Taliban Fear 155mm Excalibur “Finger of Death”

Apropos of our earlier post on precision guided indirect fire and the Army’s decision to cut its buy of Excalibur precision 155mm rounds, our own Christian Lowe checks in from his embed out near the Afghanistan-Pakistan border:

I spoke with an artillery forward observer with Angel Company, 3-187, at FOB Sharana the other day who told me about the few times he’s employed the Excalibur precision 155 round.

He said despite the infrequent use and the Army’s apparent lack of enthusiasm for the weapon, it sure makes a heck of an impression on the Taliban – so much so that they’ve derived a nickname for the round.

According to the artillery FO, radio traffic pulled from Taliban radio chatter indicates they call the Excalibur round “The Finger of Death.” When the FO told me this, he extended his index finger and pointed in a long arc right into the palm of his hand – showing that when they fire one of these, it hits exactly where they aimed it and kills everyone there.

We’re a little too far from the flagpole out here to slice and dice the internal debates in DC over this round. But suffice it to say the bad guys around here would prefer that the “Finger of Death” not point at them.

— Greg Grant

  • LeoC

    Is the Copperhead artillery round still in use? I remember the complaints in Desert Storm about the lack of forward laser designators for the rounds. Now it seems like every plane, helicopter, drone, etc in theater has a laser designator: Great for lighting up targets on the move that don’t have fixed GPS coordinates.

    • Old Marine

      You are right - our FO’s in Desert Storm didn’t have a laser to illuminate the target. My Forward Air Teams, however, did have the equipment and ability to use them. Never was in a situation to use one but it was in the tool kit.

    • daniel
  • JanZizka

    How expensive can they be? I mean if you look at what it costs (total costs…aircraft/helo fuel, manitenance, pilot, etc.) to put a 500lb GPS guided bomb or a Laser guided Hellfire the GPS arty round surely is cheaper.

    • E_Khun

      $68,000 per round. According to the new budget. Down from around 80,000 last year.

  • Jeff Fraser

    I hate politicians, bureaucrats, etc.

    This is just another example of people who have no idea what they’re doing disassembling our military. First F22’s, then MIRVs, and now an Arty shell that makes Mohammed shit himself.

    *Sarcastic thumbs up*

  • Chris

    The conversation probably went something like this:

    General: …but Mr. Secretary, our men need this round to reduce collateral damage, kill the enemy in one shot and put fear in our enemies heart.

    Secretary Gates: We can’t afford it. Let them fight the old fashioned way! Let them use Air Power!

    General (with a curious look on his face): Mr. Secretary, Gen McCrystal won’t let our men use air strikes.

    Secretary Gates: I’m too busy to be bothered with this RoE stuff.

  • Jeff Fraser

    What Chris said is why Gates is pretty high up there on my list…

  • JanZizka

    Reading the article above it sounds like it’s the Army leadership that is not so hot on this weapon.

  • Jeff Fraser

    Yeah, but they’re all tied up in the bureaucracy of it all as well. Either way, higher ups are mucking things up because they are ignorant.

  • @Earlydawn

    Here’s a radical idea; why don’t we just ask the men on the ground what they want? How many of them would rather have one-hit-one-kill GPS artillery shells instead of unmanned robot sensors? Moreover, how many would rather have a quality, adaptable weapon like an ACR or a SCAR instead of crazy tilt-rotor VOTLs?

  • mat

    Its funny how US forces come up with some stupid ‘mabo-jambo’ as if the taliban know and care what hit them enough to name it and then some one just picked it up on the comunication . That is certanly what happend,ha ha ha!!! but what would you expect from a militay that develops a weapon and sort of has a name for it that trys to make some sort of acronim out of it ,that is just PR for a 100.000$ a pop round to kill posibly 1- 2 insurgents with a lucky shot and for that to happen you still have to have the target pinpointed by a spotter.

    • Sev

      Please tell me where you found out how much the round costs.
      Furthermore, I’d much rather have a precision gound based weapon for boots on the ground than a new heavy ass MRAP that the insurgents will still blow up. Give us weapons and we will kill the enemy. Give us good weapons and we will not only kill the enemy before he runs away, but avoid more civilians as result.

