FORT MCCOY, Wis. — Battery C of the 1st Battalion, 120th Field Artillery — part of the Wisconsin Army National Guard’s 32nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team — completed training earlier this month that will allow the unit to be more precise with its munitions.
The M777 howitzer battery successfully fired conventional 155-mm artillery rounds fitted with the Precision Guidance Kit (PGK) — a fuze-sized guidance control module that uses the Global Positioning Satellite system to make minute corrections to the round’s flight after being fired.
“This offers more lethality, and better protection for those not engaged in the fight,” said Capt. Chris Philpot, Battery C commander.
The PGK takes “a lot of the error out of the firing solution,” said George French, one of the New Equipment Training team instructors on hand to teach Battery C how to properly use the device. “It still requires the gun to meet the five requirements of accurate fire, but it will fine-tune itself on the target and get within 50 meters of the target at all times.”
French said the U.S. Army and Marine Corps are moving to precision munitions in field artillery, to both increase the lethal effect of their rounds and to reduce collateral damage due to errant rounds. The PGK, which fits in the fuze well of standard 155-mm artillery rounds, can function in point-detonation and proximity modes, and includes a fail-safe option so that the round will not detonate if it is not close to its target.
Small fins on the PGK allow the guidance module to make micro-movements during flight, helping steer the round closer to its intended target. This precision means that fewer rounds are required to achieve the same effect in combat.
“This kind of equipment can do more with less,” said Staff Sgt. Michael Ledoux, an M777 howitzer section chief with Battery C.
French said the training — accomplished in less than three days at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin — went quite smoothly.
“The unit’s always been one step ahead, prepared to execute and they’ve done an outstanding job,” French said.
Philpot credited his Soldiers and noncommissioned officers for that appraisal.
“We were ready to fire yesterday,” he admitted. “That’s the thing about artillerymen — as long as we’re shooting rounds, we’re happy.”
Philpot also said Fort McCoy has taken good care of his unit during a somewhat earlier-than-usual artillery live fire training. He also said proficiency with the PGK makes Battery C a more valuable and deployable asset in the Wisconsin National Guard’s federal mission as a primary combat reserve.