Boeing and defense company Nammo, in partnership with the US Army, have set a new range record during an indirect fire test of a ramjet-powered artillery shell. This feat was accomplished when a Ramjet 155-mm round was fired from a 58-caliber Extended Range Cannon Artillery (ERCA).
While modern artillery has made various advancements, the range of guns used by Western powers has seen only marginal improvements. In contrast, rivals like Russia heavily rely on artillery fire, particularly rocket artillery, which has a range over three times longer than that of cannon fire.
To address this disparity, Boeing and Norway-based company Nammo collaborated under the US Army’s XM1155 program to develop a new class of exceptionally long-range artillery that utilizes advanced ramjet technology. The innovation of this project lies in the ability for these shells to be fired by standard guns without any modifications.
The recent record-setting test took place at the Army’s Yuma Proving Ground in Arizona, where the 155-mm shell was fired. Earlier tests were conducted at the Andøya Test Center in Norway using a 39-caliber towed artillery cannon. Visually, the Boeing/Nammo shell resembles a conventional round, but its internal structure sets it apart.
Instead of a traditional fuse, the Boeing/Nammo shell features an air intake with an aerospike. The shell’s body is lined with solid rocket fuel, which takes up minimal space as there is no oxidizer in the mix. Upon firing, the shell rapidly accelerates to supersonic speeds, activating the ramjet. The air in front of the shell is compressed, mixed with the fuel, and burns to generate thrust.
As a result, the range of the 155-mm shell increases from approximately 14 miles (22 km) to an impressive 93 miles (150 km). While the exact distance achieved in the Yuma test has not been disclosed, it provides a glimpse of the objective that was set.
Boeing has stated that the purpose of the test was twofold: to demonstrate that the new ramjet shell could be safely fired from the ERCA gun and to showcase its flight performance. The next focus will be on enhancing the precision of the round.
Morten Brandtzæg, Nammo CEO, expressed confidence in the program’s progress. He stated that the propulsion system has undergone thorough testing and guarantees significant range increases for all artillery cannons. Brandtzæg believes that the major development obstacles have been overcome, and production can commence within a relatively short timeframe.
Boeing and Nammo consider the successful tests to be a collaborative achievement, one that offers the range and precision desired by the Army. The introduction of ramjet technology represents a revolution in artillery, allowing for considerably extended range and providing strategic advantages to the users.
1. Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research
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