Lance Cpl. Ahmad Garland of Golf Battery, 2nd Battalion, 11th Marines, holds an M982 Excalibur round at Forward Operating Base Zeebrugge in Helmand province, Afghanistan, in April. Garland and other Golf Battery Marines fired an Excalibur round a record 36 kilometers on Feb. 12, killing a team of Taliban fighters. (James J. Lee / Staff)
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A Marine unit that recently returned from Afghanistan killed a team of Taliban insurgents with a record-setting artillery strike.
Golf Battery, 2nd Battalion, 11th Marines, out of Camp Pendleton, Calif., dropped the 155mm M982 Excalibur round on insurgents 36 kilometers away — more than 22 miles — in Helmand province. The strike was launched Feb. 12 from an M777 howitzer on a mountainside at Forward Operating Base Zeebrugge, in Kajaki, to neighboring Musa Qala district, Marines said.
It marks the longest operational artillery shot in history for the Marine Corps, said Capt. Joshua Kling, the battery commander.
It also was the longest operational shot using the Excalibur round, said David Brockway, an official with Raytheon Missile Systems, Tucson, Ariz., one of the companies involved in its development.
The round is fielded by both the Corps and the U.S. Army, and could be used at even greater distances in the future, Brockway said. In testing, it has hit targets 37.5 kilometers away with accuracy, and can be launched over 41 kilometers with the 39-caliber M777 howitzers that are commonly used in the U.S. military, he said.
Excalibur uses a jam-resistant GPS device, maintaining accuracy even as the round travels miles through the air. It's deployable in all weather conditions, and can be used in close support situations less than 500 feet from coalition forces, according to military fact sheets outlining its capabilities.
The record comes five years after the Army named an experimental version of the round, the XM982, one of its inventions of the year. At the time, Army officials said it provided "unmatched precision and lethality for artillery projectiles critical to urban warfare."
The Corps issued an urgent request in 2011 for more than 1,000 rounds for use in Afghanistan, Raytheon officials said. Marines have continued to use Excalibur since, firing up to 30 rounds in a week in Helmand province.
Golf Battery returned to Pendleton in late May. The Marines were primarily based at FOB Zeebrugge, where they provided fires in Kajaki, Sangin, Musa Qala and other areas of northern Helmand. The battery also filled a provisional infantry mission for most of its deployment, patrolling areas around the landmark Kajaki Dam from FOB Zeebrugge and nearby patrol bases.