Video: Raytheon Test-Fires New GPS-Guided Mortar for Marines

Soldiers and Marines test fire 120mm mortarsRaytheon recently test-fired a new GPS-guided 120mm mortar round at Yuma Proving Grounds, Ariz., demonstrating a precision-firing technology designed to help Marine Corps commanders in combat.

The Marine Corps program, called Precision Extended Range Mortar, or PERM, is aimed at developing and fielding precision-guided mortar rounds able to better pinpoint targets compared to existing mortar rounds.

The rounds are configured with a GPS antenna and an inertial measurement unit, or IMU, which tells the round how it is flying, said Raytheon program manager Ty Blanchard.

In a recent test-firing, three rounds landed within 10 meters or less of the desired target, Blanchard explained.

“Three of the GPS-guided rounds flew to the required range and hit within the required distance of their targets. One round was fired to the minimum range requirement and impacted just a few meters from an off-axis target,” Blanchard added.

The rounds were fired from a Marine Corps M327 120mm Rifled Towed Mortar. Raytheon and Israeli Military Industries are jointly developing PERM.

The idea with PERM rounds is to give a combat commander the ability to destroy an enemy target at longer ranges using fewer rounds. A typical mortar round travels about seven to eight kilometers. the PERM rounds can reach distances up to 16 kilometers, Blanchard added.

“It has an extended range so you don’t need as many mortar systems to cover a specific area. Also, it requires less personnel and fewer rounds. You don’t need to fire as many rounds to hit a target so that reduces your logistics train. The second and third order effects are massive,” Blanchard explained. “You can do a  lot more pre-mission planning. There are a litany of advantages which give the commander so much more flexibility.

PERM rounds are engineered with small fins called canards designed to increase glide and extend the range of the weapon.

“We get lift from the canards so we are able to glide and reach longer ranges. We developed this round with Marine Corps funding and we will deliver 42 rounds to the Marine Corps next month,” Blanchard said.

The Marine Corps plans an upcoming shoot-off of GPS-guided mortar rounds between Raytheon and ATK, Blanchard said. The winning vendor will be awarded a procurement contract to deliver rounds to the Corps.

In the future, Raytheon plans to add semi-active laser guidance to its PERM round in order to increase the options provided to commanders.

While PERM is primarily being developed for the Marine Corps, the round is able to fire from an Army smooth-bore mortar tube as well as from a Corps rifle tube, Blanchard added.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

About the Author

Kris Osborn
Kris Osborn is the managing editor of Scout Warrior.
  • Dfens

    Their “canards” look and function more like short wings. Very cool.

  • oblatt22

    This is totally within the Marines new philosophy of doing less with more. The fact is that the Marines don’t know where the enemy is most of the time all the expensive precision weapons in the world wont make them effective.

  • Dickie Cockpit

    Be even more useful for a smaller mortar, like the one in the picture.

  • d. kellogg

    Curious how the warhead/filler is packaged in relation to the canard slots and their control servos.

    All in all, kudos to those fine folks at Raytheon.
    First Excalibur (now with average miss distances less than 3m),
    then announcement of Excalibur N in 127mm format,
    now this in 120mm, with enough range to challenge many 105mm systems that gotta work to shoot 17km (but rarely are firing to those maximum ranges, and more often than not, at worse accuracies than PERM is demonstrating).
    Might now make some of those AFV turret mounted gun mortars more competitive (AMOS, NEMO, etc).
    With such range capability, the only reason to pursue taking GPS guidance into 105mm caliber then would be as principal munition for the long range Denel LEO 105.
    Then again, there are thousands of 81mm mortars in use…

    • majr0d

      Let’s get it for 120mm mortars before adding the complexity of shrinking things further for the 81mm?

      • d. kellogg

        Query Roll Control Guided Mortar,
        it’s in 81mm form and is under testing as of a couple years ago.
        I imagine the actual fielding of a battle-ready production model can’t be more than a few years away, provided sufficient funding is made available.
        http://www.asdnews.com/news-41142/GD_and_BAE_Demo…
        http://dtic.mil/ndia/2012armaments/Wednesday13995…

        DARPA’s plans eventually are for even 60mm guided mortar rounds. Search for ODAM Optically guided Direct Attack Munition.

        • majr0d

          I’m quite familiar with these programs and how long they take to come to fruition. I was working in the battle lab at Benning when we started the programs in 2002. The vendors said the munition was right around the corner back then also. 12 years later…

          Be excited, the salesmen count on that for endless streams of funding. I’m a bit more realistic. I want the development I just know that vendors consistently over promise what they can deliver.

  • JohnB

    The effect of 60s, and 80s mm mortars in Vietnam and other wars in the past was primarily to force the defense troops to take cover that the assaulting forces would face less deadly defensive fires. On the opposite end, mortars were used to disperse offensive troops, reduce their effectiveness in mass.

    Mortars lethality is low due to small payloads, and coverage areas. Not sure how quantitatively the guided 120 mm mortar would fare compare to older counterparts.