      • mat

        Raytheon quote 2008”The goal is to improve the shell’s reliability and reduce its cost. Each Excalibur currently costs $102,000. The target price is $47,400, Army spokeswoman Calloway said”
        Future weapons quote ”excalibur curently costs $230,000 per round”

        The round can hit within 33 feet so for an enemy in a trench or a house it might not even be one shot one kill. Operational reliability is quoted at 82%

        You can probably agree that at that rate taliban are geting a great deal as it probably only cost then few hundret bucks to get some poor kids to fight for them)

        • sail4evr

          What is the kill radius for the ExC?

    • talkmoreprogram

      I was about to reply to your comment when I read “you still have to have the target pinpointed by a spotter”. That saved me lots of time because obviously you had no idea what you were talking about.

  • lcdr_kent

    We don’t need more because we are not staying to finish that war or any other war that gets started. The prez is no fighter.

    • Chris

      Kent’s probably closer to the truth than we realize.

  • paperpushermj

    Finger of Death
    .I prefer THE FICKLE FINGER OF FATE
    The 3 F s that rule my life.

  • mat

    Raytheon quote 2008”The goal is to improve the shell’s reliability and reduce its cost. Each Excalibur currently costs $102,000. The target price is $47,400, Army spokeswoman Calloway said”
    Future weapons quote ”excalibur curently costs $230,000 per round”

    The round designed to hit within 33 feet so for an enemy in a,ditch, trench or a house it might not even be one shot one kill. Operational reliability is quoted at 82%

    You can probably agree that at that rate taliban are geting a great deal as it probably only cost then few hundret bucks to get some poor kids to fight for them)

    • talkmoreprogram

      Isnt it better than to hit within 330 feet?

  • Parry

    For those people that keep referring to the 33 feet must never have been wearing LPC’s (leather personnel carrier I.E. Boots) in the real world. If Sh!t hits that close your going to kill something, make crater, and destroy buildings again kill something. For example the 40mm grenade launcher (203) has a 30 meter kill radius (first-hand knowledge and Marine Corps doctrine) and this RAP round is larger and has a big damage factor. So for those discussing this 33 feet issue unless you have been boots on ground and know your facts your need to stop your lazy-boy living room CNN retire General analyst drivel. In laymen’s terms shut the f*** up and stop watching the military channel on cable dumb a$$.

    • mat

      It seems you have been watching to many movies.
      40mm granade has 5m casualty radious(kill radious might be under 2m) a frag handgranade with much more fragments and explosive has a 5m kill zone,a 155mm 50m but all these kill radiuses are on targets caught exposed(a standing person with no cover or body armor) in reality any measure of potection like a person lying in a trench, ditch building greatly diminshes the kill zone requiring almost direct hit.That is a fact

      • Lane

        Just to clear this up, 40mm is the equivalent of an M67 fragmentation grenade and as such, has the same kill/casualty radius, which is 5m kill 15m casualty. Mat you are right to say though that this is based on being caught in the open and on level ground.

        CPL USMC
        Active

        • mat

          Yes official numbers sugest someting like that but a simple question puts some doubt in 40mm ,how do you come to same lethality with 1/2 explosive and fragmentation material.Ither you have super 40mm rounds or a dud hand granade.Altough i agre that M67 is medival ind terms of modern handgranades like RUAG H95
          Also as the 40mm doesn’t have electronic fusing for air burst over enemy position it actualy needs to hit someting to go of that ither puts it at and obstacle behind a target or an obstacle ahead of the target further reducing effectivnes.That is why mortar rounds when they hit home are so deadly as they come down from overhead.

        • Parry

          Your are write i used 40 instead of 4m. My point is the a 33 foot proximaty is going to do a lot of damage, the blast wave alone will ruture most the the emenies internal organs. The point with this RAP round is that just as with regular arty close counts. the dumb A$$ worrying about 33 feet need to talk to folks that have been there not how i looks on call of duty 2 for their playstation.

          Again sorry i put a zero where it did not belong.

