Army: Joint Effects Targeting System Turns a Howitzer into a Giant Sniper Rifle [VIDEOS]

Army Artillery (courtesy nationalinterest.org)

“For months, Army officials have bragged that the branch’s new Joint Effects Targeting System will boost the precision and lethality of forward observers by effectively ‘turning a howitzer or a Paladin into a giant sniper rifle,'” nationalinterest.org reports. By the end of the year, every artillery platoon will find out if they were bluffing.” Bluffing? Is that how our procurement system works? Anyway, this is how the JETS works . . .

Envisioned as a lightweight man-portable substitute for the bulky Lightweight Laser Designator Rangefinder, JETS relies on a unique assembly of advanced sensor technology to measure everything from distance to target to the rotation of the Earth, allowing forward observers to relay more precise targeting data up the chain of command than ever before.

So JETS is a substitute for a bulky piece of equipment officially termed “lightweight.” And that’s not a very good description of how JETS outperforms the LLRD. So let’s try again:

While the LLDR currently used by soldiers downrange generates detailed CAT-II precision-targeting grids for Army personnel up the chain of command, the JETs significantly improves on the precision targeting concepts the former pioneered.

Besides the standard GPS antenna and laser rangefinder, Munn pointed to the Precision Azimuth and Vertical Angle Module (PAVAM) that uses a resonating gyroscope to measure the rotation of the Earth and determine true north regardless of operations conditions.

“Most northfinding systems use a celestial camera that literally takes pictures of the sky, but that’s weather dependent: If there are clouds or fog, you don’t get the pictures you want,” Munn told Task & Purpose. “The PAVAM gets you true north regardless of weather.”

And the performance difference between JETS and LLRD?

“If your target is, say, the intersection of four city blocks, previous non-precision targeting devices (not including the LLDR [Lightweight Laser Designator Rangefinder]) would get you within a block range of that target,” Capt. Eric Munn, assistant product manager for JETS at PEO Soldier, told Task & Purpose. “[JETS] puts you within that intersection, and it does so without having to walk a spotting round down to the target and alerting them that, well, you’re shooting at them.” . . .

Now how much would you pay? Wait! Don’t answer!

The Army only fielded LLRD at the company level. The Army plans of blessing every single platoon with a JETS thingamabob. And if that goes well . . .

Apart from filling that capability gap, broader fielding will likely prove beneficial long-term for precision munitions deployed from fixed-wing aircraft on top of artillery pieces.

JETS is a joint-interest program with the Air Force and Marine Corps, and Munn told Task & Purpose that the system provides CAT-II grids that are compatible with a full range of drop GPS-guided munitions and Army-fired artillery shells, from the 155mm howitzer shell to the Hellfire missile Indeed.

Munn added that the targeting data vacuumed up by the handset could easily transfer to aviators above the battlespace depending on each branch’s digital communication requirements. Eventually, the tool could see fielding to joint terminal attack controllers.

So JETS isn’t compatible with current targeting systems for aircraft — at least not yet. And there’s no price tag mentioned. Awesome.

comments

  1. avatar Defens says:

    “[JETS] puts you within that intersection, and it does so without having to walk a spotting round down to the target and alerting them that, well, you’re shooting at them.” . . .

    Isn’t that exactly what all these ballyhooed “long range” record holders are doing with bolt action rifles at 2500 yards or more? So instead of vaunting headlines like “Shooting team breaks new sniping record with 17xx m shot” – the headline should read “Shooting team gets an average score using 6.5 Creedmor as light artillery” ?

    1. avatar California Richard says:

      They’ve been doing that with .50 BMG rounds since 2014. Then the project went dark…. https://youtu.be/XW2DwQun95s

  2. avatar FedUp says:

    M109A6 Paladin: Have BIG Gun, Will Travel…

  3. avatar Hank says:

    Honestly, I wouldn’t dive into military procurement processes too much. You will go mad…

  4. avatar ACP_arms says:

    Doesn’t the M982 Excalibur already do what is wanted with current tech?

    1. avatar Nick says:

      Haven’t heard anything since it’s was in the testing stage, but I remember back then the price tag on them was something stupidly high. Since it’s a government buy I wouldn’t be suprised if the price went up afterward.

