A Deadly Gift

Our neighbors to the north are extending a helping hand to Ukraine, And that hand is designed to reach out and touch someone. Well, the bad guys in particular. Canada has sent four M777 Howitzers and ammunition to Ukraine. This includes Excalibur extended range GPS guided shells.

This is a sea-based variant of the Excalibur on its way to ruin someone’s day. Image Credit: military.com

Ukraine will be receiving these weapons from the 1st Regiment of the Royal Canadian Horse Artillery inventory. Canadian Defense Minister Anita confirmed that “a number of M777 howitzers were shipped to Ukraine in cooperation with our American allies.” The shipment included an unspecified amount of 155-mm ammunition.
Among other items, Ukraine will be receiving several precision-guided Excalibur rounds left over from the Afghan war.

A Smart Artillery Shell

Excalibur first was fielded in Iraq in 2007 for urban or complex-terrain engagements in which collateral damage must be kept to a minimum. The official name of the shell is the M982 Excalibur. Like the Claymore, this is another US munition named after a sword.

It was designed as a collaborative effort between the US Army Research Lab (ARL) and the US Army Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center (ARDEC). The M982 is considered to be a precision munition. It provides improved fire support to the maneuver force commander and increases lethality in addition to reducing undesired damage.

Excalibur uses GPS (global positioning system) and inertial guidance systems to find its target. Part of the beauty of Excalibur is that is capable of being used in close support situations within 75-150 meters of friendly troops or where targets may be too close to civilians to attack with traditional artillery rounds. That, my friends, is danger close.

The projectile’s mission computer uses an Enhanced Portable Inductive Artillery Fuze Setter to enter the target, platform, and other GPS-specific data. So it’s a little more involved than just pulling a lanyard.

Excalibur uses a jam-resistant internal GPS receiver to update the inertial navigation system. This provides precision in-flight guidance and dramatically improves accuracy to less than two meters miss distance regardless of range. That’s about six feet. Damn.

There are three fuze options available (point-detonation, point-detonation delay, and height-of-burst), and the projectile is employable in any weather condition in any terrain. In addition, due to its extreme accuracy, the weapon often allows for a first-round effect on the target. This negates the need to send multiple rounds downrange.

The initial variant includes a unitary high-explosive warhead capable of penetrating urban structures and is also effective against personnel and light materiel targets. To my knowledge, the Canadians did not specify which variant they had sent to Ukraine.

Watch an Excalibur round devastate an SUV from 65 km (over 40 miles) away. Video courtesy of YouTube and US Army Yuma Proving Grounds.

Less advanced variants than the one shown in the video above can hit targets as far as 25 miles away. As the video shows, the projectiles are fin-stabilized with base bleed technology, extending their range by 20-35%.  They are also fitted with canards located at the front of the munition, which creates aerodynamic lift.

The Particulars

Country of Origin: United States

Entered Service: 2007

Caliber: 155 mm

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Projectile Weight: 48 kg

Warhead Weight: 22 kg

Explosive Content: 22 kg

Range of Fire: 40-65 km

Guidance: GPS guided

CEP (Circular Error Probable, a measure of accuracy): 5 meters

If you want to take a deeper dive into the munition and how it works, click here to find an excellent PowerPoint presentation from the Project Manager of the Combat Ammunition Project Office at Picatinny Arsenal.