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US Navy developing smart 'mini missiles' that can be fired from warships

US Navy developing smart 'mini missiles' that can be fired from warships Science & Technology World Website

The US Navy has revealed plans for a radical new smart 'mini missile' that can be fired from warships to take out swarms of enemy drones and boats.

Known as the Multi Azimuth Defense Fast Intercept Round Engagement System (MAD-FIRES) program, it will develop a 'medium-caliber guided projectile'.

DARPA says this will 'combine the guidance, precision, and accuracy of missiles with the speed, rapid-fire capability, and large ammunition capacity of medium-caliber bullets like 20-to-40-caliber ammunition designed to destroy lightly armored vehicles, aircraft, and personnel.'

Navy bosses say they need the new mini missile to deal with the increasing risk of 'swarm' attacks.

'Attacks by unmanned vehicles, missiles, small planes, fast in-shore attack craft and other platforms pose a perennial, evolving and potentially lethal threat to ships and other maritime vessels,' it said.

'The escalating risks posed by these ever-morphing threats demand that vessels have access to defensive capabilities at the leading edge of air and surface combat technologies. 

'In particular, current close-range gun systems would greatly benefit from an ability to engage multiple and diverse targets coming from a range of directions and do so rapidly and with high precision.'

In the latest announcement,  Ratheon was given an extra $8 million for phase 2 of the project,  to build and test prototype MAD-FIRES smart bullets, taking its toal value of contracts to $27m. 

During the first phase of MAD-FIRES Raytheon worked on concepts, simulations, and risk reduction. Also working on the program's first phase was Lockheed Martin, which is also expected to get a similar phase 2 contract. 

Last year the US military has successfully tested a .50-caliber sniper round that can change direction on its way to its target.

And now the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (Darpa) has released a video of this Extreme Accuracy Tasked Ordnance (Exacto) program in action.

The footage shows the bullet changing direction in mid-air in response to a target's movements. 

According to Darpa: 'For military snipers, acquiring moving targets in unfavourable conditions, such as high winds and dusty terrain commonly found in Afghanistan, is extremely challenging with current technology.

'It is critical that snipers be able to engage targets faster, and with better accuracy, since any shot that doesn’t hit a target also risks the safety of troops by indicating their presence and potentially exposing their location.'

Darpa claims the new system is the first ever guided small caliber bullet.

'The Exacto .50-caliber round and optical sighting technology expects to greatly extend the day and night time range over current state-of-the-art sniper systems,' continued the agency.

'The system combines a manoeuverable bullet and a real-time guidance system to track and deliver the projectile to the target, allowing the bullet to change path during flight to compensate for any unexpected factors that may drive it off course.

'Technology development in Phase II included the design, integration and demonstration of aero-actuation controls, power sources, optical guidance systems, and sensors. 

'The program’s next phase includes a system-level live-fire test and technology refinement to enhance and improve performance.'

The current world record for the longest certified kill was by Corporal Craig Harrison of the UK Household Cavalry, who killed two Taliban in November 2009 from 1.54 miles (22.4km). 

The shot was approximately 3,000ft (914 metres) beyond the stated maximum range of the Accuracy L115A3 sniper rifle, used by Corporal Harrison. 

The Taliban were so far away it took each round almost three seconds to reach its target.

Snipers typically work in two-man teams with a spotter assisting the gunman identifying targets as well as providing security.

But environmental details such as wind, rain and even humidity can affect the flight path of a bullet. 

Also bullets have to counter gravity and droop down over longer distances. 

Under the new system, a sniper will be able to adjust the bullet's direction mid-flight in case a target moved or the bullet shifted due to a gust of wind.

The newly released video shows two tests filmed earlier this year. In the both tests the round is fired deliberately off target but turns in mid-air. 

In the second target, the round it its intended target despite being fired several feet to the left.

Ted Catchel, professor emeritus at the Naval War College said the system is a very interesting development. 

He told Stars and Stripes: 'I don’t know if you push a button and it takes over. I just couldn’t find out enough about the system to know how it works.



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