Magazine article National Defense

GPS-Guided Projectile Bolsters Field Artillery

Magazine article National Defense

GPS-Guided Projectile Bolsters Field Artillery

Article excerpt

Until recently, field artillery was limited to complex calculations or laser guided rounds, relying on a human operator to guide the round to the target. Now, there is a new solution on the horizon from an area familiar to automobiles, fishing boats, and even hikers: GPS or Global Positioning System satellites.

The U.S. military services are not new to the use of GPS signals. Cannons, however, are. So far, military GPS applications have focused on land and sea navigation, rockets, and high-tech missiles, not artillery.

If GPS technology could translate coordinates to a position to the fuse of a projectile, accuracy of field artillery could be taken to a more advanced level. If this technological leap were possible, field artillery with guided high explosive improved conventional munitions (HE/ICM) could attack the enemy from greater standoff distances while increasing weapon accuracy.

But 1990s GPS technology could not survive the lower level of ground-to-- ground missions. A guidance system must survive the high-G explosive shock of initial firing, quickly assess its location after leaving the gun barrel, immediately begin providing guidance to the projectile, and operate in a potentially high jamming environment.

The system also must fit into the volume of the projectile's fuse well, no bigger than the palm of a hand; have a greater than 20year shelf life-and cross the Y2K barrier. Considerations for the assembly of a board, such as available space on a board and design of a board, were formidable obstacles, as well as hardening of board components and anti-jamming protection of the GPS signal under battlefield conditions.

And after meeting all these demands, the guidance system must meet a significantly lower target cost than existing implementations.

Companies in the field of military electronics realized that the basic construction of all GPS/inertial measurement unit (IMU)-based guidance systems are similar, regardless of whether they are developed for an expensive cruise missile or inexpensive projectile. They created projectile guidance systems that give projectiles fast acquisition of the military GPS signal-less than six seconds-a much longer shelf life, and less field setup.

Using a GPS-based integrated guidance system that allowed the IMU to meet size/performance and cost requirements, designers developed a silicon-based micro-machine technology for the inertial sensor, high levels of processor integration, and additional hardware function consolidation. …

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