Internally funded and in development, test and evaluation for at least four years, the variant of the EXCALIBUR precision guided munition (PGM) optimised for naval gunnery applications is poised on the edge of being ordered, it appears from comments made by Raytheon executives to NAFO on the opening day of Euronaval 2016 in Paris on 17 October.
The original version of EXCALIBUR, for 155mm artillery systems, now has a legacy of over 770 combat firings in Afghanistan to draw on. “We are achieving an ‘average miss distance’ of 2m at ranges of 26mi,” said Gordon C. Bourgeois, Senior Manager International Business Development for Raytheon Missile Systems in Tucson, AZ. He points out that ‘average miss distance’ is a more meaningful metric than ‘circular error probable,’ or CEP – which is perhaps more familiar to NAFO readers. The revised metric, however, reflects the true capabilities of the PGM in a manner far more relevant to the aspirations and objectives of operators.
Optimising the munition for naval use has not presented Raytheon engineers with insuperable challenges, according to Bourgeois, but the difficulties should not be underestimated either. “Firing imparts an instantaneous shock of 15,000 gravities,” he points out, adding that all components of the new projectile – re-engineered to fit into a 5 in/127mm calibre rather than a 155mm one – have been suitably 'gun hardened' to ensure their efficient and sustainable functioning under those levels of shock."
The advantages of EXCALIBUR for naval gunnery missions are similar to those already determined for land artillery operators: Vastly improved precision strike, an immense reduction in the number of rounds fired to achieve an expected result and a significantly reduced logistics footprint – which translate to more effective use of shipboard magazine capacity in naval applications. Three selectable fuze options (height of burst, point detonating and delay) and the capacity for semi-active laser guidance add to the system’s flexibility and potential utility.
There is no formal US Navy requirement right now, according to the company, but indications are that a navalised EXCALIBUR is too good a prospect to be ignored. Bourgeois adds that the extent to which the projectile is “internationally releasable” only adds to the reasonable expectations the weapon will be picked up in the foreseeable future by an international customer, should the USN not step in first. It seems EXCALIBUR N5 should shortly cross the goal line set by the company when it first decided to develop the capability.