Avoiding collateral damage is another cause of concern for U.S. troops in Afghanistan. Insurgents deliberately plan attacks in populated areas in the hope that opposing forces don’t want to retaliate and risk accidental harm to civilians or damage to non-military property. “Sometimes, if the risk of collateral damage is too high, you might not be able to fire (a standard 120mm) at all,” explained Peter Burke, PEO Ammunition’s deputy product manager, Guided Precision Munitions and Mortar Systems at U.S. Army Picatinny Arsenal. “In that case, instead of firing a mortar from a protected position, you would have to send troops in to engage with direct-fire weapons, exposing them to more risk.”
Utilizing GPS-guided munitions provides an accurate, first-round fire-for-effect capability, troops will have opportunities to employ precision mortar fire where they previously would not have these, such as nearer to friendly forces or in urban areas. According to Maj. Gary Pina, brigade fire support coordinator, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Div., mortars deployed at battalion level generate immediate fire suppression and support, optimized for the battalion level. “It gives the infantry battalion commander a Precision Guided Munition capability at his disposal.
“Our Soldiers on the ground have capabilities that were unimaginable when the war on terror started,” said Womack. “I am pleased how quickly our Soldiers and NCOs trained and employed with the new system, which is a tribute to our incredible NCO Corps. It is not lost on our Soldiers that there is nothing our Army cannot accomplish.”
The new mortar PGM utilizes standard mortar bombs, fitted with GPS guidance and directional control surfaces packaged into a compact module replacing the standard fuze. The modification also replaces existing tails with a new tail section, using four large folding fins adding stability. Based on ATK’s PGK for 155mm artillery, MGK has more than 90 percent commonality with PGK. The modification of the bombs would typically be done at army depots while the manufacturing of MGK units uses the existing ATK production line developed for the Precision Guidance Kit program, supporting 155mm artillery munitions.
This puts organic, precision engagement capability into the hands of local battlefield commanders. The design is based on ATK’s Precision Guidance Kit technology for artillery. During the ‘shoot off’ competition, ATK’s MGK demonstrated the ability to achieve a circular error probable (CEP) of less than 10 meters, a substantial improvement over conventional mortars that are accurate to about a 136-meter CEP.
Mortars equipped with precision position and pointing systems, firing standard unguided bombs can reduce CEP by half, to around 76 meter CEP. In recent combat firing, the bombs faired even better, some have hit within four meters from the intended target.
“Delivering affordable precision is a core capability of our business,” said Bruce DeWitt, ATK Advanced Weapons Vice President and General Manager. “Using our expertise in guidance, fuzing, and gun-hardened electronics, we have proven that the timeline and cost of producing a precision weapon can be greatly reduced. In under a year, we have proven a reliable design, initiated production and fielded a precision weapon. This is truly unprecedented in our industry.”