Firing Precision And Power: Unveiling The Dominance Of The 155 Mm Artillery Shell

INTRODUCTION

The 155 mm artillery shell stands as a formidable force on the modern battlefield, representing a pinnacle in artillery technology. This munition, with a caliber of 155 mm (approximately 6.1 inches), has become a standard for many armed forces globally due to its versatility and effectiveness across various mission profiles. Whether in the form of traditional high-explosive rounds, precision-guided munitions, or specialized variants, the 155 mm artillery shell plays a crucial role in providing firepower and support to ground forces. Originally developed to replace the aging 105 mm and 8-inch howitzers, the 155 mm artillery system offers a balance between range, firepower, and portability. Its standardized caliber allows for interchangeability among different artillery systems, fostering interoperability among allied forces.

The 155 mm artillery shell can be equipped with a variety of payloads, including high-explosive, smoke, illuminating, and precision-guided munitions. Its adaptability makes it suitable for a wide range of missions, from counter-battery fire and suppression of enemy air defenses to providing close support for ground troops.

GUIDED 155 MM SHELLS

EXCALIBUR PRECISION 155 MM PROJECTILES

The Excalibur (XM982, M982, and M982A1) is a 155 mm GPS-guided, extended-range artillery projectile that serves as the Army’s next-generation cannon artillery precision munition. It improves fire support for the maneuver force commander, increases lethality, and decreases collateral damage. The target, platform location, and GPS-specific data are entered into the projectile’s mission computer using an Enhanced Portable Inductive Artillery Fuze Setter. The Excalibur projectile updates the inertial navigation system with a jam-resistant internal GPS receiver, resulting in precision in-flight guidance and a miss distance of less than two meters regardless of range. The Excalibur projectile has three fuze options (point-detonation, point-detonation delay, and height-of-burst) and can be used in any weather condition or terrain. The Excalibur’s capabilities enable first-round effects-on-target while reducing collateral damage and the number of rounds needed to engage targets.

VULCANO 155

Vulcano 155mm is a subcalibre ammunition for 155mm Land artillery systems. It includes an unguided projectile called BER (Ballistic Extended Range) and a guided projectile called GLR. These are the most advanced technologies available for precise land artillery firings. The Vulcano projectile enhances the range and accuracy of similar ammunition while remaining compatible with existing propelling charges and 155mm barrels. It was designed specifically for this purpose. The ammunition’s shape is similar to traditional rounds, making it easy to transport without requiring additional logistics.

155MM “KRASNOPOL” ARTILLERY GUIDED WEAPON SYSTEM

The 155mm KM-1 Krasnopol artillery guided weapon system is intended to engage tanks, IFVs, and artillery pieces, both moving (at speeds of up to 36 km/h) and stationary, exposed and sheltered, as well as dugouts, bridges, and crossings at ranges ranging from 3 to 20 km, with the first shot without registration. Organic artillery units can use the Krasnopol system, which has no additional requirements for firing positions, command observation posts, weather, or survey data accuracy. Both 155mm towed guns and self-propelled howitzers can fire the Krasnopol-guided projectile from open or covered firing positions. The Krasnopol system works with both Russian-made laser designators/rangefinders (1D22, 1D26, LTsD-3M1) and foreign-built ones, such as France’s DHY307 LDR.

BOFORS 155MM BONUS MUNITION

BONUS is an artillery-launched, fire-and-forget munition capable of defeating any armored vehicle. BONUS is compatible with the majority of existing artillery guns and is handled in the same way that conventional shells are. When launched from any 155mm artillery system, the BONUS carrier shell separates and deploys two sensor-fuzed munitions that search for targets within a 32,000 square meter footprint.

The munition also has a base-bleed design, which extends its range to 35 kilometers when fired from a NATO L52 gun. Each of the two expelled munitions seeks and destroys its target.  By carrying two smart munitions within the BONUS shell, the mission success per round is significantly higher than with traditional ammunition. BONUS, which was developed and produced in collaboration with BAE Systems in Sweden and Nexter in France, is now used in several countries, including Finland, France, Norway, and Sweden.

155MM NEXT-GENERATION ARTILLERY FAMILY

The Next Generation 155mm Artillery Ammunition Family will feature three new projectiles: the XM1113 High Explosive Rocket Assist Projectile, the XM1122E1 High Explosive Projectile, and the XM1128 High Explosive Base Bleed. These projectiles can be launched from both the M777A2 Lightweight Towed 155mm Howitzer and the M109A7 Paladin Self-propelled Howitzer platforms. The projectiles are loaded with insensitive high explosives that have enhanced effects on the target.

The US Army is currently developing all three projectiles, with the assistance of General Dynamics Ordnance and Tactical Systems, and they will be built to US specifications. These projectiles will be produced at full capacity over the next five years.

ROLE OF GUIDANCE KITS

PRECISION GUIDANCE KIT – PGK

The M1156 Precision Guidance Kit (PGK), previously known as the XM1156, is a precision guidance system designed by the United States Army to convert existing 155 mm artillery shells into smart weapons. The PGK operates similarly to conventional fuzes, screwing into the projectile’s nose. In addition to the fuzing function, it includes a GPS guidance package and control surfaces for adjusting the shell’s flight. The system uses small aerodynamic fins to steer the shell on target. Its GPS receiver compares the PGK’s flight pattern to the coordinates of the intended impact point, and the fins adjust the path to match where the round will impact. To reduce dispersion, the PGK works with a variety of 155 mm artillery stockpiles.

