by David Crane
A 16-round Metal Storm prototype 40mm grenade launcher system attached to/mounted on a Foster-Miller Talon Robot/UGV (Unmanned Ground Vehicle) apparently successfully completed a series of live-fire tests in front of approx. 100 senior scientific and technical personnel from the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) and selected military defense industry representatives at a U.S. Army’s firing range at Picatinny Arsenal, New Jersey. The Metal Storm 40mm Weapon System/grenade launcher system is comprised of 4 barrels (4 rounds per barrel), with the rounds stacked on top of each other in roman candle fashion. The low velocity, low pressure 40mm rounds are fired electronically.
According to Metal Storm Limited’s press release on the Picatinny Arsenal, NJ demonstration/test, this version of the 40mm multiple grenade launcher system (MGL) features "significant design and engineering" improvements over previous incarnations, including…
improved/upgraded cartridge reloading and recoil management (recoil attenuation/mitigation) systems. From the pictures DefenseReview has seen of the unit, it would appear that Metal Storm’s recoil mitigation system relies on a recoiling barrel system (as yet unconfirmed/unverified), similar in concept to how a 155mm Howitzer medium artillery system operates. In other words, the barrel itself, reciprocates, rather than a bolt group or slide. As soon as DefRev can confirm this, we’ll update our readers.
The Metal Storm Limited press release on the demo/test also states that their 40mm Weapon System/grenade launcher system mounted onto a Foster-Miller Talon Robot/Unmanned Ground Vehicle (UGV) successfully engaged a variety of targets, including simulated infantry personnel, an "infantry carrier" (armored personnel carrier), and and a bunker with pyrotechnic rounds. Targeting was achieved via an "optical targeting system integrated with a purpose-designed" mount that, according to the company, provides for a stabile firing platform, allows barrel movement on two axes, and enables the operator to engage enemy targets accurately.
Metal Storm had wanted to conduct an in-flight live-fire demo/test of an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV)-mounted Metal Storm 40mm weapon system at the Picatinny Arsenal firing/test range, but did not receive clearance to do so, due to "operational restrictions". The UAV platform/weapons mount was supposed to be a Dragonfly DP4X, which is manufactured by Dragonfly Picures, Inc. (DPI). Once mounted, the Metal Storm 40mm weapon system would turn the Dragonfly DP4X UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) into a UCAV (Unmanned Combat Air Vehicle) and , more specifically, a UCAR (Unamanned Combat Armed Rotorcraft), although DARPA’s UCAR program was recently cancelled.
According to a Metal Storm company official Defense Review spoke with, muzzle velocity and barrel pressure variances between the stacked rounds (first shot to last) in their various ballistic systems (gun systems) is insignificant and has no effect on weapon performance. DefenseReview had been curious about this aspect, since, in the Metal Storm weapons systems, the rounds are stacked on top of each other. So, each round travels a different length down the barrel, resulting in slight muzzle velocity fluctuations and barrel pressures between rounds. The company official we spoke with also revealed that the Metal Storm 40mm weapon system (40mm multiple grenade launcher system) can be modified/retrofitted to fire timed-fuse airburst munitions. "Metal Storm can be made to fire air-burst munitions. We have inductive coil [capability]." This would be interesting to see, since it’s DefRev’s understanding that the U.S. Army failed to get air-bursting munitions to work properly/reliably in the OICW/XM29 and OCSW weapons platforms. DefRev looks forward to interviewing David Smith, Metal Storm Limited’s CEO, about this, soon.
Click here to visit the Metal Storm 40mm Weapon System videos page. You can download and view video clips of the Foster-Miller Talon Robot/Unmanned Ground Vehicle (UGV) and Dragonfly UAV-mounted Metal Storm 40mm Weapon Systems/grenade launcher systems in action.
Here’s a little more background on the recent Metal Storm 40mm Weapon System demo/test conducted at Picatinny Arsenal, NJ (taken directly from the Metal Storm Limited press release on the event):
"The demonstrations were held as part of a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) that the U.S. Army Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center (ARDEC) has with Metal Storm. Under the terms of this agreement, Metal Storm develops rapid fire weapons technology while ARDEC demonstrates and evaluates such technology for potential US Army use.
Personnel from the Medium Caliber Ammo Branch of ARDEC attended the live fire demonstrations to observe the functionality of the system. Under the CRADA they will be working with Metal Storm on the development of a range of munitions for use in the Metal Storm 40mm weapon system."