The Ukrainian military is on the counteroffensive, and M982 Excalibur 155mm artillery rounds are making sure that the life expectancy of Russian high-value targets, whether that is a high-ranking officer, ammunition depot, or command and control post, is short.
An artillery war
Artillery has been a major factor in the war in Ukraine. The “King of the Battle” continues to reign supreme more than 200 years after French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte praised its qualities.
At one point in the summer, the Russian military was expending around 20,000 artillery rounds a day in its attempt to dislodge and push back the Ukrainian forces from their defensive positions in the Donbas. The Ukrainians generally held their ground and lobbed around 6,000 rounds a day back at the Russians.
With the help of the U.S. and NATO, Ukraine has managed to weather the Russian onslaught and steadily turn the tables. Shipments of hundreds of M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS), M270 Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS), and M-777 155mm Howitzer from the stocks of the U.S. military have significantly helped Ukraine change the course of the conflict and assume the strategic initiative.
The Ukrainian forces have been using these weapon systems for long-range precision strikes against the Russian forces across the battlefield, degrading their capabilities and blunting their offensive potential. M142 HIMARS strikes, in particular, have gained rare popularity, with footage showing the destruction of Russian targets going viral on the internet.
Continuous US support
The U.S. has been supporting the Ukrainian military with security aid throughout the Russian invasion. Thus far, the White House has greenlighted 21 packages of security aid to Kyiv worth around $15 billion. In the last few days alone, the U.S. has committed weapon systems worth about $1.3 billion.
The latest packages of military aid have been increasingly focusing on replenishing the Ukrainian ammunition stocks that have been quickly depleting as the Ukrainian forces go on the counteroffensive. The Ukrainian efforts in the east, around Kharkiv, and the south, toward Kherson and Zaporizhzhia, need vast amounts of artillery shells. And despite having sent or committed close to one million 155mm and 105mm artillery rounds to Ukraine, the Ukrainian military still needs more ammo.
But the U.S. military hasn’t been providing just quantities of ammunition. Increasingly, the Pentagon has been sending the Ukrainian military advanced weapon systems that are designed to address specific battlefield needs and tip the scale to Kyiv’s favor. The FGM-148 Javelin anti-tank weapon, M142 HIMARS, FIM-92 Stinger anti-aircraft weapon, and AGM-88 High-Speed Anti-Radiation Missile (HARM) are some of the weapon systems that have helped Ukraine go on the counteroffensive. And now, the M982 Excalibur 155mm precision-guided round is added to that list.
The M982 Excalibur
The latest package of security aid package includes “1,000 precision-guided 155mm artillery rounds,” according to the Pentagon. These are very likely M982 Excalibur 155mm precision-guided rounds. The first batch of M982 Excalibur shells was sent to Ukraine a few weeks ago but, similarly to now, wasn’t announced by the Pentagon.
In an attempt to maintain operational security, the U.S. military has tried to be generally vague regarding the exact capabilities it has given or committed to the Ukrainians.
The M982 Excalibur is a special 155mm artillery round with an extended range. The artillery shell has a GPS and the ability to strike within approximately 250 to 500 feet of the target. As such, the M982 Excalibur is primarily used for close support fire missions where the presence of friendly forces or the threat of collateral damage to civilians or civilian infrastructure is high.
With a range that can reach 25 miles (with the existing artillery systems that the Ukrainian military uses), the M982 Excalibur can add that much more firepower to the Ukrainian counteroffensives, and further allow the Ukrainian military to use accuracy and precision strikes to take out the important Russian targets.
Some versions of the M982 Excalibur round have even laser-guided capabilities, though it is unlikely that these are the ones supplied to the Ukrainians.
Feature Image: Ukrainian artillery during training exercises in 2021. (Ministry of Defense of Ukraine)