Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Nato fires artillery shells at $150000 a round


The US and Canadian armies in Afghanistan are now using GPS-guided artillery shells at the cost of $150,000 a round. This is the most conventional artillery shell or as a matter of that the most expensive conventional ammunition ever fired by the armies.

In 2004 I met a mercenary working for Dyncorp in Kabul. The man came from Texas and had very little idea of the world, the man argued that the western armies are in Afghanistan to test their weapon systems. He continued, US army spends billions on training and weapon systems; Afghanistan is the best place to put the training in practice and use the weapons. At that time, I laughed at the man. I couldn’t take his serious because he was lacking information about most of the subjects he was talking about. This discredited his mentioned argument.

Four years on I realised that the man was right to some extent. The use of weapons like this makes one think that NATO is testing their weapon systems. The US and Canadian armies for the first time purchased some experimental shells to go along with its brand new 155-millimetre M-777 howitzers. The Excalibur shell uses satellite signals and software to guide it to within 10 metres of its intended target, even when fired from up to 40 kilometres away.

The diverse climatic and geographical condition of Afghanistan suits the introduction of GPS-guided artillery shells; western armies can test shell's performance under different weather and terrain. Live targets, such as Taliban insurgents, serve to identify the vulnerability of the weapon system. By firing at Taliban NATO can see if any counter-measures such as jamming GPS signals of the shell could take place. The question of whether the Excalibur has been led astray by sophisticated interference technology is still something both the army and defence industry officials are reluctant to address.


I wonder what happened to armament critics and activists. The cost of a single shell equals around 7 school buildings or changing teaching curriculum for grade three, which still refers to the presence of foreign forces as Soviet occupiers or the Red Army. Over four million kids in Afghanistan are studying in open air.

Afghanistan doesn’t benefit from this war, contractors like Raytheon pockets the money. Raytheon is the defence contractor which developed Excalibur. The more scared NATO is the more they use expensive weaponry and that means less money for reconstruction. A new study by ACBAR has found out that more than 60% of the international fun allocate for assisting Afghanistan reconstruction goes to western cooperates. the report adds that reconstruction assistance is a fraction of military spending. Since 2001 the United States has appropriated $127 billion for the war in Afghanistan and the US military is currently spending nearly $100 million a day in the country, some $36 billion a year. Yet the average volume of international aid provided by all donors since 2001 is woefully inadequate at just $7 million per day.

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