Home / Military / Army / Raytheon’s Excalibur is all weather smart artillery that triples the range and can strike moving targets with high precision

Raytheon’s Excalibur is all weather smart artillery that triples the range and can strike moving targets with high precision

The Excalibur smart artillery shell has a ruggedized Global Positioning System (GPS) satellite navigation receiver and uses satellite signals to help guide itself to its intended targets. It first was fielded in Iraq in 2007 for urban or complex-terrain engagements in which collateral damage must be kept to a minimum. The Excalibur,  is a true precision weapon, impacting at a radial miss distance of less than two meters from the target. Unlike “near precision” guidance systems, the Excalibur weapon provides accurate first-round effects at all ranges in all weather conditions. This weapon system also extends the reach of .39-caliber artillery to 40 km and .52-caliber artillery to more than 50 km. Raytheon is developing a laser spot tracker that will allow Excalibur to strike moving targets and counter attempts to jam the GPS. A sea-based variant is also under development.


Excalibur has been in service with the Army since 2007. Some 7,000 of the initial Excalibur 1A model have been built. The upgraded, longer-ranged 1B model entered full-rate production in 2014, with the price dropping to $68,000 a shot, much less than guided missiles.  “Because Excalibur doesn’t have a rocket booster — it relies purely on gunpowder to propel it — it’s many times cheaper,” Daniels said.


Excalibur has been fired more than 1,400 times in combat. The Army shot a round from the gun tube of a prototype of the service’s Extended-Range Cannon Artillery system and hit a target at 62 kilometers. The service is developing the ERCA system as part of its Long-Range Precision Fires modernization program, which is the Army’s top priority within its modernization portfolio. The prototypes consist of a Paladin howitzer with an M109A7 chassis that upgrades the Paladin Integrated Management’s turret with a 58-caliber, 30-foot-long gun tube capable of shooting farther than 70 kilometers.


The Army is also aiming to compete for Cannon-Delivered Area Effects Munitions, which would upgrade the Excalibur airframe with an armored target seeker and will be able to defeat “moving and imprecisely located armored targets at long ranges” and will be fully compatible with the Army’s howitzers as well as ERCA and the M777 Extended-Range version, according to fiscal 2020 budget documents.


The Excalibur projectile’s precision, coupled with its ability to be integrated on multiple gun systems, enables both the U.S. and its coalition partners to provide overmatch capabilities against land targets in a variety of combat environments. This includes stationary land targets. Sweden, Canada, Australia and the Netherlands have chosen Excalibur to address vital security interests, and several other international partners are finalizing procurement plans says Raytheon.


The Indian Army has for the first time test fired M982 Excalibur precision-guided, extended range artillery projectiles from M777 155 mm 39-caliber towed ultra light howitzer guns at the Pokhran test range in the Thar Desert region in northwestern India on December 9. “Today [the Indian Army] conducted test-firing of the newly acquired US Excalibur precision guided munitions at Pokhran…a new capability that will integrate with the US-origin M777 Ultralight Howitzer,” the US Embassy in India posted on Twitter. The test firing was also confirmed by senior Indian Army officials.


A new version of Raytheon’s Excalibur precision-guided munition demonstrated in a U.S. Navy test at Yuma Proving Ground, Arizona, that it can change course to hit moving targets. The Excalibur S proved it can “survive the shock and stress” of being fired from a Howitzer, then transition from a GPS-guided capability to laser guidance and hit a moving target, a Feb. 2020 company statement said. The “S” version has GPS and a semi-active laser seeker to get after mobile land and maritime targets in GPS-contested environments without a loss in range capability. The Army and the Navy both use Excalibur Increment B projectiles, which can be upgraded with the S capabilities, the company said. “Using artillery to engage moving targets gives soldiers more flexibility,” Sam Deneke, Raytheon’s land warfare systems vice president, said in the statement. “Artillery is typically used to hit stationary objects, but Excalibur S expands the capability of artillery on the battlefield.”

US Navy’s Requirement

DARPA, had awarded a an $8m contract to Raytheon  to develop a cross between a missile and an artillery shell for use by the Navy. Multi-Azimuth Defense – Fast Intercept Round Engagement System (MAD-FIRES) program, the proposed projectile will combine the precision and maneuverability of a smart missile with the rapid-fire capability of an artillery shell. “Specifically, MAD-FIRES aims to incorporate enhanced ammunition rounds able to alter their flight path in real time to stay on target, and a capacity to continuously target, track and engage multiple fast-approaching targets simultaneously and re-engage any targets that survive initial engagement.”


