Artillery: September 9, 2004


Nothing like a shooting war to get obsolete equipment replaced. In response to complaints from army units in Iraq, the U.S. Army has rolled out the first 36 XM32 lightweight handheld mortar ballistic computers (LHMBCs). The new computers will support all current U.S. mortars (60mm, 81mm and 120mm) and ammunition types. 

Scratch the surface, and the XM32 is nothing more than a ruggedized PDA (Compaq iPAQ) with a software load developed at the Army's R&D Center at Picatinny Arsenal, New Jersey. It replaces the M23, a unit that was built in the '70s, described as the "equivalent of a Commodore 64 obsolete, unsupportable, and cannot be repaired anymore." Further, the old system's on-board memory was maxed out and didn't have room for data on new ammunition types. It also weighed in at 8 pounds.

The XM32 weighs under two pounds, calculates solutions much faster, provides a more accurate solution because it factors in wind speed, wind temperature, and propellant temperature. It also can determine ammunition requirements for a given target and calculate firing orders for large target areas. It has enough memory to support all available fielded ammunition types. 

Version 1 of the software is being used by the Stryker brigade in Iraq, with training on the new equipment done in the field. Version 2 currently in development, and  will add embedded GPS information and a digital communications link that networks into a field artillery command center. The Army wants to field the system to all light forces that have mortar systems, including all of the Stryker Brigades. The Marine Corps is expected to buy XM32s next fiscal year. Doug Mohney


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