General Atomics Awarded U.S. Army Contract Modification to Mature Gun-Launched Hypersonic Projectiles

General Atomics Electromagnetic Systems (GA-EMS) has been awarded a contract modification from the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command (CCDC) Armaments Center to further the development and maturation of gun-launched guided hypersonic projectiles, the company announced Jan. 7.

The projectiles will be launched in high G-force and electromagnetic field environments to verify that the projectiles and the gun-hardened guidance and control electronics within them perform as designed to intercept moving airborne targets during live fire events scheduled through the end of 2021.

“This is a critical next step toward the goal of integrating guided projectiles for railgun technologies into the air and missile defense command network, and closing the fire control loop to enable precision engagement and intercept of airborne targets,” stated Scott Forney, president of GA-EMS. “Over the past few years we have made significant advancements in developing, manufacturing, and testing gun-hardened electronics, projectiles, and railgun weapon system technologies and components. Working closely with the Army’s DEVCOM AC, we will leverage our expertise and lessons learned to bring these disruptive technologies forward to provide greater defended range and strike capabilities for air and missile defense and long range precision fires missions.”

In addition to its on-going efforts to advance railgun weapon systems, GA-EMS has made a significant investment in internal research and development to advance and mature critical gun-hardened guidance electronics, projectile structural components, and mechanical systems. Under this contract modification, GA-EMS will manufacture guided projectiles to undergo test firings from the Navy’s railgun located at the White Sands Missile Range (WSMR) in New Mexico using the Navy’s armature and sabot package.

“We have a successful track record verifying the survivability of our projectiles and establishing in-flight two-way data links, having previously conducted multiple test firing events at Dugway Proving Ground,” said Nick Bucci, vice president of Missile Defense and Space Systems at GA-EMS. “The projectiles for this new round of testing include our fourth generation gun-hardened guidance electronic units and enhanced telemetry components. We are looking forward to verifying the projectiles’ capability to sustain data links, control its trajectory via actuated control surfaces using command guidance, and hit moving airborne targets, all while undergoing incredible G-forces and at hypersonic speeds. For the future battlespace, this will mean greater precision and accuracy to meet and defeat airborne threats.”

GA-EMS is maturing railgun weapon systems to support air and missile defense, counter battery fire, and precision indirect fire. GA-EMS railgun weapon systems feature electromagnetic launchers that use electricity instead of chemical propellants to fire projectiles at high speeds. The high muzzle velocity can be twice that of conventional guns leading to shorter engagement times, extended keep-out, and longer range.

The railgun systems has multi-mission capability, has a high firing rate and is capable of engaging multiple threats simultaneously. The elimination of propellant and high explosive warheads in the railgun system simplifies resupply and reduces logistics burden. The railguns also has high capacity (deep magazine) and a low cost per engagement.

The system can be used in mobile tactical, shipboard, and fixed land-based applications.

GA-EMS has successfully designed and built multi-mission railgun systems ranging from an integrated 3 Mega Joule (MJ) test asset and a larger 32MJ system, to a mobile 10MJ railgun system.

Hypersonic projectile firing from GA-EMS Blitzer railgun
A hypersonic projectile, with a composite sabot and a two-way datalink, being test-fired from General Atomics Electromagnetic Systems’ (GA-EMS) 3 mega joule Blitzer electromagnetic railgun system at the U.S. Army Dugway Proving Ground in Utah. (Photo Credit: U.S. Army)
GA-EMS railgun weapon system
General Atomics Electromagnetic Systems’ (GA-EMS) railgun weapon system. GA-EMS railgun weapon systems feature electromagnetic launchers that use electricity instead of chemical propellants to fire projectiles at high speeds. GA-EMS Photo.
GA-EMS Blitzer railgun firing
Firing of General Atomics Electromagnetic Systems’ (GA-EMS) Blitzer electromagnetic railgun system. GA-EMS Photo.

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