DARPA says the smarter munitions are needed to cope with smaller threats against US naval ships, such as small motorboats and drones. The dangers of these were amply demonstrated in the Millennium Challenge 2002 wargame, where basic missiles and small boats loaded with explosives successfully sank 19 US warships, including an aircraft carrier.


The US Navy is looking to Raytheon’s Excalibur guided artillery round to replace the effective but expensive Long Range Land Attack Projectile for the Zumwalt-class of guided missile destroyers. The Navy  cancelled the Long Range Land Attack Projectile (LRLAP) that was the sole ammunition for the Zumwalt’s 155 mm Advanced Gun System (AGS). This brings the Zumwalt/AGS into line with the rest of the military’s 155 mm weapons and may allow the Zumwalt/AGS to use the Army inventory of 155 mm shells. he GPS-guided round – developed by Raytheon and BAE-Systems Bofors – has about half the range of the 60-mile LRLAP and costs about $70,000 a round.  However on negative side, the AGS will have to be adapted to fire the Excalibur round. This will likely cost hundreds of millions of dollars and probably take several years to accomplish. “One defense official told USNI News it might take up to $250 million in engineering costs to modify the three ship class for Excalibur.”


“The Navy continuously monitors the gun and ammunition industry capability and capacities. To address evolving threats and mission requirements, the Navy is evaluating industry projectile solutions (including conventional and hyper-velocity projectiles) that can also meet the DDG 1000 deployment schedule and could potentially be used as an alternative to LRLAP for DDG 1000,” said Navy Capt. Thurraya Kent.The benefit of Excalibur is the munition is ready now.


Excalibur Variants

Excalibur artillery shells come in three kinds: high-explosive unitary penetrating warhead for use against stationary targets; smart munitions that detect and attack moving targets; and shells able to identify and attack vehicles individually in cities and other complicated terrain.

There are three versions of the system.
Increment I has a unitary penetrating warhead for use against stationary targets.
Increment Ia-1: Accelerated development, reduced range round. Entered service in 2007.
Increment Ia-2: Extended range round with resistance to GPS jamming.
Increment Ib: Full capability, reduced cost, mass-production round. (M982A1)

Excalibur S: Excalibur S uses the Excalibur Ib variant’s GPS technology and incorporates a semi-active laser seeker to engage mobile land and maritime targets at comparable ranges. Existing Ib projectiles can be upgraded with Excalibur S capabilities.In June 2013, Raytheon initiated an internally funded program to upgrade the Excalibur Ib with a semi-active laser targeting capability. The SAL seeker will allow the shell to attack moving targets, targets that have re-positioned after firing, and change the impact point to avoid collateral damage.


EST variant :Raytheon has developed the Excalibur Shaped Trajectory, or EST, variant that will enable soldiers to eliminate targets in hard-to-reach locations by selecting the projectile’s terminal or final phase attack angle. It was successfully tested in 2018 and is now being deployed to U.S. forces.


Excalibur N5: Version of the Excalibur S downsized into a 127 mm (5.0 in) shell to give naval guns mounted on destroyers and cruisers the ability to fire extended range guided projectiles. It may include a dual-mode seeker for fire-and-forget operations.

Increment II “Smart” projectile for moving and time-sensitive targets. May carry either 65 DPICM or two SADARM submunitions.

Increment III “Discriminating” projectile “to search, detect, and selectively engage individual vehicles by distinguishing specific target characteristics”.


Excalibur lb Pinpoint precision tool to eliminate enemy threats

Excalibur is a true precision weapon, impacting at a radial miss distance of less than two meters from the target. Unlike “near precision” guidance systems, Excalibur provides accurate first-round effects at all ranges in all weather conditions. This weapon system also extends the reach of .39-caliber artillery to 40 km and .52-caliber artillery to more than 50 km.


By using Excalibur’s level of precision, there is a dramatic reduction in the time, cost and logistical burden associated with other artillery munitions. Analyses have shown that on average, it can take at least 10 conventional munitions to accomplish what one Excalibur can. Excalibur is compatible with every howitzer with which it’s been tested. This weapon is fully qualified in multiple systems, including the M777, M109 series, M198, the Archer and PzH2000. It’s also compatible with the AS90, K9 and G6 howitzers.


