The Americans tested their laser-guided (SAL) 155mm "Copperhead" shell in 1974 and months later, in December 1974, a proposal for similar mortar ammunition was ready in Germany. Two versions were considered; a passive infrared-guided (as in the later Swedish STRIX round) and a semi-active laser-guided (SAL) system (as in Copperhead).

There was no requirement for a guided mortar projectile yet, and the Bundeswehr/ministry of defence decided to approach the topic of guided high angle munitions more comprehensively. 120mm mortar, 155mm howitzer and 120mm tank cannon rounds with guidance were to be developed.

Some preliminary research and failed attempts of cooperation and technology transfer spent a few years till the "Bussard" (buzzard) development began fully in 1978 (with indigenous SAL guidance).

The principle is relatively simple; a forward observer does his normal job plus he "illuminates" the target with a laser (a stronger one than the normal rangefinder lasers). The mortar bomb sees the reflection and steers to it.
The electronics were able to sustain a 4,000 g acceleration at launch and the launch was just a little more work than a normal mortar shot.

Less than five years later it was about time to test the guided mortar bomb; the testing happened in January to July 1983 and the distance between impact and illuminated point was just a few centimetres.

Bussard was very advanced in its development and could have been in service in the mid- to late-80's.
The perfect weapon to kill immobilized main battle tanks, uncovered forward observers and above ground level field fortifications.

The German Heer wasn't fully convinced and didn't buy Bussard.
Yet another opportunity to improve our neglected mortar force was missed.

The Bussard lived on, however: It was chosen in 1994 as a contender in the PGMM (precision guided mortar munition) project. That project ran till 2003 (albeit the missile had already demonstrated its function in 1983!) when an alternative design without fins was selected for production. A low rate initial production run was from 2004 to 2009 as far as I know, but I haven't heard of XM395 being operational so far.

The comprehensive approach to guided high angle fire munitions yielded merely the "SMArt 155" 155mm howitzer round; it's specialized on hitting (damaging) tanks and useless against targets that don't look like tanks or vehicles from above.

We also bought some (last I heard was only 1,000) 227mm GMLRS missiles for our MARS (= MLRS) systems.

History is sometimes frustrating because missed opportunities, neglect, wrong decisions and inefficiency become highly visible even to those who weren't involved.

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