          HM1 (SW/FMF) Retired “Doc”
          P.S. 1 Carried a 203 that why i brought it up

  • Kayaker

    This is a war that we are fighting overseas right ??? We are in this war to win right ??? or are we just nation building instead of trying to breaks the enemy’s back on the battlefield ??? Oh thats right, the United States never declared war on terror, especially under No-bama and this is where we stand 9 years later ? Quibbling over a lousy artillery round !?? Pathetic.

  • Timmy

    Mr. Grant is pimping for defense contractors again. For example, does the taliban know if it is hit with an Excalibur or regular round? Regular rounds are just as accurate after adjustments, and have more boom.

  • roguetrooper

    How can a six inch artillery shell possibly cost a hundred grand? even with all the electronics, isn’t there a generic supplier?

    • Kevin Crawford

      The same way a new sub is going to cost $1 billion taxpayer dollars, the price of high tech goodies is out of this world. I used to work for Boeing and I’m still in sticker shock at some of the charges on DOD programs I worked on.

    • paperpushermj

      I think you have a point. Maybe we should buy the cheaper Chinese knockoff.

  • mat

    It seems you have been watching to many movies.
    40mm granade has 5m casualty radious(kill radious might be under 2m) a frag handgranade with much more fragments and explosive has a 5m kill zone,a 155mm 50m but all these kill radiuses are on targets caught exposed(a standing person with no cover or body armor) in reality any measure of potection like a person lying in a trench, ditch building greatly diminshes the kill zone requiring almost direct hit.That is a fact

    Read more:https://www.defensetech.org/2010/05/19/taliban-fear-15
    Defense.org

  • elanda

    Oh my Allah surely sees all of this, and he counts every word spoken from every person on this earth’s mouth is counted and measured by Allah. Can you believe this blood thirsty Americans? Obama said in his inauguration speech that America will not kill its enemy by suffocation, and what is happening in Afghanistan, the whole place is so full of dust and debri, no-one can breathe. So much for a president who really does not even keep to his own country’s own constitution, vote him out, and in comes the next. They are all the same. Are their nowhere an American mother who is a real tru to heart mother, and wants her son to have an ordinary citizen’s life in this world instead of fighting a war in a country that does not belong to him anyway? Only asking?

    • Parry

      Haji,

      You need to watch your words. Maybe if you accually read the kuran instead of listening to some ingorant militant camel F***. you would see that allah is peaceful and we should all live together as friends and brothers. However members of yur religion have kill many who were doing nothing except working to feed their families. i have been to your world and seen the evil that you do in the name of allah and the kuran. i hope all your poeple are punished by allah when you meet him. As for you when you die i hope they run out women and you get left with your 72 virgin you Camels A$$.

      The full potential of American Fire Power + Allahs land of Sand = The worlds biggest ball of GLASS!!!!!!

    • paperpushermj

      DUCK

  • PE White

    I watched a show on this round via the Military channel and it hits within 5 meters of it’s target first time every time. So, why wouldn’t we want to use it a LOT!

  • Neil C. Reinhardt

    In my view, they should offer a seveal million dollar prize to anyone who can come up with a much, much, much less expensive shell.

    As this has worked in other fields, I see no logical reason why it would not work here as well.

  • Jerry in Detroit

    I don’t suppose the Army may be cutting their purchase of Excalibur rounds as it reduces the overall number of tubes required and rounds fired. The Air Force ran into the same issue; improved accuracy means less sorties and less airplanes.

  • howard

    more 24/7 air surveillance of those bad guys on the ground
    and more fingers of death on top of them.

    especially along the Paki border.
    walking over the hills?
    i’d stop that bad habit.

  • anthony

    I can tell you this much that is allot of BS. That is why they stopped using it. That thing could not hit a barn. The rockets are what was accurate. AT least when I was there. They feared rockets not the Ex calibur. A big waste of money.

  • KINGOFBATTLE

    I missed with one. Shot another right after that. Cost ain’t no thang

  • Jason

    It’s not the politicians or army bureaucracy, the X-caliber is cheaper and COIN is all about precision. But Army’s are always hesitant for changing a try and tested piece of equipment. Artillery like howitzers and there shells have been the back bone of many country’s for at least 100 years.
    And this is the only report i have read that says there hesitant for the X-cal, maybe it’s just rumors.