    • d. kellogg

      In this instance the guided rounds are intended for precision fires: destruction of point targets, not suppression of area targets.
      If you really think about it, though, area targets ARE a number of point targets.
      Why suppress when you can outright destroy?

      It’s going to be ideal against fixed emplacements; it’s the moving targets that become difficult.
      But the latest Excaliburs incorporate a laser seeker in addition to the GPS, at a much cheaper cost than the old Copperhead, enabling engagement of moving targets so long as they are able to be lased.
      It’s only a matter of time now before they miniaturize that same capability into 120mm mortar rounds in a future PERM iteration, just as Excalibur has done.

      • majr0d

        “If you really think about it, though, area targets ARE a number of point targets.
        Why suppress when you can outright destroy?”

        It can be incredibly difficult to identify a point target when you are being suppressed from multiple enemy positions, when in restrictive terrain (e.g. urban, jungle etc.) or when trying to locate a well camouflaged enemy position. Trying to find those positions to give an exact grid is a fantastic opportunity to earn a purple heart or even medal of honor. Precision is great but technophiles forget or ignore enemy actions or general situations that negate technology. The need for massed and suppressive fires has not been negated by technology. (something to remember in CAS & indirect fire discussions)

        Reminds me of a conversation I once had with a proponent for indirect to be provided by aircraft with precision munitions. As an Infantry officer I asked how much smoke a plane could deliver in front of me to obscure the enemy or how long could one pass provide continuous suppressive fires on a general enemy position so I could maneuver.

        He couldn’t answer the question. There are very real limitations on precision munitions. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t pursue them but we shouldn’t fool ourselves and think they’ll replace the need for area and suppressive fires.

        • blight_

          I imagine a technical solution will be pursued to maximize area suppression with the minimum number of rounds. However there’s a finite amount of fragmentation material and HE filler that can go into a physical package.

          • majr0d

            “I imagine a technical solution will be pursued to maximize area suppression with the minimum number of rounds.” Absolutely! We’ve been doing it since the first cannon was invented. We went from stone, to metal shells, then we crammed multiple round balls in one shell (grapeshot) and even used chain to connect some as well as cramming nails to explosive filled spheres and on to the modern age of shrapnel and fuze development. It’s just slow (technology) and isn’t going to be replaced with precision weaponry. (You don’t really use precision weapons to suppress an enemy e.g. a sniper rifle really doesn’t do for situations where you need a machine gun.)

            True about powder in a finite sized container. One can even pack more HE/metal in larger rounds. The infantry doesn’t own those assets all the time which is mortars are organic to infantry battalions. The Infantry doesn’t expect its hip pocket artillery to carry the lethality of 155mm but it is responsive and works for the ground commander so you can always count on it being there.

    • blight_

      The historical use of mortars relied on the inherent error and dispersion of rounds in flight to suppress an area but putting a round on random areas. If the “human wave” can be adequately broken down into point targets (e.g sapper team one, sapper team two, sapper team three, gun team one, RPG team one, etc), with precision fires called down on those point targets then we’ll be set. However, if you only have enough time to designate one point target, then all your guided rounds will fly towards that position. Short of adjusting the position fixes for each round manually the rounds would be fired blind.

      Perhaps when artillery units are co-deployed with drones for firefinding, then artillery units can assist with adjusting fires in situations where insufficient information is relayed by a JTAC/forward observer. In situations where the observer can safely designate targets repeatedly for each mortar round in flight, then precision-guided munitions can be retargeted all along the line in a way to optimally break up an enemy attack.

      • d. kellogg

        Per your second paragraph, I think it’s highly doubtful the actual 120mm mortar team would be lasing its own targets (when such capability is going to be had), nor would they be plotting their own targets via map and GPS coordinates, but like artillery, the 120mm mortars aren’t typical used within visual range (naked eye), but as call-for-fire from elements a few km forward…?

        It would be different if it were indeed a mobile direct-fire capable gun mortar system, but as indirect fire weapons, I don’t see the crews designating their own targets without other nearby elements (friendlies) being involved in pointing them out.

        A 60mm or 81mm, definitely, but bulky 120mm mortars and their crews and ammo supplies probably don’t want to be in range of said adversary’s small arms fires.

  • rtsy

    Is there any worry out there that this is too much tech? Mortars are supposed to be one of the simplest weapons systems to use and now they have all this electronic garbage in them.

    • Anon E Mouse

      No….you cute little technophobe you.

  • joe

    As a former 11C I support these developments. Layer this up with drones on the bat level (make the scout platoon a proper recon element!) and let the fun begin.

    Read a RAND report on french expeditionary forces in Mali. If the US Army isnt training for encounters like that, it ought to be.

    • d. kellogg

      Back in the 1980s, the Aquila RPV was the precursor to today’s abundance of UAVs, with a primary role of recon then lasing targets for Copperhead strikes.
      Back then the PGM was expensive and the drone tech simply wasn’t there to provide a cost effective and reliable system.
      Today it’s second nature to have drones do recon and spot targets.
      It’ll be even better when it’s the hand-launched microdrones that can fly several km from a mortar unit and spot/lase any potential threats.
      Current designators are just too big for drones smaller than Ravens.

