No, they missed

The US army has developed a supergun that has fired an artillery shell over a distance of 70km, hitting a target “on the nose”.

Believed to be the longest precision-guided cannon shot in history, it was the equivalent of firing a shell from London to Basingstoke or Luton.

It’s Slough that has to be hit. Come along, any fule kno that.

34 thoughts on “No, they missed”

  1. How do they identify a target at a distance of 70 km? Presumably it is only of use against stationary objects, which can be taken out in other ways.

  2. They don’t tell you what the definition of ‘on the nose’ is. A town? If it can target addresses, SW1 1AA would be my choice for a festive Xmas delivery.

  3. The Paris gun of WW1 had a 75-mile range and it hit Paris, so the headline claim is refuted. 70km isn’t that spectacular nowadays, is it? We’ve had guided shells for decades too.

  4. Diogenes,

    Target location – and then turning that into a fire mission – is a complex black art, but the ways you could find a target 70km away (so, as much as 60km behind enemy lines) include radar from something like Sentinel R.1 or Merlin CROWSNEST (picking up moving objects, like a convoy of vehicles; electronic surveillance (triangulating their communications, radars, or other EM signals); air recce (manned or unmanned; sneaky blokes with black nasty over their eyes sending back what they see; and so on.

    First complication is not all of these tell you everything – electronic surveillance is good for characteristic signals like a TOMB STONE radar, but gives an area not a pinpoint, so either you have to blanket the area or you need something else to get a precise location. GMTI radar will get you “group of vehicles” with excellent accuracy but you won’t know if it’s a refugee convoy or a tank squadron on the move, so something else is needed to confirm identity.

    Second issue, especially with GPS-guided munitions with small warheads – like the Excalibur shell discussed – is that you need a very accurate position, and the errors include “how well does the spotter know where they are?” and “when were the maps of the area last updated?” and “which world model did the Italians use when they were drawing up this map of Libya in 1936?” (because the Earth, not being a perfect sphere, is represented by a variety of different approximations in different systems).

    Laser guidance can help with precision (you don’t need to be as accurate with the precision if the munition can home on the laser light, and you have more chance against a moving target too) but introduces its own complications – someone’s got to be in position to spike the target at the right time, they’ve got to be in the right place so the laser light is visible to the incoming munition (and not accidentally become a beacon to draw the munition onto themselves – it’s happened with lethal consequences).

    A major problem is that we’ve spent decades obsessed with high-precision low-collateral effects in Iraq and Afghanistan, where we had total ISTAR dominance, had mapped the area to millimetres, and had the skies full of airborne assets to locate, identify, track, and engage targets. This becomes problematic when we don’t have all those toys to play with, or when it’s too dangerous for them to get into range, and still have to try to mensurate a target’s position to a couple of metres’ accuracy from forty miles away.

    The Russians go for a simpler approach, which is to locate the target to within a few hundred metres and then blanket the area with high explosives. – a capability we used to have, but gave up.

    Guided shells are something of a solution searching for a problem – they were wanted for Iraq/Afghanistan (high precision, low collateral damage, long range so a gun position can cover more of the countryside) but for anything approaching real war, they’re scalpels when what’s needed is often an axe or a chainsaw… they don’t do suppressive fire, they can’t do a lot to area targets, and they need the target to be very accurately located.

    It’s downright embarrassing to note that one Russian motor-rifle brigade deploys more artillery and air defence than, pretty much, the entire British Army…

  5. As to what constitutes on the nose, the CEP is something like 5-20m.

    For low collateral damage, it’s hard to beat a precision guided concrete bomb…

  6. Jason – yarp, but despite being newer and better than Yank JSTARS birds, and costing the taxpayer nearly a billion apiece just a few years ago, Sentinel is being sold for scrap.

    This would be more annoying if it wasn’t for the fact that British armed forces have done exactly nothing to defend British territory since 1982. The Sentinel saw action in Mali, Ghana, Afghanistan and Libya – countries where we have no legitimate interests, and indeed our unprovoked terror campaign against the Libyan government worked against British interests by unleashing ISIS and the migrant horde.

    one Russian motor-rifle brigade deploys more artillery and air defence than, pretty much, the entire British Army

    The last time I spoke to a serving army officer, he was boasting about its commitment to gender equality, diversity and LGBTQ. It’d be interesting to see how women, Mohammedans and transsexuals fare against Russian airborne forces or hordes of enraged Chinamen whose only hope of nookie lies with war brides.

