MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. --
Second Battalion, 10th Marine Regiment visited the Combat Center to test a new weapon in the most extreme of climates.
Shot from the M777 A2 Howitzer, the excalibur round is a precision-guided artillery round that uses the Global Positioning System to hit targets with pin-point accuracy. The round is now being used in Afghanistan to reduce civilian casualties while providing Marines with effective fire support.
For the majority of the battalion, this shoot was the first time they were able to experience the new gun and munitions.
Each round costs approximately $100,000, making its time in training scarce.
“This is good hands-on experience for our guys,” said Gunnery Sgt. Keith Allen, the battery gunnery sergeant for Battery E. “We are trying to use them more heavily in Afghanistan. They are more accurate, cutting down on casualties.”
Marines had the opportunity to explore the positives and negatives of the newest version of their lightweight howitzer. The M777 A2 is an improvement over the M777 as it incorporates a GPS interface and can be moved quickly, thanks to lighter material used in its construction. The tremendous force and pressure from firing its ordnance can increase the demands on the gun’s crew, however.
“It’s dependable, but it takes more to maintain,” Allen said. “It’s better, lighter and safer.”
The gun and the round have more technology in them than the predecessor M198 howitzer and its standard high explosive rounds. Both the round and the gun have computer chips and GPS units inside them, making them extremely accurate.
“It takes more [preparation] and more attention to detail,” said Cpl. T. J. Dye, the section chief for gun one in Battery E. “It’s not like the normal HE round. You have to hold it a different way, and you have to be very careful with it.”
Dye said the round is used on a case-by-case basis. Because the round doesn’t have a large kill radius, it is more likely to be used when insurgents are in a compound or similar area in order to avoid civilian casualties, whereas a normal HE round would be used if the insurgents are found in an open field.
“This round is supposed to be very reliable,” Allen said. “This is a great opportunity for the Marines to get a good feel of what this round is like.”