105/155 MM HOWITZER AMMUNITION RANGE CORRECTION KIT [MDK]

The 105/155 mm Howitzer Ammunition Range Correction Kit [MDK] is a guidance kit that can be used instead of standard fuzes in unguided artillery ammunition to reduce the range probable error to 50 meters. The Range Correction Kit (MDK) provides howitzer commanders with a precision weapon that is always available, regardless of weather (unlike bombs dropped by aircraft). Because the MDK is so precise, the risks of friendly fire casualties and collateral damage are no longer an impediment to using gun artillery in urban areas. The Range Correction Kit solution, with its high precision strike capability, can be used in operational settings, residential districts, and areas where close contact with the enemy is possible.

LONG RANGE PRECISION GUIDANCE KIT (LR-PGK)

BAE Systems’ Long Range Precision Guidance Kit (LR-PGK) with GPS anti-jam technology corrects the inherent ballistic errors of high-explosive and rocket-assist artillery projectiles, allowing for long-range precision fires. The LR-PGK improves the accuracy of 155mm projectiles by leveraging proven, mature technology. It will improve maneuverability and include anti-jamming capabilities, both of which are necessary in today’s rapidly changing battlespace. This artillery shell upgrade kit combines improved GPS-based navigation with a novel, roll-stabilized guidance unit and antenna system. This integrated technology, combined with a tried-and-true, variable-deflection canard control method, enables advanced in-flight correction capabilities.

SILVER BULLET

Elbit Systems’ Silver Bullet add-on 2D precision guidance kit for 155mm ammunition increases conventional artillery accuracy to meet the high-precision requirements of today’s battlefield. Based on advanced Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) technologies, the Silver Bullet course correction fuze improves the combat effectiveness of existing artillery by providing highly accurate “first-shot hit” capability at any range.

Silver Bullet improves the capabilities of existing artillery by converting 155mm projectiles into GPS-guided munitions by replacing standard front-end fuzes with a course correction fuze. The multi-function fuze capability includes point detonation (PD), point detonation delay (PDD), and all-in-one guidance and fuzing.

Silver Bullet has a high correction capability that compensates for trajectory inaccuracies and allows for firing with less bracketing. Ammunition with the Silver Bullet is constantly guided throughout its trajectory, resulting in improved precision and maneuverability. First-shot precision allows for a short time between target acquisition and target hit, making it possible to engage time-sensitive targets effectively.

TOPGUN- PRECISION STRIKE ARTILLERY FUZE

TopGun transforms standard artillery ammunition into a precision-guided weapon by incorporating a guidance-integrated fuse without significantly altering firing procedures. TopGun corrects the ballistic trajectory in two dimensions, reducing dispersion in range and deflection for improved accuracy – 20 m CEP at any range. Top Gun is a 2D revolutionary precision guiding KIT that converts any standard 155 mm rounds into precision-guided weapons. It is a GPS-based, highly accurate solution at an affordable price.

IMPORTANCE

Artillery shells are extremely cost effective when compared to missiles and precision guide bombs. Artillery shells are extremely effective at killing/wounding infantry or removing their ability to maneuver effectively. Artillery can maintain continuous fire coverage for hours or even days.

It is estimated that Russia fires approximately 11 million artillery is the year 2022 during the conflict with Ukraine. It is also estimated that Ukraine uses 6,000 to 8,000 artillery rounds per day along its 1,200-kilometer border with Russia.

PRODUCTION BOOST

The US Army said it has awarded $1.5 billion in contracts to nine companies in the United States, Canada, India, and Poland to increase global production of 155mm artillery rounds. Army officials recently stated that 155mm artillery munition production will increase to 28,000 per month in October, more than doubling what was produced at the start of the year. The plan is to build approximately 60,000 per month in FY24, increasing to 80,000 by FY25. By FY26, the plan is to build 100,000 per month.

NATO signed a 1.1-billion-euro ($1.2 billion) contract for hundreds of thousands of 155mm artillery rounds, some of which will be delivered to Ukraine after it complained about ammunition shortages.

CONCLUSION

In conclusion, the 155 mm artillery system stands as a testament to the relentless pursuit of innovation within the realm of military technology. From its humble beginnings as a replacement for aging howitzers to its current status as a cornerstone of modern artillery, the 155 mm artillery shell has undergone a remarkable evolution.

The incorporation of precision guidance systems has elevated its accuracy and lethality, enabling forces to engage targets with unprecedented precision. Technologies like base bleed and modular charges have extended their reach and adaptability, providing commanders with a versatile tool for a spectrum of missions. Insensitive munitions design ensures not only enhanced safety but also reliability in various operational environments.

Advancements in propellant technology, rocket-assisted projectiles, and digitization have collectively propelled the 155 mm artillery shell into the era of smart and networked warfare. These technologies not only enhance the shell’s performance but also contribute to the broader goal of creating more agile and responsive artillery units.

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