as you know where you are, where the registration points are, and where the guns are; and the TOC knows where the guns are and where the registration points are you’re good to go

      2. avatar Greg Summers says:

        Hi Dean,
        You seem to understand artillery fire direction procedures, and given the parameters (your location, azimuth bearing in Mils and range to target in metres) for a general target engagement. The accuracy of your precise location is dependent on the number of GPS satellites (triangulation) your GPS unit can ‘see’ at the time of computation and this will be expressed as a number in metres accuracy on the GPS display (50m, 10m, 5m, 2m & 1m); it does also depend on where you are in the world. The azimuth bearing expressed in Mils (6400mils = 360 degrees of a circle); at 1000m range 1 mil equal 1m azimuth width/height. Modern Artillery gun-laying systems are in Mils and the mechanical gearing has a slight amount of ‘slop take-up’ to allow mechanical movement. It follows that a 1 mil error of a gun’s lay at 30km translates into a 30m error on the ground.
        Mil Spec handheld laser range finders have +/- 5m ranging error factor at 20km; that is a 10m impact circle at 20km / 15m circle at 30km. Mil Spec hand-held laser range finder readings are also slightly affected as prevailing temperature, atmospherics and degree of target reflection. The accuracy of the azimuth bearing reading in a Mil Spec hand-held Laser Range finder depends on the precision and frequency of GPS unit calibration; i.e. +/- x mils error at 1000m range. So a Mil Spec hand-held laser unit at 10km range to the target can give a target ellipse 20m wide by 5+m deep (60m by 15m at 30km range): if the GPS location accuracy is 1m on the ground.
        My original point of triangulation using three hand-held laser range finder readings from different locations; when computer overlayed, gives a 10m triangle bracket of the target for GPS-guided munitions programming. The manufacturers of Mil Spec laser range finders also recommend triangulation readings for greatest accuracy.
        Kind regards, Greg

      3. avatar Greg Summers says:

        Hi Dean & Russ,
        Russ you’re correct, I am now retired.
        Initially I was thinking two dimensionally, i.e. being on the ground, as an SF team would be. I then I re-thought about your solo laser range finder and when you apply this method from a drone of course you are correct.
        From a flying drone, in three dimensional battle space, plus flight time for a fourth dimension, the looking obliquely down with digital mapping, stabilized laser targeting technology and the magic of trigonometry; one airborne laser range finder works perfectly. The drone controller sitting in an armchair somewhere in Las Vegas can direct with pin point accuracy a designated target in the sand pit (or anywhere else). Thanks to you both, Greg

  25. avatar last marine out says:

    and at a range of 30 miles , you can best count of lots of friendly fire (killing your own people) etc. and wings on shells is nothing new , that was even tried pre- American civil canon shells… at least with a air craft someone is viewing , We hope? and was proved in WW1 lots of our own men got killed with our own shells.. and again why has America NO NATIONAL DEFENSE ? no civil defense why? No EMP defense why? and no space wars defense why? and the G.I. main battle rifle is still a 22 why?

    1. avatar Jus Bill says:

      Follow the money. Always.

  26. avatar ready,fire,aim says:

    screw my two front teeth for Christmas….I want one of those…Santa?…. you listening?

  27. avatar DJ says:

    Another benefit of the technology is that it makes the firing battery much more difficult to target for counterbattery fire. Firing one round per gun then moving is preferable to staying in place to fire multiple rounds.

  28. avatar Jus Bill says:

    Why not just fire a frangible dummy round filled with $100 bills, followed by an HE round on the same coordinate one minute later?

    Oh, I forgot – whose district is Raytheon in again? And which retired GO is the Contractor PM?

  29. avatar Nagurski says:

    These things are going to be a bargain. These aren’t going to be used to replace the mission of dumb rounds, they are being used to supplement close air support. Lets say we do a cheap mission and have an F16 drop a 500 lbs JDAM on the target*

    MK 82 bomb $2,000
    JDAM Tail kit $25,000
    F16 cost per flight hour $7,000 (probably wrong low estimate) to $24,000 (closer to correct high estimate)
    F16 cost $18.8 million

    Artillery strike $70,000
    Air strike $34,000-$51,000 (plus risking a $18.1 million dollar plane and pilot)

    But wait… the Excalibur’s time on target will be orders of magnitude faster than the plane’s unless we keep planes in the air nonstop. That’s just what they did with the B1 Lancers in Afghanistan. They would put an extra fuel tank in one of its three internal bomb bays, have it loiter until it got a call then fly at the speed of sound and deliver a bomb.

