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Digital Fire Control

Monday, November 17, 2014

What is it?

Digital fire control systems, the U.S. Army Armaments Research Development and Engineering Center at Picatinny Arsenal in cooperation with various Program Management Offices, provide significant advantages for increasing weapon accuracy, responsiveness and survivability on the battlefield. Fire control system digitization is the automation of fire control functions, previously performed manually by the gun crew, resulting from the use of a networked, software-intensive fire control system.

The purpose of a fire control system is to acquire/receive target information and then implement the functions necessary to maximize the effects on target. For instance the Paladin fire control system provides a digital link to the fire support network for calls-for-fire and mission data, uses automated sensors for navigation and location, on-board sensors and a ballistic kernel for aiming data computation, automated 3-axis sensor for gun orientation, and precise weapon aiming implemented by automatic weapon drives.

Digitization of direct fire systems, such as the Abrams tank, which are reliant on on-board line of sight sensors to acquire target information and perform aiming data computation, paved the way for easier expansion of system function and capabilities.

What has the Army done?

ARDEC, supporting the respective Program Management Offices, has digitized all of the Army’s gun-based indirect fire systems including M109A6 Paladin self-propelled and the M777A1 and M119A3 towed howitzers; dismounted 120mm mortars, M1064 mortar platforms and M577 fire direction center and STRYKER mortar carrier variants.

ARDEC’s fire control mission addresses functions that cover the entire target engagement cycle to include target acquisition and tracking, target/environmental sensing, ballistic computation, gun/launcher/sight control and stabilization, munition initialization/tracking, and network communications as well as diagnostics, prognostics and training capabilities.

What continued efforts does the Army have planned for the future?

The Army is currently evaluating technology solutions to address the associated size, weight, and power challenges in support of man portable and lighter weight fire control systems, such as the 60mm and 81mm mortar systems and small arms. ARDEC is also pursuing similar fire control technology improvements for larger caliber direct fire weapon systems.

Why is this important to the Army?

In addition to advantages in increased weapon accuracy, responsiveness and survivability, these software-intensive fire control systems have also facilitated the incorporation of smart munitions within the fire control systems such as the artillery’s excalibur and precision guidance kit (PGK) munitions, the mortar’s advanced precision mortar initiative (APMI) munition and the tank advanced multipurpose (AMP) round. Additionally, since the efforts are performed in house with government owned Intellectual property, significant advantages result from hardware and software commonality and the associated cost, schedule and sustainment benefits.


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