Intelligent anti-tank ammunition tested at the Yuma test site
A current example of the US Army’s Yuma Proving Ground (YPG) shaping the future armed forces by testing equipment is the XM204 intermediate ammunition for long-range headline attack. YPG is the ideal place to conduct quick tests of these vital ammunition. Not only does the post’s test site have vast areas far from populated areas, decades of institutional knowledge, and a full range of realistic threat target vehicles at hand, but it is also highly instrumented and specially designed for this type of test. The Army Yuma Proving Ground ( YPG) is well known at the forefront of the Army’s modernization efforts and goes well beyond development testing of equipment like the Extended Range Cannon Artillery.
A current example of how YPG is shaping the future armed forces by testing equipment is the XM204 intermediate ammunition for long-range top-level attack.
The testing phase at YPG, which has just ended, will enable ammunition to start limited initial production for state tests that will take place here.
“The system verification check by contractors is the keystone for this test phase,” said Lt. Col. Isaac Cuthbertson, Product Manager for Terrain Shaping Obstacles. “The XM204 supports an operational needs statement directly from US Army Europe, so managing the schedule is key to the program.”
The XM204 is part of a new generation of terrain-shaping obstacles that tracked vehicles operated by a nearby enemy in open terrain can target and deter. This eliminates the old method of hand laying landmines.
“Any time a commander wants to affect the maneuverability of enemy forces in an area without natural obstacles like a river or mountain, you can either build obstacles or place deadly obstacles,” explained Cuthbertson.
In the event that a small portion of soldiers are at risk of being outnumbered and out-maneuvered by an enemy with heavy tracked vehicles, the portable and easy-to-stow XM204 can help them hold their ground until reinforcements arrive. The launch module is the size of a large suitcase and carries four top attack ammunition which, when triggered, ejects one top attack sub-ammunition into the air. The submunition tracks and identifies threat vehicles and then fires an armor-piercing bullet at the target.
“It can ‘hear’ tracked vehicles and feel them coming,” said Steve Patane, YPG test officer. “When it does, it uses a mechanism that starts tracking the vehicle. When the threat vehicle is within a certain distance, the XM204 will shoot a submunition into the air to fire the warhead at the target within its zone of authority. “
The rugged launcher module has a mechanism that indicates whether the system is armed or not. It also features a self-destruct switch with different time settings to prevent the system from remaining inactive and dangerous years or decades after a conflict has ended, as was the case with previous US and foreign landmines.
The large handle of the launcher was created as a result of feedback from combat engineers during a Soldier Touchpoint in Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri.
“We redesigned the box based on direct feedback from the soldiers so they could hold the box in their full gear,” said Cuthbertson. “The butterfly design for the battery box comes from the same soldier touchpoint.”
YPG is the ideal place to conduct quick tests of these vital ammunition. Not only does the post’s test site have vast areas far removed from populated areas, decades of institutional knowledge, and a full range of realistic threat target vehicles at hand, but it is also highly instrumented and specially designed for this type of test. The site, built in the mid-1990s, is extensively networked with fiber optic cables and hard power lines, without which noisy generators could interfere with the tests.
“This test site is phenomenal for us because it gives us the ability to drive vehicles through an environment relevant to this particular system,” said Cuthbertson. “The vehicles for threat representatives give us the best data and the best idea of how the system will behave in a real situation.”
For the evaluation, the drivers of the YPG drive vehicles such as battle tanks and armored personnel carriers at different speeds over the test track. The course enables tracked vehicles to be easily maneuvered. The XM204’s sensors use an algorithm to deploy ammunition at the most convenient time, depending on the size and speed of the threat vehicle within its area of responsibility. Most of the current tests have included testing the accuracy of the ammunition’s sensors, and it is in these sections that human drivers operate the vehicle. Instead of detonating the high-explosive (HE) top attack projectiles of the XM204, the built-in sensors of the XM204 use a camera crosshair to take a photo at what would normally be the scene of the incident.
“The camera’s aiming point gives us an idea of where the ammunition would hit if it were actually shot,” said Cuthbertson. “During the time we were testing the HE shells, we were using remote-controlled vehicles.”
For example, a battle tank in the test fleet has several effects from previous test fires of previous ammunition while the vehicle is being autonomously controlled.
“Getting steel on target speaks well for our program,” said Cuthbertson with a smile.
The Army first issued system requirements for the XM204 in early 2020 and tested throughout the COVID pandemic with people in the New Jersey program office who were able to monitor the tests with video, real-time screen sharing, and conference calls. Many of the capabilities of the XM204 come from previous systems such as the XM1100 Scorpion that have been tested at YPG over the past few years.
“We are able to move relatively quickly because we are leveraging the technology and investments from previous programs,” said Cuthbertson. “This allows us to keep our schedule much shorter than the typical army program of records.”
Ultimately, the testers intend to use legacy systems like the Volcano lead dispenser to complement the XM204.
“This will allow us to take the old canisters from the Volcano system and connect them to a new baseplate that we are developing,” said Cuthbertson. “The base plate of the XM343 can be connected to the XM204 to fire the ground attack mines from the old volcanic system.”
Story by Mark Schauer
US Army Yuma Proving Grounds