    2. avatar scm says:

      Excalibur shells are two to three orders of magnitude more expensive than standard 155mm projectiles but have a CEP of 5-20 meters. This system sounds like it would give similar (though not quite as precise) accuracy to shells that are far cheaper to expend. It sounds like a solid upgrade if it works as advertised.

      1. avatar California Richard says:

        155mm HE rounds cost about $1000 per round. When Excalibur started the per unit cost was $140,000 with a goal of $30,000 when production got under way. They are currently down $68,000 per round,….. they have a ways to go to meet Excalibur’s production cost goals, but THEY are spending other people’s money so big whup, right?

    3. avatar SurfGW says:

      Like someone said, Excalibur is $68k per round. The biggest problem with Excalibur is the volume of fire. They take forever to fire and have a weird flight path that takes a longtime to acquire its navigation. High explosive rounds can get the volume needed to take out a building or vehicles. With a 50m kill radius, getting to an intersection is accurate enough.

  5. avatar CarlosT says:

    Was there a rival system named SHARKS?

    1. avatar Sid says:

      I see what you did there.

      1. avatar IdahoBoy says:

        Here come the JETS
        Like a bat out of hell
        Someone gets in our way
        Someone don’t feel so well….

  6. avatar No one of consequence says:

    Bluffing?

    I only wish our military R&D / procurement system was that straightforward.

  7. avatar RCC says:

    Knowing one person who was killed and two badly wounded by “friendly” artillery fire I wonder how safe it will be when in the hands of young officers.

    1. avatar Ollie says:

      Or the electronics get hacked to generate friendly fire incidents.

  8. avatar Ken says:

    Brings back memories. Fun times on a 109..

  9. avatar Geoff PR says:

    At 1:20 seconds in the ‘Paladin’ video, a troop is crouched down with fingers in his ears and mouth shut.

    I thought when exposed to nearby artillery being fired the drill was to plug ears and keep mouth somewhat open to protect the eardrums.

    Or did I understand that wrong?

  10. avatar MikeJH121 says:

    As a 13F Forward Observer I loves me some arty. Reading a map was crucial. Binos, a map and a compass. Then the Laser designators came along, were not bulky about like pregnant binos. But you had to have your exact location for them to work. So map reading was essential. Now with GPS it gets a lot easier. Anything to Fire For Effect without walking rounds on target is a good thing.

    1. avatar SurfGW says:

      From the discussion of shooting at intersections, sounds like they are talking urban combat. Adjusting in urban terrain results in many lost rounds and the fire mission will probably never be approved because bracketing your target will cause immense collateral damage. The choice is accurate FFE or use expensive precision munitions

      1. avatar neiowa says:

        Son finishing OSUT. Says EVERYTHING they do is MOUT related.

        No truism of DOD than that they are always ready for the LAST war.

        Air Land Doctrine that cleaned Hussians clock in minutes is LONG forgotten at Bn level. We’ve been doing counter terror for several Army generations. Unfortunately our actual opponents have been building tanks/APCs for mass conventional war.

  11. avatar Scott says:

    I’m pretty sure that video is a Javelin test, not Hellfire. Javelin is man-portable (49lbs for the missile, 14 lbs for the launcher) while a Hellfire weighs about 100 lbs by itself.

  12. avatar Felix says:

    I’m curious about how much better these are than, say, WW II arty. For instance, I have seen comparisons of current destroyer/cruiser guns that say one modern ship could outfight 10 WW II destroyers in spite of having far fewer guns, simply because the targeting is so much more precise and the weapon is automated and faster; instead of hoping to straddle the enemy by the 3rd or fourth salvo, you get first round hits. And that doesn’t include anti-ship missiles.

    So would one of these replace 10 WW II pieces? 100? Ignoring cost, fuel, etc; also ignoring times when you really do just want a lot of rounds downrange, carpet bombing so to speak, and don’t really care about specific targets.

