The army just bought this “smart” artillery shell. Here’s what it can do

The US military has ordered a European smart artillery shell with sensor-guided submunitions.

The BONUS is a 155 millimeter hull from BAE Systems Bofors and French Nexter, and produced by a BAE factory in Sweden.

BAE describes BONUS as a “shoot and forget ammunition capable of successfully combating any armored vehicle. Compatible with the majority of existing artillery guns, BONUS handles like a conventional shell. When launched from from any 155mm artillery system, the BONUS carrier shell splits to deploy two sensor rounds which then search for targets within a given footprint, up to 32,000 square meters [38,271 yards].”

BONUS is a heat-seeking anti-tank system. “The BONUS multi-mode sensor detects and identifies targets by processing signals received from passive infrared (IR) sensors spanning multiple wavelengths,” according to a BAE/Nexter press release. “The system then combines the results with signals received from the profile sensor to separate combat-worthy targets from false targets.”

Each of the two submunitions detects and attacks its own target, using explosive-shaped penetrators. The scourge of US forces in Iraq and Afghanistan who encountered them in IEDs, an EFP is a shaped charge device that includes a piece of metal inside the ammunition that is molded into a projectile and fired at the target .

The BONUS Bofors 155 mm ammunition from BAE SystemsBAE Systems

“The round’s high rotational speed, high sink rate and lack of a parachute make it virtually undetectable and therefore invincible,” says BAE/Nexter. The makers also state that “using a combination of sensors, BONUS is effective against targets that use both passive and reactive protection systems.” If true, this suggests that BONUS is effective against regular armor plates and explosive reactive armor charges on the outside of a vehicle that explode to destroy anti-tank rockets. But that still leaves active protection systems like Trophy, which launch projectiles to shoot down anti-tank munitions.

The BONUS hull is a basic purge design, which uses a gas generator in the hull to generate gas flow that reduces drag and extends range. The shell has a maximum range of 35 kilometers [21.7 miles]. The shell can be fired from any 155 millimeter artillery piece, including the M109 self-propelled howitzer and the M777 towed howitzer.

Other countries that use BONUS are Finland, France, Norway and Sweden. BAE declined to specify the number of shells ordered by the US military, or the cost of each shell.

The BONUS purchase comes as the U.S. military shifts away from years of focusing on counterinsurgency against technologically weak adversaries, to preparing for a “big war” against potential adversaries like Russia and China, who use sophisticated weapons. Russia, in particular, has an artillery arsenal that arguably surpasses that of America, deploying advanced weapons such as the 2S35 Koalitsiya-SV 152-millimeter self-propelled howitzer as well as a variety of rocket-launching systems. multiple. Recently, Russia refurbished its Cold War heavy artillery, including the 2S4 Tyulpan 240mm mortar and the 2S7 Pion 203mm howitzer.

American artillery has been somewhat neglected in recent years, due to counter-insurgency warfare in Iraq and Afghanistan, where air power has proven a much more flexible instrument than relatively heavy artillery for warfare. small units. But in the face of potential adversaries with powerful air forces and air defenses, the air support that US ground troops have relied on since World War II may no longer be available when needed. Thus, the American army is now talking about guns capable of firing thousands of kilometers and long-range shells that will allow existing howitzers to fire further.

What’s interesting is that ten years ago, BONUS might not have seemed so appealing: Al-Qaeda and the Taliban didn’t have armored vehicles. But Russia and China do, and many of them do. A smart anti-armour artillery shell could prove very useful in a mechanized war between great powers.

This article originally appeared on The National Interest

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