Fire Support Systems at the 2006 Eurosatory Exhibition

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In Parallel with the growing popularity of wheeled combat vehicles is an interest in wheeled artillery, as represented at Eurosatory 2006 by the Caesar system, from GIAT, the FH55BW Arthur, from the Swedish SWS Company and Portee – from BAE Systems. These guns offer improved mobility, enhanced autonomous operability, and, with the introduction of advanced, precision ‘smart’ munitions, they can also be selective and effective against point and mobile targets. A wide range of artillery munitions were also displayed, highlighting the entry of insensitive munitions, trajectory corrected systems and development progress of advanced precision attack munitions.

Another trend is the growing popularity of mobile 120mm mortars. Two new 120mm mortar carriers were unveiled here – the NEMO, introduced by Patria on an 8×8 AMV and the Wiesel 2, developed to address the German Army requirements for an air-mobile fire support.

Mortars and artillery present a relatively low-cost weapon, but both are limited by range and can only engage a target within a range of  “statistical error”, which cannot be tolerated with sensitive operations where restricted use of force is required. During firing, mortar and artillery projectile are exposed to very high loads, therefore, converting artillery and mortar bombs into precision weapons is a complex and costly technical challenge. Rockets and missiles do not have the same  limitations and several experienced manufacturers are proposing various modifications and improvements for their systems to enable rocket based fire support elements to strike at point targets up to hundreds of kilometers deep into enemy area. Precision attack weapons on display also included the Precision Attack Missile (PAM), displayed by Raytheon and the proposed Hellfire/JCM follow-on Precision Attack Air/Surface Missile (PAASM).

Among these systems are the GMLRS, which is under development by a US-European team. A similar program called EXTRA (Extended Range Rocket) is currently underway in Israel, as a collaboration between IAI and IMI. In Russia, similar work is done on Grad, and Smerch rockets. For attacks at even longer ranges several missiles are in production, including the Russian Iskander E, US ATACMS and Israeli LORA.

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