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The US Army has awarded a contract to Raytheon to start low-rate initial production (LRIP) of Excalibur Increment b (Ib) precision-guided extended-range projectiles.

The $56.6m contract was announced at the recent 2013 International Defence Exhibition and Conference (IDEX) in Abu Dhabi, UAE.

US Army Excalibur programme manager lieutenant colonel Josh Walsh said the Excalibur Increment Ib round was designed to boost reliability and reduce unit costs, simultaneously maintaining enhanced precision for troops.

"With a radial miss distance of less than 4m at ranges in excess of 35km, Excalibur continues to provide manoeuvre commanders with an organic precision fires capability not seen before," Walsh added.

Raytheon Missile Systems Army programmes vice president Michelle Lohmeier said the counter techniques must also evolve and change keeping in view the constantly altering nature of modern-day threats.

"Excalibur Ib’s design flexibility will allow software changes and capability improvements in response to future warfighter needs," Lohmeier said.

Expected to be awarded through 2016, the future Excalibur Ib LRIP contract options will include additional quantities to support US forces’ increased inventory requirements and training allocations, as well as the foreign military sales (FMS) programmes.

"Excalibur Ib’s design flexibility will allow software changes and capability improvements in response to future warfighter needs."

Based on the combat-proven Excalibur Ia projectile, Excalibur Ib features a non-spinning fixed base, an extended-range GPS-guided artillery round, and a reprogramming port to enable the soldier to modify its performance according to changing threats and evolving tactics.

The projectile leads to increased reliability and reduced operating cost by using fewer parts and requiring simpler manufacturing compared to Excalibur Ia rounds.

Delivery of Excalibur Ib projectiles are scheduled to start in the last quarter of 2013.

A co-development programme between Raytheon and BAE Systems/Bofors, the Excalibur projectile has been designed to provide accurate, first round fire-for-effect capabilities to the existing and future 155mm howitzers in urban environments.

Image: An Excalibur precision-guided extended-range projectile of the US Army. Photo: courtesy of US Army.

Defence Technology