    It may be obvious I don’t have any infantry or artillery experience 🙂

    1. avatar GeorgiaBob says:

      Felix, WWII arty was very accurate. Army Arty gunners could place a round within 50 yards of a designated point within a grid request at 10 miles range, in ideal weather conditions. In less ideal conditions, the target errors were corrected by observed hits to within 200 yards. The real issues with 1940s artillery were the time it took to calculate the shot (range, angle, windage, ballistic performance, powder load) and the inaccuracies of the forward observer’s requests during battlefield operations. Navy gunnery was also very good in WWII, with several distinct differences. (As a former navy guy, I understand the differences, but the explanation is longer, so I’ll stick to mud based arty)

      The significant advantages of the “new” systems include; almost instant computer calculations available to the gunner for every shot, very, very accurate coordinates supplied by FOs, faster loads by new auto-loaders inter-connected with shot computers, precise partially self guided rounds that can correct in flight, terminally guided rounds that use tiny vanes to “correct” onto laser designated targets within a limited area, more effective explosives creating a larger (or smaller) kill zone, improved penetrators for anti armor and bunker-busters, and likely several improvements they are not talking about – yet.

      In cases where accurate saturation artillery is needed to prepare an area for infantry advance, the new stuff is only a little better than WWII. If that were the first criteria, the money spent on the new arty would be a gross waste! The modern battlefield is very different from the European theater in WWII. Smaller units of good guys are seeking to roust out and destroy small units of bad guys in the battles we fight today. The role of arty is very different from the 100s of tubes blasting fixed positions to damage and disorient entire enemy divisions, with little or no concern for collateral damage in the 1940s. Now, one to three tubes are called upon to flatten a single house full of Taliban or ISIS terrorists in a crowded town where several phone cameras will be ready to post internet video of any damage to the house next door.

      “Modern” arty was used in the 1990s Desert Storm to take out tanks and bunkers. Not every shot was on target, but a surprising majority of the FO directed anti-armor and bunker buster rounds were successful. And the stuff they have in Iraq and Afghanistan is even better. I think the more valid comparison is NOT arty tube then vs. now, but instead compare uses then and now. In 1944 no field commander would attempt to use an artillery battery 10 miles away to take out enemy tanks in close proximity to to friendly troops. Today, a squad leader with a FO next to him would have no qualms designating arty on a moving group of insurgent vehicles a few hundred yards away.

      1. avatar Felix says:

        Thanks, sounds very plausible / reasonable, but the detail is good.

        I know about Navy WW II fire control. The one that stands out in my memory is an Iowa class chasing a Japanese destroyer and/or cruiser high-tailing it out of Truk in February 1944 as the carriers pounded it to dust over there days. The Iowas were good for 33 knots, the destroyers and cruiser good for 36. Memory says the very first salvo from the Iowa-class straddled the cruiser or destroyer at 35K yards. They were hoping for any hit to slow them down, never got it, but I’d say the shooting couldn’t be improved, and at those speed differences, they only had a short window.

        But sea battles are flat, or at least not hilly, with elevation differences entirely due to the Earth’s curvature, not geology.

        1. avatar Gunr says:

          I know a little about North Korean gunnery.
          In 1952 our ship got too close to the shore, and the North Koreans opened up on us. The first round was long, hitting the water aprprx. 100 yards beyond our ship. They improved a bit on the second shot, and it caught us on the water line, killing one man less than 30′ from me.
          As we high tailed it out of there on only one engine, They fired over a hundred more rounds at us, and never hit us again!
          We fired, I think, over a hundred rounds out our aft 5″ gun mount, burnt all the paint off the barrel, it got so hot from continuous firing.
          As you may suspect, I have a “special” feeling for North Korea!

    2. avatar neiowa says:

      If you were in the area you would MUCH prefer that Army cannoncockers were shooting your danger close vs having the Air Farce fly over dropping their PR BS “precision guided” toys. The AF does usually hit the ground. Somewhere.

  13. avatar Jim Bullock says:

    From the above I can’t tell whether this gizmo is more accurate about the “land there” sent to the guns, adjusts the pointing prescription directly, provides some designation for terminal guidance, or some of all of that. That’s before talking about every other kind of munition n delivery platform.

    Reminds me of an old joke…

    How many systems engineers does it take to screw in a lightbulb?

    Wait, you don’t want to do it that way.

    1. avatar Gunr says:

      At my age I only have to screw in a light bulb once! to install it. Since I use LED’s I’ll probably be taking a dirt nap before they need replacing.

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