After years of development, a new class of weapon that uses computer-controlled electronic ignition instead of primers to fire projectiles may be finally taking its much coveted place in the U.S. military inventory.
Brisbane, Australia-based Metal Storm has delivered a four-barrel weapon to the Naval Surface Warfare Center for testing that uses a small electrical current instead a conventional firing pin to deliver stacked rounds at an astounding rate.
How astounding? Try 1 million rounds per minute. That's the rate, by the way, not the volume; still, there's no way you want to be anywhere near the wrong end of one of these puppies.
One version, the Redback, features a remotely operated 40mm that can automatically track targets by slewing around at almost 2 complete revolutions per second, according to the company. "The employment of Metal Storm's stacked round technology for a U.S. military weapon system is a huge step for us," Metal Storm CEO Lee Finniear said in the company's press release.
Electronically fired weapons and the general concept have been around for awhile--Austrian company Voere offers an electric, bolt-action hunting rifle--but nothing has approached Metal Storm (PDF). Metal Storm weapons use multiple, "lightweight, economical barrels" mounted in pods on a variety of platforms that can fire a wide selection of munitions.
The projectiles are stacked in-line in the barrel--nose to tail--so there are no magazines, no shell casings, and no mechanical components. This makes them ideal for unattended area denial or picket duty. They are also easily adapted to light vehicles and robot platforms. In fact, the company just signed an MOU with iRobot Government & Industrial Robots to combine its robot platforms with Metal Storm's scalable systems.
"Together with Metal Storm, we aim to develop a superior next-generation weapons platform that ensures absolute safety and always places a human in the decision loop," iRobot's Joe Dyer promised in announcing the agreement. "When you are talking about weaponizing robots, there is no margin for error."
Especially at a million rounds per minute.