    MK 82 bomb $2,000
    JDAM Tail kit $25,000
    B1 cost per flight hour $63,000
    B1 cost $283.1 million

    Artillery strike $70,000
    B1 air strike $90,000 (plus risking a $283.1 million dollar plane and 4 crewmen)

    War is very very very expensive but compared to many other programs like the F35 or the Littoral Combat Ship, the Excalibur is a pretty reasonable price.

    *all costs are taken from wikipedia

    1. avatar dh34 says:

      Those costs don’t take into account the overhead. F16s and A10s don’t operate in a vacuum. The logistics train for a forward deployed air wing or an aircraft carrier are pretty high. Several hundred thousand to millions of dollars a day. Anytime you can make this kind of lethality to the troops its a bargain.

      1. avatar Geoff PR says:

        The B-1s are doing what Nagurski mentioned day-in, day-out…

      2. avatar Redleg says:

        Don’t forget the overhead costs of my gun crew which was some 5 gallon jugs of water and a few cases of MREs…oh, never mind.

    2. avatar neiowa says:

      Getting the AF out of the club and on scene when it really really matters – priceless.

      Counting on model airplanes? RIIIIIGHT. Good plan.

  30. avatar Russ Bixby says:

    That is in fact a bargain; you get serious punch with no warning. Anyone who as ever had to utter “Target remains” can tell you that.

    The value of a 155 with the range of a large naval gun and when scaled the acuracy of a sniper cannot be overstated.

    What price the soldiers and civilians precision weapons can save?

    Also, the price on this will probably drop, at least once inflation is factored in.

  31. avatar pat says:

    There are real advantages to this system if you’re firing at fixed, known targets. Obviously for this to be fully utilized to its maximum potential you’re gonna need a forward observer with eyes on target (which the army usually has). Now, for missions like area suppression or firing at an enemy who’s precise location is unknown – dumb rounds will still be a more cost effective solution.

    1. avatar Bob Clarke says:

      There are many ways to take advantage of this system. Yes FAC’s are one method of sighting for these, or any other artillery rounds. However there are many ways that will do the job without endangering forward observers. Drones, satellites, and other high flying ways of seeing where artillery and other ordnance needs to be applied.

      1. avatar Jus Bill says:

        Sure. Don’t forget Google Earth…
        /sarc

    2. avatar Greg says:

      Yes, that’s going to get expensive once we need saturation fire.

  32. avatar 2hotel9 says:

    Another point to consider. Once this rd is in the inventory and troops in the field are calling for it, higher command will sit on them, the whole “well, this fire mission does not require such precision at such a cost” mentality will come into play.

  33. avatar John B says:

    It is a curious thing for a couple of reasons.

    First the 155 has a max range of about 10 miles and has historically been used for mid range fire support ( beyond the range of 81mm mortars).

    Second, the claim that it will reduce collateral damage is hollow claim and a useless pursuit in a world where approving almost any fire missions has been reduced, effectively, to zero.

    What we need to do is scrap COIN and move our fire support assets within their max capabilities and deliver the kind of fire support cannon cockers generally support when they allowed to and forget trying to save the demonically possessed enemy our War Fighters are surrounded by.

    1. avatar 2hotel9 says:

      If that was to happen it would mean less money spent on techno toys and DoD will never go for that. And don’t forget the higher enemy KIA to rds expended ratio. That would make us look mean and the political left will not allow that, no siree!