Excalibur lb has specifications of Weight 48 kg (106 lb), Length: 99.6 cm (39.20 in), long range: 40 km (25 mi), Warhead: PBXN-9 and GPS/INS guided and 155mm caliber artillery projectile. Excalibur is a cooperative program between Raytheon and BAE Systems Bofors.


Laser guided Excalibur S

Raytheon is developing a laser-guided version of the projectile, the Excalibur S. This variant incorporates a digital semi-active laser seeker, allowing it to hit moving targets and engage and strike targets without accurate location information. It also reduces the risk associated with GPS jamming.

In May 2014 at Yuma Proving Grounds, Raytheon had successfully fired the dual-mode GPS- and laser-guided Excalibur-S for the first time. They successfully tested an Excalibur-S shell by initially giving it the wrong GPS location, then designating and hitting the correct target with a laser. The test also demonstrated that the laser spot tracker could survive the huge stress and G-forces at firing.

A laser-guided variant of Excalibur gives the Warfighter a precision weapon that allows continued target attack when GPS is degraded or denied, hit moving targets at extended range targets, hit targets designated by forward troops, UAVs, etc. or change the impact point to avoid collateral damage.


M982 Excalibur

The India Army procured an initial batch of 1,200 M982 Excalibur in October under an emergency procurement procedure following the February 2019 military standoff between India and Pakistan. Co-developed by Raytheon and BAE Systems AB, Excalibur shells, armed with a polymer-bonded explosive warhead, have an effective range of up to 50 kilometers when fired from 52-caliber artillery. The GPS-guided munition has a circular error probable of five to 20 meters and, according to Raytheon, can engage targets at a distance as close as 75 meters.


The M982 Excalibur precision-guided, extended-range artillery shell is a fire-and-forget smart munition with better accuracy than existing 155-millimeter artillery rounds. These shells are fin-stabilized, and are designed to glide to targets with base bleed technology, as well as with canards located at the front of the munition that create aerodynamic lift.


Although the M982 is perhaps the longest-range artillery ammunition in the U.S. arsenal, it has the ability to be fired nearly straight up from positions in cities or hilly terrain, engage its precision-guidance system at high altitudes, and detect and attack moving targets — even individual vehicles — with an accuracy of better than 65 feet from the desired aim point.


Excalibur N5

Raytheon successfully tested its new Excalibur N5 projectile at Yuma Proving Ground, Ariz, during a live guided-flight demonstration. Excalibur N5 is a 5in / 127mm naval variant of the Excalibur precision projectile that is being used by several militaries, including the US Marine Corps and US Army. According to the company, the upgraded projectile offers more than triple the maximum effective range of conventional naval gun munitions. In addition, it reportedly provides the same pinpoint accuracy as the Excalibur Ib, which is currently in production. Raytheon is currently developing a Millimeter Waver Radar seeker for the Excalibur N5 projectile according to  Navy Recognition.


The new missile is designed to support a number of critical mission areas, including naval surface fire support, anti-surface warfare (ASuW), and countering fast attack craft (FAC) before they can get close enough to fire their missiles. Excalibur N5 is a five-inch naval variant of Excalibur 1b projectile, being developed, to deliver extended range and precision naval surface fires.


The guidance kit is the hardest part of precision-guided artillery, Daniels said, because you have to make electronics that can still function after being literally fired out of cannon. That shock imposes about 15,000 times the force of gravity from an Army 155 mm howitzer: the Navy Mark 45 imposes slightly less.


“Once Excalibur’s out of the barrel, guidance fins pop out of its base. The shell starts in a standard ballistic trajectory but then levels out and flies like a missile, until it reaches the target and turns nose-down to dive-bomb it. As a result, it is both more accurate and longer-range than traditional artillery projectiles,” explains Sydney J. Freedberg Jr.


“With today’s unguided shells, the Navy’s Mark 45 can, in theory, fire 13 nautical miles, but in practice it becomes too inaccurate for targets beyond eight nm. The Excalibur N5 would hit targets with precision at 20 to 26 nautical miles — roughly triple the range — depending on which variant of the Mark 45 is firing it.” (Longer barrels allow longer range )


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