How accurate is indirect fire artillery?

I’m wondering how accurate mortars, howiters and rockets can be. I know that it differs from model to model. If you have information about a particular model or more, please share it.

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It’s measured in CEP - circular error probable, which is basically a circle drawn around the aim point, in which 50% of shells land.

According to wikipedia, the Excalibur ER guided shell has a CEP of 20 meters @ 25 to 35 miles. By contrast, a standard 155 mm shell has a CEP of 200 to 300 meters at “moderate range”.

Even JDAM bombs have a CEP of 13 meters.

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Article from Aviation Week, comparing CEPs for various guided artillery rockets such as ATACMS. Ballpark, 10m to 100m at the end of a 300 km flight.

The 5in/54 naval gun’s ERGM GPS-guided munition is expected to have CEP no worse than 20m, with a 60 nm range. The Naval Institute Guide to World Naval Weapon Systems, pg 485. Found it on google books.

Like bump, the figures I found for generic tube artillery, e.g.M777 155mm howitzer, show CEPs of

I guess the follow-up question would be how close does it need to hit? What is the blast radius for most shells? Tanks may require a direct hit, but I am thinking even being within 50 m would not be good for the average infantryman, either getting hit with shrapnel or the concussion - which I understand is more lethal.

Unguided artillery is an area weapon. The idea is you send a dozen or more shells. Which land in a shotgun-like pattern whose size is dictated by random variations and whose shape depends on the orientation of target & gun(s).

As noted above the CEP for unguided 155mm is between 50 & 200 meters. Most of that error is in range. The shape of the fall pattern for a single tube tends to be an ellipse double or triple as long (in range) as it is wide (in azimuth). If you have several tubes dispersed across the friendly side, they can each hit a single target point from different angles, creating a more circular collective impact pattern.

At 50m, infantry in the open are gonna get hurt. Not all killed, but they’re certainly gonna have some injuries & maybe a few killed. They’re also going to take cover, which means they stop doing their mission, i.e. overrunning your guys’ position. Light vehicles will take some shrapnel damage.

So depending on the size & density of the enemy formation and where the fire pattern falls, you could make a lot of noise and fear, or you could flat annihilate them with the first volley.

The real power of artillery is that once you’ve fixed the enemy with the first few rounds, so they’re hiding in the lowest depression they can quickly find, you can continue to pump dozens or hundreds of shells into the same football-field-sized area. Soon enough they’ll all be dead & all their veicles will be destroyed.
Guided artillery or air-dropped weapons are a whole different scenario. CEP there is mostly a matter of accuracy of the initial target spotting, and a factor for malfunctions. The weapons either tend to land almost spot-on within a few meters, or go stupid & land well away from the intended point of impact.

For GPS guided weapons, a lot of the accuracy limitations come from how well the coordinates for the target are determined. If I look at a map & decide they enemy is at *these *coords, well the map’s accuracy may be much worse than the weapon’s. So it hits the right spot on the ground which is the wrong spot on the map because the map is wrong. Or I misread it. Those errors are largely uncontrolled; there’s no way to estimate in advance how big they can be.