Gunners maintain precision using GPS-guided shells in spite of winter conditions

Article / April 4, 2019 / Project number: 19-0081

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By Jules Xavier, Shilo Stag

Shilo, Manitoba — The latest exercise for members of 1st Regiment, Royal Canadian Horse Artillery (1 RCHA) has more than lived up to its name, thanks to Mother Nature delivering snowfall and chilling temperatures brought on by an Arctic vortex.

Exercise FROZEN GUNNER, which began February 12 and wrapped up February 17, 2019, saw temperatures ranging from -14 C to -54 C, creating challenges in the field for soldiers and equipment alike.

However, this did not prevent 1 RCHA members from successfully using the recently acquired Precision Guided Kit (PGK) for the first time, also marking the first time a unit used the PGK for their own training purposes instead of as part of a technical trial engagement

1 RCHA Captain Mia Garton explained that the PGK is an accessory to the shells fired by the unit’s M777 Howitzers that greatly increases their precision. Attaching to the fuse at the tip of the shell, the PGK includes wing-like projections known as canards and uses GPS technology, allowing for course corrections as the shell approaches a target, greatly reducing collateral damage.

“The purpose of the PGK engagement was to establish and confirm technical procedures and standard operating procedures for this new capability,” said 1 RCHA’s Captain Mike Crosier, the regimental command post officer. This knowledge will be adopted and used on future exercises.

With a loud explosion at dawn, with the temperature sitting at a balmy -16 C compared to the past weekend, the first PGK-equipped round fired without a hitch.

The lone Gunner to the right of the M777 dusted himself off from the snowy debris kicked up by the concussion from the artillery round heading down range.

As a second round was fired, technicians on hand to observe the resulting data and the gunners did some fine tuning of their weapons.

Capt Crosier said the simplicity of the PGK enables it to function effectively, even in extreme conditions like those at Ex FROZEN GUNNER.

“The PGK is a simple and flexible capability which can function in any type of environment.”

Additionally, 1 RCHA welcomed three U.S. National Guard members from the State of Minnesota to the exercise.

“They requested to observe our shoot as they too will be adopting this capability this summer,” noted Capt Crosier. “The intent of the visit was to observe our Technical Training Procedures and employment methods, in order to aid them in establishing their own.”

With another Ex FROZEN GUNNER now history, members of 1RCHA will turn their attention to preparing for a longer exercise at 3rd Canadian Division Forces Base Edmonton Detachment Wainwright this spring. They will be joined on the road trip to Alberta by 2nd Battalion, Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry, where their combined forces will be immersed in further Road to High Readiness training during the annual Exercise MAPLE RESOLVE.

The Road to High Readiness is the second stage of a continuous three-year cycle that sees Canadian military personnel prepare to be deployed on operations abroad and within Canada. The third stage is achieved when one of the Army’s three Canadian Mechanized Brigade Groups (CMBGs) is at high readiness and is deployed, while the one previously at that level is in the support phase, having stood down from its deployments. The third CMBG is at the first stage, ready to repeat the training cycle.

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