US Begins Ordering Excalibur Ib GPS-Guided Shells
The Excalibur System
Excalibur Block I shells are standard high-explosives, while Blocks II & III will add and refine additional guidance.
The most recent operational version is the Excalibur Block Ia-2 (M982). It adds base bleed technology and maximum charge compatibility, in order to increase range from 23 to 40 km (14.3 to 25.9 statute miles) when fired from U.S. howitzers or Denel’s G6. Excalibur Ia-2 received its type classification in 2010, and some tests have seen 100% of shots land within 5m, instead of the advertised 50% within 10m. The longest combat shot to date appears to be 36 km/ 22.4 miles.
Excalibur Ib aims for the same performance with fewer parts, in order to reduce the shells’ cost and improve the initial shell’s existing 10% unreliability rate.
Further R&D is underway to add a robust semi-active laser guidance system to Excalibur, turning it into a laser/GPS guided shell with added applications on land, and much greater naval potential.
Contracts & Key Events
Unless otherwise indicated, all contracts are issued by US Army Contracting Command in Picatinny Arsenal, NJ to Raytheon Co. in Tucson, AZ. The original solicitation received 3 bids.
Aug 26/13: A $54.1 million firm-fixed price contract modification exercises an option to buy another 765 Excalibur 155mm Increment Ib projectiles, using FY 2013 Other procurement budgets. This order refers to “multiple” locations, which are presumably the same as the Jan 3/13 award (W15QKN-08-C-0530, PO 0047).
Jan 3/13: A $56.6 million firm-fixed-price contract modification to buy M982A1 Excalibur 155mm Precision Engagement Projectiles, also known as the Block Ib. Raytheon confirms that this FY 2012 contract marks the start of low-rate initial production, with options through FY 2016 for American and foreign military sales. Deliveries to the US Army will begin in Q4 2013.
Work on the Excalibur Ib LRIP contract will be performed in Tucson, AZ; McAlester, OK; Farmington, NM; Camden, AR; Healdsburg, CA; Anniston, AL; Cincinnati, OH; Cedar Rapids, IA; Joplin, MO; Lowell, MA; Corona, CA; Inglewood, CA; Chino, IL; Sweden; and United Kingdom; with an estimated completion date of April 30/14. One bid was solicited, with one bid received by US Army Contracting Command in Picatinny Arsenal, NJ (W15QKN-08-C-0530).
Low-rate production begins
Feb 16/09: Testing. A Raytheon release touts the 45th firing of Excalibur 1b’s low-cost titanium base, as part of design testing. Raytheon’s goal is to use fewer parts and simpler manufacturing, in order to improve both costs and reliability while keeping its “proven six-meter (19.7 feet) accuracy”. They’ve also integrated range-extending base bleed into the shells’ fin extension. Component testing of the new base design will continue through May 2009.
Sept 29/08: R&D. A $12.1 million firm-fixed-price contract for M982E1 Excalibur 155mm Increment Ib, “Precision Enhancement Projectiles,” with a unitary warhead. Work will be performed in Radford, VA, with an estimated completion date of March 3/10 (W15QKN-08-C-0530).
Raytheon’s Oct 20/08 release refers to this funding as the Increment 1b’s “initial design and maturation phase.”
- Raytheon – Excalibur Precision Guided Extended Range Artillery Projectile
- DID – New Frontiers for Raytheon’s Excalibur GPS Guided Shells. Raytheon is working on a laser/GPS version, which could have naval applications as well.
- Raytheon (June 11/12) – US Marines fire Excalibur from record range in Afghanistan