The American ERCA extended-range self-propelled artillery program is showing new successes. Recently, an experienced self-propelled gun XM1299 with a promising gun was able to send a guided M982 Excalibur projectile to a distance of 70 km and hit the target with maximum accuracy. This test demonstrates the high potential of the new artillery complex and allows us to count on a further increase in the main combat characteristics.
New fire tests took place on December 19 at the Yuma test site (Arizona). The event used an artillery complex, including serial and completely new components. This time, the XM1299 self-propelled gun was used with the XM907 gun, as well as a new propellant charge and the M982 Excalibur serial projectile.
At a distance of 43 miles (70 km) from the firing position for the ACS, a target was set up - a simulated enemy missile system with previously known coordinates. After all the necessary preparations, the crew of the testers on the XM1299 began firing.
The first shot was unsuccessful. During a flight at high altitude, the standard configuration M982 projectile collided with a strong headwind, which blew it off its optimal trajectory and forced it to fall 100 m from the target. In the second shot, a projectile was used in an experimental configuration; it received a new shock absorber for the inertial navigation system. This device did not justify itself, and the projectile made a significant miss.
The third projectile, which had a standard design, was brought to its calculated trajectory. As the published materials show, the Excalibur product at increased speed climbed to a high altitude along a ballistic trajectory, after which it switched to a gentle flight with a descent. This flight profile, combined with the increased muzzle velocity, allowed the projectile to reach the target. In the final section, the projectile went into a dive and hit the target.
Despite two setbacks, the tests were deemed successful. One of the artillery shot configurations proved its potential, while the other showed its shortcomings. All this allows the development of the project to continue, and the army can count on receiving a new artillery complex within the required time frame.
In the new tests, as before, the experienced ACS XM1299 was used. It is based on the serial M109A7 and differs from it in the equipment of the fighting compartment. The main difference lies in the XM907 ERCA gun with a 155-clb 58 mm rifled barrel. In addition, new propelling charges with improved energy have been created for such a weapon, which have also been tested in recent firing.
Together with the XM907, M982 shells are tested in a serial and modified form. In the initial configuration, the projectile is capable of flying at a range of at least 40 km and hitting the target with an accuracy of 2 m. In the ERCA project, it should show an increased range with the same accuracy.
As part of the tests, first of all, the resistance of the projectile to increased loads was determined. The muzzle velocity of the M982 when fired from the XM907 reaches 1000 m / s - significantly higher than when using shorter guns. In addition, we checked the updated electronics of the projectile, which should ensure correct control throughout the flight.
In the course of recent tests, it was possible to determine the optimal configuration of the propellant charge and find ways to improve it. We also installed some of the features of the Excalibur guided projectile. So, in the initial configuration, the projectile and its components have a certain margin of safety. When fired from the XM907, increased loads occur, which almost completely eliminate this margin. This makes it difficult to further increase the main characteristics.
Overall, despite two unsuccessful shots, recent tests were successful. They made it possible to collect new data and clarify the specifics of the artillery complex operation when new record indicators were achieved. Based on these data, conclusions are already being drawn and ways of further development of the project are being determined.
Plans for the future
Next year, work on the ERCA topic and on individual program components will continue. There are comments to all the main components of the artillery complex, and they need to be improved. Such fine-tuning will primarily affect the shot.
Weight, overall and other parameters of new separate loading shots should not hinder work with them. In addition, it is necessary to achieve the minimum size and optimize the placement of these products in the fighting compartment in order to obtain the maximum ammunition load. Attention should also be paid to a host of other factors that can affect the results of shooting, both independently and in combination with each other.
In the context of the projectile, the main topic remains to increase the strength and stability of the serial design without sacrificing accuracy and reliability. For this, it is proposed to upgrade the Excalibur product. In addition, a new generation of guided projectiles with improved aerodynamics, new engines and guidance based on inertial and satellite navigation are being created for ERCA guns.
In the future, it is possible to create fundamentally new ammunition. So, a 155-mm projectile with a full-fledged homing head can be developed. He will be able to independently find and hit a target in a given area, incl. moving. The possibility of creating shells capable of exchanging data is being considered. Such products would simplify the control of the impact results and reduce the consumption of ammunition.
It is planned to obtain a new increase in the firing range by creating new shells and charges. So, the developed project XM1155 offers a guided active-rocket projectile with a range of up to 120 km. Such a product is of particular interest to the army, but has not yet been brought to the test.
Working with the M982 projectile, 2008
Further improvement of the XM1299 ACS is also envisaged. At present, the search and correction of various shortcomings and "childhood diseases" are being carried out. After the completion of such activities, the self-propelled gun will meet the customer's requirements. Then it is planned to equip it with mechanized stacks and an automatic loader. With their help, the rate of fire will increase from 2-3 rds / min. up to 8-10, which will significantly increase the effectiveness of fire.
A promising artillery complex based on the XM1299 self-propelled guns is one of the components of the Long Range Precision Fires Cross Functional Team (LRPF-CFT) program for the modernization of missile forces and artillery. Within the framework of this program, it is proposed to create a number of new types of weapons with increased fire range indicators. According to this parameter, they should surpass all existing ACS and MLRS, incl. in service with a potential enemy.
According to the Pentagon's plans, the development of systems for LRPF-CFT will continue for several more years. The delivery of ready-made weapons to the army is scheduled for 2023. Whether the ERCA program participants will cope with this task - time will tell. However, recent successes, including firing a serial projectile to a record 70 km, allow them to be optimistic.