    2. 155 with a max range of only 10 miles? I do not know what universe you are living in, but it is not ours.

      http://www.army-technology.com/projects/g6

      “The gun is compatible with all Nato 155mm ammunition, including extended-range full-bore (ERFB) projectiles of explosive, cargo and practice types, which are all ballistically matched and with field-fittable base bleed units. The ERFB projectiles provide the G6 with increased range and terminal effectiveness. Using base-bleed projectiles, the G6 has a nominal range of 39km at sea level. As an example of the gun’s accuracy, at 75% of the maximum range the probable error specification is 0.48% of the range value and 1mil in deflection.”

      39 kilometers is about 24 miles. Even without base bleed projectiles, the range is about 25K or 16 miles.

    3. avatar Augustus says:

      “First the 155 has a max range of about 10 miles”

      The video shows hits 2.5 times that far.

      The Block 1b round has a CEP of >5 meters @ a range of 40Km.

      It cost an estimated $250,000 to train & deploy an average infantryman, according to 2008 estimates.

      Go to Ft. Benning or Ft. Bragg and ask some infantrymen if we really need such a round.

      1. avatar Redleg says:

        “Go to Ft. Benning or Ft. Bragg and ask some infantrymen if we really need such a round.”

        Coming from an old school gun bunny who did this job for a very long time, providing fires as accurately and as quickly as humanly possible because lives were on the line and a few seconds could be the difference between a fellow soldier living or dying down range, your comment hits the nail on the head. As I said above, less rounds to destroy/suppress target = less time our soldiers are exposed to enemy fire = less American lives lost.

        In my opinion, this is a worthy expenditure of our funds rather than all of the other BS they waste tax money on.

  34. avatar Hannibal says:

    Un huh. Reminds me of the book\movie “Pentagon Wars”

  35. avatar Sammy says:

    When will local SWAT teams be getting them?

  36. avatar John B says:

    “The Army “may” save money with the Excalibur rounds.”

    So, spending thousands for a high end Schmitt and Bender instead of a Tasco is wasteful too? Do not hear you complaining about the waste of buying Black Hills ammo instead of Tulla.

    The object is to hit your target, not the target next door. These rounds are very effective in urban fighting where you want to hit one house and not the other. Also, 110lb of 155mm causes less collateral damage than a 500lb bomb.

    Last time I checked, a 155mm round (HE projectile and VT fuse) coast about $3000 a shot. That comes out to about 24 dumb rounds per 1 smart round. When you calculate all the variables in shooting a dumb round at 30km (powder temperature, bore wear, projectile weight, wind speed and direction, rotation of the earth, difference in gun and target elevation, etc.), you are probably going to shoot a lot more than 24 rounds to kill that sniper in his hide.

  37. avatar Panzercat says:

    This has been scifi lit for so long its not even funny… Which predictably leads one into the realm of ECM, ECCM, artillery point defense, etc against a competent enemy force… Which inevitably increases your round count back to dumb round count levels 🙂

    But until then or against inferior forces, good to go.

  38. avatar Jason Lynch says:

    Scot,

    Can’t get a ‘reply’ option on your original.

    The A-10s had seven airframes lost and thirteen damaged in action, over 8640 sorties.

    Compare that to the F-16s, which flew 11698 sorties… and had only seven casualties (three losses, four damaged); and the F-16s were taking their losses around Tallil and Baghdad, while the A-10s were taking casualties working the killboxes where F-16s were surviving unscathed). It took four times the losses, flying less dangerous missions; not a good sign.

    The A-10s were only able to do killbox work, the F-16s flew pretty much all the missions going. The refrain that the A-10 was more survivable, more capable, more flexible… got busted.

    The A-10s also ended up using AGM-65 as their primary munition (delivering nearly five thousand of them), completely at odds with its concept of eschewing “expensive, useless” missiles in favour of its gun.

    (http://www.gao.gov/assets/230/224366.pdf and http://www.rjlee.org/air/ds-aaloss for numbers)

    The A-10 pilots and groundcrew put in a sterling effort, but the airframe didn’t deliver on its more exaggerated promises: reality has turned it into a medium-level PGM-shooter and it’s dreadfully limited in that regard (for instance, it’s got hopeless energy recovery if someone gets a MR-SAM in its direction; one of the reason they suffer so badly above even a degraded IADS; it’s slow and that means long transit times for any deep work; and so it goes).

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