      • blight_weroasdfl

        The issue with small drones is battery power. Small Li-Ion batteries won’t give great loiter times; the other alternative being a small internal combustion engine for power.
        Once drones are designed with adequate range, resolution and loiter time, there will be the temptation to sic drones on everything and let artillery sort them out, as an extension of CIA/Air Force drones that sort everything out with self-carried Hellfire missiles.

        • Dfens

          You’d be amazed at the loiter time you can get out of Lithium ion batteries. Small ones can provide 30 minutes. A lithium ion battery pack as large as the old Ni-Cd RC airplane battery packs used to be will keep a drone in the air for hours.

          • Dfens

            I probably should have mentioned that the other part of the efficiency equation for these new electric powered drones is the availability of very efficient bushless dc motors that use rare earth magnets and tiny, lightweight controller electronics. Their efficiency and the amount of power that can be packed into a small package is amazing. And that’s not to even mention the current state of camera technology or what’s available in things like solid state lasers these days.

  • artymgysgt

    Hope they also develop an inexpensive fuse that can either be an air burst or impact detonation

    • blight_weroasdfl

      Isn’t the M734 fuze a multi-mode fuze? (Airburst, Near-Surface, Impact, Delayed)

      • joe

        yes. all three mortar systems in use have the dial of death fuse as far back as the 90’s. at least for HE. WP is impact only I believe.

  • Lurker

    The Army has been using a similar guided 120mm mortar in Afghanistan since around 2010 or 2011 called the XM395. I think that effort was a stop-gap rapid fielding initiative rather than an official program, though. Perhaps whatever the Marines choose here will be adopted by the Army as the XM395 follow on?

    It’s pretty amazing how precision guided “smart” weapons are working their way down to the smallest munitions. In the last ten years we’ve gone from guided bombs and missiles to artillery, MLRS, rockets, micro-missiles, and now mortars. I wonder if/when we’ll see guided heavy caliber sniper weapons that DARPA is working on in the EXACTO program hit the field.

    • blight_

      http://www.atk.com/products-services/xm395-precis…

      Both use wing kits and such. Unsure what the core difference is.

  • Hunter76

    3 rounds within 30m (100′) of the target is not good enough for a smallish smart weapon. The mortar firer will want to hit an armored vehicle or a shooting position. Let’s say the round has to hit within 3m to take out the target. How many rounds for a 50% chance to hit the target? Over 50?

    • steve

      It IS NOT a precision weapon. It’s a long range ammunition that’s astoundingly accurate for a mortar, especially at that range. The 120mm can be moved around a lot easier than other artillery, also, it’s trajectory is perfect for warfare in mountainous areas.

    • majr0d

      The lethality of the 120mm mortar round is 60m. A 10m CEP is an enormous leap in making the round more effective.

      Look at what kind of weapons give you less than a 3m CEP, what they cost and how available they are to the average grunt and then consider that every US Infantry BN has a 120mm mortar platoon.

  • Kostas

    What is your opinion on the effectiveness of this system in the light of the spread of GPS jamming technology?

  • AKO

    American De-Industrialization
    Continues Unabated

    The U.S. is becoming dependent on countries such as UK, Russia, France and Germany for critical weapons technology.

    • Guest

      PLEASE explain this????? It is….sooo confusing to me, that we are DEPENDANT of these other countries for our critical weapons tech. PLEASE!! :-)

    • Canuck

      According to Raytheon’s website (http://www.raytheon.com/ourcompany/history/ ) they are a true American company. As they are the manufacturer of this gps mortar, I am confused at your comment about American De-Industrialization.

  • Tad

    This should have been fielded several years ago. Would have been if testing hadn’t been delayed.

    • Guest

      Yeah, I agree. Would have been GREAT, 2-3-4 years ago. NOW, when we are pulling our, hahahaha well, I guess we will be ready for the NEXT WAR!!! hahahahahah Right!!!!

  • blight_

    Won’t be long before someone has the “bright” idea of guided 40mm grenades…there won’t be any volume left for a warhead. Instead, we will hit them on the head with the round and hope that they run in terror from our expensive electronics.

    • Dfens

      The Germans used those grenades with the long wooden handles in WW2. The handle helped the soldiers throw those grenades farther. Our own Army switched from having the knobby bits on the outside of the grenade to having them on the inside for better aerodynamics (as well as probably a little more accuracy) in their current grenades. Not everything new sucks. What sucks is paying out the ass for everything new.

  • GI dude

    What, a $50,000 mortar round? My 120’s in Iraq were superbly registered and could put conventional rounds with 10 meters!

  • Brian B. Mulholland

    At the same range as is described for this new round?

    No doubt the unit cost will drop with production, but I assume this will initially see use only for very long range shots.

  • Brian B. Mulholland

    Wups, sent too soon. The range quoted for this round is out to 16 KM.

  • WarDog59

    Anyone notice that those are not Marines in the photo?