    Maybe Carrie can get a date?

  7. With due acknowledgement of Jason’s contribution, I’d imagine this is about economics. It’s OK if you’re firing off expensive munitions at high value targets. But in the sort of military engagements the Yanks have been finding themselves, that’s like firing off a Porche to destroy a third hand Toyota pick-up. Presumably a terminally guided artillery shell’s a lot cheaper than a missile or mounting an full on airstrike with manned aircraft.

  8. BiS – Yarp. One wonders when the US is going to face its own Russia 91 moment tho – their “defense” budget is nearly $700 billion annually, their new aircraft carriers cost about $15bn apiece and don’t work properly yet, and their national debt is over $27 trillion.

    Slightly cheaper ways to kill illiterate goatherds driving machine gun armed Toyota Hiluxes aren’t gonna save them.

    Eisenhower and Edwin Starr tried to warn them, but they didn’t listen.

  9. “The shell hits its target at a firing range in Arizona after two failed attempts”

    So it hits ‘on the nose’ one time in 3. Presumably the other two shots hit a school or hospital or, knowing the US army, a British tank.

  10. Also worth thinking about reaction times. If you’ve soldiers on the ground needing fire support, the target’s 20 seconds away plus what ever time it takes to organise a fire mission. If that’s already been contingency planned-in, that could be very quick. The shell could arrive in less than a minute of being requested.

  11. “their national debt is over $27 trillion”

    I’m afraid that’s not true. Yes, it’s what is being published. But it requires that people loaned the U.S. government $4 trillion in the last year. I really don’t think anyone has that much money to lend. Hence, my theory is they printed it up, but called it “borrowed” to keep from inciting panic.

  12. Bloke in North Dorset

    Jason reminds me of being in the Falklands. I might have said before but we had been attached to a Royal Marines troop that was being set up to carry out Electronic Warfare but wasn’t operational so we were whipped out of Germany and we had some I Corps Spanish speakers attached to us. I had to build the jammer systems on the way down because it would have taken too long to get ours shipped from Germany and we got the latest developments from Racal which had just been dumped in a Landover and thrown on an LSL. (There another story there)

    Anyway, we were just behind the front lines on Mt Estancia and found* one of the Argentinian artillery forward observation teams radio net and realised he was reporting the positions of some of our units and giving fire orders. The jamming team were given the nod every time he started to transmit so his messages got interrupted** and HQ kept asking him to resend, he was getting quite irate, but that was brought to an end when he was located and our own artillery brought down on him.

    Anyway, calling in artillery or any other fire support isn’t as simple a task as it might seem because you also have to make sure all other units are aware its going to be flying around. Johnny Mercer did that job in Afghanistan and describes the difficulties quite well in his book We Were Warriors. There he was calling in all sorts of support and had to make sure the battle space was clear, the last thing you want are low flying helicopters flying through when you just called in a fire mission, for example.

    *Captured intelligence had provided a list of frequencies they were using and some of their BatCo (Battle Code) details to make life easier.

    ** I can’t remember the exact timing but it was something like 4 seconds on, 2 seconds off to see if he was still transmitting and to give the radio a rest.

  13. I presume the target for these shells will be bridges, radar stations, missile launchers, jammers etc. Extremely high value targets that are stationary and highly protected against aircraft.

    They can be easily located to the nearest metre because they are buildings or they locate themselves by turning on their radar. No need for spotters.

    They also tend to be hardened, so spreading smaller HE round doesn’t work so well.

  14. Now all you have to do is draw up a tactical reason for destroying infrastructure ahead of an advance. Missile launchers etc are surely better handled by drones!

  15. Blue-on-blue being a particular speciality of the trigger happy Yank.

    We achieve our own in our small way. American forces do a lot because they’re doing most of the firing.

  16. “Do we know the Martians were aiming for Primrose Hill, Rob?”

    Popular opinion’s they were actually targeting the other side of Prince Albert Road. Under the impression the Monkey House was the seat of government.

  17. Prompted me to play “Forever Autumn,” Jeff Wayne long version.

    We could have a discussion on the difference between precision and accuracy.

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