Artillery: Get More Smart Shells or Die Trying

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July 2, 2006: U.S. Army artillery officers in Iraq and Afghanistan are hammering the brass back at the Pentagon to send them more smart weapons. The GPS guided 227mm MLRS rocket (officially the "GMLRS Unitary rocket") has been in great demand for over a year, and has to be rationed because new ones cannot be manufactured fast enough. The artillery troops are also insistent that the 155mm GPS guided Excalibur shell arrive, as promised, this Fall. Excalibur was supposed to be in action last year, but problems uncovered during tests firings had to be addressed. There have been no such reliability problems with the GMLRS, which has a range of 70 kilometers and, because of the GPS guidance, the same accuracy at any range. Unguided rockets become less accurate the longer the range. What makes the GMLRS most useful is not just its accuracy, which is about the same as air force JDAM GPS guided smart bombs, but because the 200 pound GMLRS warhead produces a smaller bang than the smallest JDAM (500 pounds). When it comes to urban fighting, smaller is better. Less collateral damage, and your troops can be closer to the target when the explosion occurs.

The air force is hustling to get its new, 250 pound JDAM (the SDB, or small diameter bomb) into service this Fall as well. But the army prefers to have, and control, it's own "smart bombs" (GMLRS and Excalibur). While air force firepower is always appreciated, because of the need for an air force air controller to call in smart bomb strikes, the army finds its own smart shells and missiles more often available. There might be only one or two air controllers per infantry battalion, while there are more than ten times as many army people who can call in GMLRS or Excalibur. Also, since the army weapons are ground based, they are never kept out of the air by bad weather. As a result, army commanders are continually asking the brass back home to get them more GMLRS and Excalibur.

 


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