- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 14, 2002

A new type of ballistic technology that can fire more than 1 million rounds per minute from a 36-barrel weapon is one of the reasons Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld has canceled the $11 billion Crusader artillery system.
The technology is known as "Metal Storm," which is also the name of the Australian research and development company that owns it.
The fastest weapons today are mechanical Gatling guns that can fire at a rate of some 6,000 rounds per minute. Infantry rifles average 600 rounds per minute, which is the firing rate for a magazine of 15 to 30 rounds.
The chairman of the board of Metal Storm is retired Adm. Bill Owens, a former deputy chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and author of "Lifting the Fog of War," a book about defense modernization.
With multimillion-dollar contracts, Metal Storm works closely with the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and the Australian Defense Science and Technology Organization. The company's new chief corporate officer is Chuck Vehlow, a former general manager of the Boeing Helicopter Division. Mr. Vehlow, who has a master of science degree from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has negotiated big-ticket procurement contracts and technology-licensing agreements with the Pentagon.
Most of Metal Storm's work is top-secret. Under development are systems that include an unmanned aerial combat vehicle that will carry twelve 40 mm mortar boxes comprising a total of 1,200 tubes, and armed with 7,200 grenades. The system's unprecedented firing capabilities can lay down a continuous 50-yard-wide carpet of grenades for two miles, firing all its grenades simultaneously with 5-yard separation on impact.
Another gun under development for a small combat aerial vehicle is multibarreled and can fire 270 rounds onto a target in 0.001 seconds without stress on the airframe or any drop in air speed.
The company's Advanced Individual Combat Weapon program, says Chief Executive Officer Mike O'Dwyer, is destined to replace small arms among Western allies. The prototypes under development have a dual-barrel capability to fire both 20 mm and 40 mm bursting munitions and standard 5.56-mm NATO ammunition. The weapon also will fire nonlethal projectiles for riot control. The future infantry weapons hardware replacement program for Australia's small defense forces alone is estimated to be worth $700 million.
Metal Storm's submachine gun will be capable of firing multiple-barrel, rapid-fire bursts at 45,000 rounds per minute per barrel. The technology is entirely electronic and nonmechanical. Its electronically variable rate of fire has been confirmed to 1 million rounds per minute.
The technology allows barrels to be grouped in any configuration required for a particular application because it has no moving parts, other than bullets or other projectiles. It also has no separate magazine and no ammunition feed or ejection system. Next to Metal Storm's firepower, said a senior Pentagon acquisition official, the lumbering, 45-ton Crusader artillery tube would be obsolete.
At the core of the technology is a projectile design that enables multiple high-pressure ammunition to be stacked in a barrel, and then electronically fired in sequence. In turn, multiple barrels can be grouped to form compact weapons systems of unprecedented conventional firepower.
These new weapons will have all-electronic access control systems to ensure that only authorized personnel use them. The dual function will allow on-board selection at the press of a button between a nonlethal response capability and the kind of lethality that will deny an area to the enemy without having to use anti-personnel land mines.
Vle is a handgun with a 64-digit electronic keying system that conceals a transponder. An electronic message confirms when the weapon is set to fire and which fire setting is selected. Pentagon specialists have witnessed tests in which the Vle has fired single shots, double-tap shots at 45,000 rpm, triples at 60,000 rpm, and a high-energy double-tap burst at 500,000 rpm.
Sources at the advanced research project agency said the Metal Storm technological breakthrough will produce a new generation of weapons that will "accelerate out-of-atmosphere ballistic missile interdiction as well as biological and chemical cloud neutralization."
Arnaud de Borchgrave is editor at large of The Washington Times, as well as an editor at large of United Press International. His account also appears on the UPI wire.


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