Guided?

Here’s something interesting. Andrew Krepinevich is quoted by the AOL News (!) blog criticising various aspects of US strategy, which is what he does. But this quote popped out of the background for me:

“The American military is losing some critical sources of advantage that it’s enjoyed over the last twenty years. One is the near monopoly we’ve had in precision guided weaponry,” he said. Not only are China and Iran investing in precision, he said, but even the terrorists who struck the US consulate in Benghazi may have used precision-guided mortar rounds…

May they really? If so, I think that’s the first confirmed use of guided indirect fire weapons against a US or “western” target, certainly by a nonstate actor, and a moment of some historic significance. Also, it’s Libya, which is currently leaking weapons in all directions. So if someone either has a supply of these rounds, or else an operation producing them, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if they appear elsewhere soon.

That would include Syria and also Palestine, which makes it time to unfreeze this post out of the carbonite. Bill Clinton had a damn good point there.

GPS receivers available in commerce are restricted, via the CoCom export control machinery, to functioning below 60,000 feet altitude and at less than 1,000 knots ground speed. This is precisely intended to stop people building their own ballistic missile guidance systems, and greatly annoys amateur high altitude balloonists.

In practice, as JGC points out, some manufacturers implement this as an AND and some as an OR, but overall it functions as a restriction on the range of such a device. 1,000 knots is 514m/s. Assuming a 45 degree launch, that would give a maximum altitude of 22,000 feet, well within the restriction, and a range of 27km/16.7 miles with a time of flight of 74 seconds. For example, one of the Fajr-5s the Iranians claim they supplied to Hamas, or taught Hamas how to make would be out of court on both counts. Of course, it’s more likely that guidance would operate after the rocket burned out.

3 comments

  1. Jakob

    Yeah, I wondered about that when you posted the link earlier in the week. The only PGM mortar rounds I’d heard of were laser-guided systems (and this may have been in an old – 80s – AvWeek), but for indirect-fire systems GPS rounds would make more sense. Have PGM mortar systems reached operational status anywhere then?

  2. Metatone

    I think “may have” is doing a lot of work here – I’d suspect that they didn’t use GPS guided rounds – perhaps they did it in Benghazi the old fashioned way and had precision results from planning and care/craftsmanship. It seems endemic in the USA commentariat that they’ve forgotten that you can get some of these results (in the right conditions) without the technology. Indeed, US troops in times gone past managed extraordinary mortar precision when given planning and prep time.

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