The U.S. Army Is Using Satellites for Artillery Shell Targeting
The U.S. Army now is pairing space-based sensors with artillery units to allow howitzer and rocket gunners to detect, identify, process, and engage enemy units faster than ever. In tests conducted in Germany, Army artillery units were able to use satellite data for the first time to hit targets beyond the line of sight.
The tests, according to C4ISRNet, took place at the Army’s Grafenwoehr Training Area in Germany. Army M777 155-millimeter howitzers and M270 Multiple Launch Rocket Systems were able to access satellite sensors and use the data to engage imaginary targets. The howitzer and rocket shells used precision guided shells to hit their targets.
It’s not exactly clear how the satellites helped the artillerymen hit their targets. The Army says its Futures Command Assured Position, Navigation and Timing (A-PNT) team was responsible for the exercise’s success. Position, navigation, and timing (PNT) is typically associated with the U.S. government’s constellation of 24 GPS satellites. Civilians associate GPS with turn-based directions.
Artillery units, on the other hand, can use PNT to determine their own location on the battlefield, particularly how far they are from enemy targets and to figure out quickly if they have the range to hit them. They can also find their way to firing positions with certainty, and synchronize their timing so they can precisely time their salvoes.
It’s not clear how the Army used space-based sensors in this case, since artillery units already do most of these things. Army artillery units also already use satellite-guided rounds, one example being the service’s GPS-guided M982 Excalibur artillery shell. Whatever it is, it’s a space-based sensor the Army says ground forces haven’t had access to before.