Cannons, rockets and missiles: a growth industry in the Army.
Growing requirements for advanced fire-support technologies are shaped both by lessons from Iraq and by the Army's transition from a division- to a brigade-centric force structure.
The experience in Iraq reinforced the notion long held by cannon artillery advocates that ground troops cannot rely solely on close-air support and need their own long-range weapons, especially during bad weather.
"Artillery and mortars are more responsive than close-air support," said Col. Nathaniel H. Sledge Jr., Army program manager for combat ammunition systems.
Just three years ago, artillery weapons were falling out of favor at the Defense Department. The high-profile cancellation of dm Crusader howitzer signaled that the future was not in artillery, but in aircraft-launched precision strikes.
But even though artillery proved its worth in Iraq, the Army recognizes that current munitions are far from suitable for low-intensity conflicts and urban warfare. Because artillery systems generally are considered to be area weapons, they greatly raise the risk of civilian and friendly casualties.
Within the Army, meanwhile, officials are debating whether the best way to improve the precision of long-range fires is with cannon artillery, or with missiles and rockets.
Smart missiles and rockets will be essential weapons in the Army's new "brigade units of action" that will have to operate over large areas, ranging from 50 to 60 square miles, said Brig. Gen. Mike Cannon, Army program executive officer for tactical missiles.
"We have to extend our sensors, see the enemy in that area, precisely," Cannon said.
As the Army continues to transition to a brigade-based structure, the needs for fire-support systems will grow. Each new brigade will require an additional cannon battalion. The heavy brigade fire battalion will be equipped with 155 mm howitzers. The infantry brigades will have 105 mm cannons.
Each brigade also will have an organic rocket battalion, with a mix of MRLS (multiple launch rocket system) and HIMARS (high mobility artillery rocket system).
The Army research and development center at Picatinny Arsenal, N.J., is working on several technologies to improve the accuracy of cannon artillery weapons.
Current systems are intended to be area suppression weapons, and are far from surgical, noted Stephen R. Pearcy, director of fuse and precision armaments at the Army Research, Development and Engineering Center. Typically, only 3 percent of artillery rounds hit a 100-by-100 meter target area accurately from a range of 40 km, he told an industry conference of the Institute for Defense and Government Advancement.
Many rounds have to be fired to hit a target, he said. "The efficiency is not all that great."
The Army is developing a satellite-guided 155mm cannon artillery round, the Excalibur, but the service needs other options that are less expensive, Pearcy said. The Excalibur is expected to cost about $30,000 per round, according to the Army, although critics claim the price tag will be much higher.
"We have a challenge," Pearcy said. "Precision munitions for cannon artillery have to be low cost."
Technologies now being pursued include a course-correcting fuse for artillery projectiles and a new precision-guided 10-pound bomblet called "common smart submunition."
The common smart submunition, Pearcy asserted, can be delivered within 50 meters of a target from an artillery projectile, a rocket or missile.
The common smart submunition, if successful, would replace the now defunct "search and destroy armor," or SADARM, which the Army fielded in small quantities for 155 mm projectiles. The Army cancelled the program as a result of rising costs and schedule delays. While SADARM had a 75-meter radius footprint, Pearcy said, the new weapon will have a footprint of 50 meters or less, which will help keep the costs down.
Critics contend that the U.S. Army should consider replacing the SADARM with existing munitions that already are in service with NATO countries, such as the Smart 155 or Bonus, rather than develop a new one. But Pearcy said the Army does not believe other munitions can meet its requirements.
The price tag for the common smart submunition is expected to range between $5,000 and $10,000 per unit. The warhead will be an explosively formed penetrator, which takes the shape of a slug at some distance away from the target. The penetrator travels at extremely high speeds, about 6,000-7,000 feet per second. "They tend to be very effective against active protection systems," Pearcy said. "If the warhead sees the target, it hits the target." And even if an active protection system were able to defeat one of the 10-pound monitions, "you can shoot multiple times and overwhelm the system."
Once the common smart submunition gets out of the lab, it will be tested by the Army Aviation and Missile Command as a possible payload for a new weapon, the satellite-guided multiple launch rocket system, known as guided MLRS, a program co-developed with France, Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom.
The current version of the guided MLRS delivers small grenades called "dual-purpose improved conventional munitions." In the future, the rockets will be upgraded to deliver a 200-pound, high-explosive unitary warhead. Another version that could be developed in the next five years, called cargo, will deliver small flechette-like submunitions, which have yet to be selected.
The common smart submunition will be a candidate for the cargo version of guided MLRS. Another candidate is an Air Force weapon, the "sensor-fused munition."
The Army will select up to two types of submunitions for the guided MLRS cargo about a year from now. Meanwhile, the service received an extra $12.7 million in fiscal year 2005 to accelerate the unitary version of the guided MLRS, said Lt. Col. Stephen Lee, project manager for precision fires. He estimates that each rocket costs about $63,000.
Lee discounted the reported rivalries between cannon artillery, rocket and missile programs, which he considers more myth than reality. "They are very complementary," he said in an interview.
"The cargo variant of the guided MLRS is intended to fill the role of what used to require great volumes of fire," Lee said. "The goal is to reduce the throughput burden for the cannon artillery by putting more of that burden on rockets."
Most of the Army's future investments in cannon artillery will focus on three primary weapons: the non-line-of-sight 155 mm self-propelled cannon, which will replace Crusader; a 155 mm towed howitzer that already is in production and will replace the aging M198, and a new i05 mm towed howitzer for the light brigades.
Just last month, the Army allocated $300 million for the production of 275 new 105mm M119A2 howitzers, to be manufactured at the Rock Island Arsenal, Ill. They will be an upgraded version of the current M119s, which have outdated technology and often get negative reviews from soldiers in the field. The new guns will be delivered in the next two to five years, according to a Rock Island official.
The Army needs additional 105 mm cannons to equip the new brigade units of action, noted Sledge, the Army program manager for combat ammunition.
The M119A2 is viewed as an interim system until the Army develops a new 105 mm howitzer, known as the "enhanced forcible entry cannon." Sledge said that the EFEC cannon initially may be the M119, "but the objective system is expected to be something newer and more capable."
Another potential use for a 105 mm cannon is for fire support to Stryker brigades, Sledge said. "There is no formal requirement for this, but certain vendors are trying to market potential platforms to the Army."
Among the expected bidders in the EFEC cannon program are General Dynamics Land Systems, United Defense LP and AAI Corporation. Industry sources said there is rampant speculation that the Army may end up foregoing the EFEC competition and staying with the M119A2. With an investment of $300 million already in the system, insiders predict the Army will not want to change to a new gun, even though other howitzers now in service with NATO countries are reported to be more technologically advanced. The M119, even if it's upgraded, still is a 20-year-old design, said an industry expert.
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|Title Annotation:||Army Future Force|
|Author:||Erwin, Sanda I.|
|Date:||Oct 1, 2004|
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