PRECISON FIRES UPDATE
By Scott R. Gourley
In its October 2009 cover feature, “Precision helps shape U.S. Field Artillery future,” BATTLESPACE acknowledged the challenges of current operations and how they were being addressed within the U.S. “Fires” community.
As part of that overview, the article referenced a June 2009 presentation to the Fires community by Major General Dave Halverson. Halverson, who at the time was assigned to Headquarters, Department of the Army (G-8), offered a “Way Ahead” presentation that identified a number of key issues shaping the Fires community.
One of those issues involved “precision engagement.” Describing it as “the new norm,” Halverson observed, “We have to figure this out. Because the effects of ‘imprecision’ or collateral damage, or all of those other things that we talk about, are very important…It’s important to understand what that means in irregular warfare. We have seen that effect in Iraq. We have seen that effect in Afghanistan…So precision engagement is very important.”
A key system that has allowed precision engagement to become “the new norm” is the Guided [unitary] Multiple Launch Rocket System (GMLRS) rocket with unitary warhead.
“[GMLRS] has had a great effect on the battlefield,” Halverson noted at the time. “It’s given us the precision we need. And…as we learned in the Sadr City fight, when you have that confidence inside of Baghdad, in Sadr City, when you know how tight it is and can still deliver that effect, that’s a good thing.”
GMLRS quantities fired to that date had included more than 750 successful combat engagements in the theater of operations. Moreover, parallel efforts by the Army and Lockheed Martin has also included a July 2008 test firing at White Sands Missile Range that established a new distance record of 85 km (versus 70 km for the present GMLRS).
The past year has witnessed continued industry activities on both combat and developmental fronts.
“We’re almost at 1650 GMLRS rounds being fired in theater as of 16 September 2010,” observed Buster Thrasher, business development manager at Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control. “It’s one of the weapons of choice.”
Shifting toward parallel refinement efforts, Thrasher explained, “We are listening to the user – and when I talk about the user I mean Fort Sill – and, of course, there are a few things that the user would like to see. And we get those requirements from the user as ‘capability gaps.’ The capability gaps are public record. They put them out [to identify] shortfalls through TRADOC [U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command]. And what they’ve said, as far as the next incremental approach for the combat-proven Guided unitary [GMLRS] is that they could use some more range. And they’ve also said that they could use some ‘scalable effects.’”
“Now ‘scalable effects’ are covered by different terms,” he said. “Some sources say ‘selectable’ while others say ‘scalable.’ But either way, we have a 196 lb. warhead in the GMLRS and sometimes ‘that’s too much.’ So there are several companies out there that we have been talking to that make a scalable type warhead that we could possibly use if a commander said, “I don’t really need 196 lbs. of high explosive – 100 lbs. would be good for fratricide and other issues.’ And we would like to give him a warhead that does that.”
He continued, “And the third item of the list of the top three things the user wants is the ability to go after some moving or ‘fleeting’ type targets. Now, artillery rounds are not going to hit a BMP going 30 miles an hour. That’s not their mission. But we would like to see, by putting on a new seeker, an ability to possible move the missile to another target after it’s been launched or the ability to shift a couple of hundred meters to another target, for example, if someone is spotted putting in an IED.”
Lockheed Martin is working to address those three capability gaps through ongoing efforts surrounding t