Canadian Army taking high-precision, judicious approach to artillery

Article / December 1, 2016 / Project number: 16-0275

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By Steven Fouchard, Army Public Affairs

Ottawa, Ontario — Canadian Army (CA) artillery gunners will soon have a new tool to help them shoot more precisely with older ammunition.

The CA has high-precision shells in its arsenal: successful tests of global positioning system (GPS)-guided Excalibur 155 mm rounds were conducted two years ago, proving pinpoint accuracy up to 30 kilometres away. However, these cost as much as 10 times more than conventional shells, so Army officials are adopting a new device that increases accuracy and can be attached to relatively inexpensive conventional 155 mm shells.

Decreased cost is only one of the benefits that come with improved accuracy: as Major Travis Maxwell explained, first round surprise and reducing the risk of collateral damage are also important advantages. Safety is also greatly improved as the projectile will not detonate if the shell lands outside the target area.

Called the Precision Guidance Kit (PGK) from U.S.-based manufacturer Orbital ATK, this piece of add-on equipment simply attaches to the fuse (detonation device) of a conventional projectile. It provides additional safety and guidance features and technology that allow for course corrections as it flies. In addition to the pinpoint accuracy capability of the GPS technology, PGK has flight-stabilizing wing-like projections known as canards.

Maj Maxwell, is part of the Lightweight Towed Howitzer Project through which the CA is acquiring the PGK for its 37 M777C1 Howitzers. When using conventional rounds on a small target, he explained, there is a comparatively large area around the target where the shell may fall due to many influences on a projectile’s trajectory.

“We measure multiple factors that affect a conventional projectile and use sophisticated software to model the trajectory, but, without guidance, hitting a point target is very difficult,” he said. “The Army bought Excalibur, which is specifically designed for precision.  It provides an incredible capability, but at a significant cost. The PGK is a capability that bridges the gap between the two.”

The precision and reliability of the PGK has already been proven through various tests. The main purpose for the trial in November at Canadian Forces Base Shilo, according to Maj Maxwell, is to demonstrate the successful integration between it and the Canadian Digital Gun Management System, which enables the crew to destroy targets in a very precise manner at all range distances.

Various organizations across the Department of National Defence supported a successful trial in November, including the 1st Regiment Royal Canadian Horse Artillery, which had the opportunity to live fire the first PGK in Canada. 

The trial results were captured by Defence Research and Development Canada (Suffield) and the Munitions and Experimental Test Centre (Valcartier) with a variety of impressive technology, from high-speed cameras to projectile tracking radar and will be analyzed in the coming weeks.

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