Last February in Afghanistan, Marines used an Excalibur round to kill a Taliban insurgent team in a record-setting artillery strike. This week the United States Marine Corps announced an update to this guided munition: a new, highly lethal round to support combat operations.
The Precision Extended Range Munition -- or PERM, like the hairstyle but far more lethal -- will be blasted from towers against adversaries in the field.
This week the U.S. Marine Corps signed a contract with Raytheon to build this weapon, which strikes distant targets that cannot be seen from the aiming position. Such “precision indirect fire” allows the Marine Corps to remain unseen or concealed from the enemy while still effectively striking targets.
Improved precision also importantly translates into reduced collateral damage as well.
The Excalibur round uses jam-resistant GPS to maintain accuracy and is also used by the U.S. Army. It is known for accuracy, not just at long distances, but also in tight situations. It is even sometimes deployed less than 500 feet from friendly forces for close support situations.
PERM will be a new 120mm long-range, guided-mortar munition. (Still under development, there are no pictures of the round available yet.) A robust versatile weapon system, it will work in all sorts of weather and all different types of terrain.
Excalibur is currently a popular shell of choice downrange. According to Raytheon, more than 600 Excaliber rounds have been fired in battle to date by the Marine Corps and the U.S. Army.
The longest operational shot using the Excalibur artillery shell was also the Marines longest operational artillery shot ever recorded.
Last winter, using an M777 howitzer from a mountainside Helmand Province Forward Operating Base, the 2nd Battalion, 11th Marines dropped the 155mm M982 Excalibur round on their target more than 22 miles away -- well beyond the standard effective range of about 14 miles.
The smaller PERM will provide Marine expeditionary units with an Excalibur-like operational flexibility and precision lethality.
PERM represents an important advance beyond the popular Excalibur because it will extend the current mortar capability range.
In the field, this will mean targets like enemy artillery or command and control centers that may be currently beyond reach will become within striking distance.
"Our PERM solution is also expected to reduce logistical burdens since fewer rounds will be needed to accomplish the mission," noted Tom Bussing, vice president of advanced missile systems for Raytheon Missile Systems.
Within just 18 months, Raytheon will have designed, tested and delivered these new mortars for a live fire demonstration by the Marines. Raytheon also aims to have manufacturing completed within two years.
And that sounds better than any old haircut.
Ballet dancer turned defense specialist Allison Barrie has traveled around the world covering the military, terrorism, weapons advancements and life on the front line. You can reach her at email@example.com or follow her on Twitter @Allison_Barrie.