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US testing Hypervelocity projectile (HVP) for protecting military units on land and sea from large missile salvos by Russia and China

The tungsten “hypervelocity projectile” (HVP) is being tested in the Army’s 105mm Howitzers, and test fires from the Navy’s deck-mounted 5-inch guns are expected as well, according to a report from Scout Warrior.


When fired from 5-inch powder guns, the projectile achieves a speed of roughly Mach 3, which is roughly half the speed it achieves when fired from Electro Magnetic Rail Guns (EMRG) , but more than twice the speed of a conventional 5-inch shell fired from a 5-inch gun. This is apparently fast enough for countering at least some ASCMs. The Navy states that “The HVP—combined with the MK 45 [5-inch gun] —will support various mission areas including naval surface fire support, and has the capacity to expand to a variety of anti-air threats, [and] anti-surface [missions], and could expand the Navy’s engagement options against current and emerging threats.”


The weapons are not only devastating in their speed, but at $25,000 per round are much cheaper than their explosive counterparts such as the Tomahawk or Harpoon, which can cost up to $1 million each. “It is a fantastic program,” Will Roper, Strategic Capabilities Office director, said in a March 28 interview with reporters, who said the project aims “to completely lower the cost of doing missile defense” by defeating missile raids at a lower cost per round and, as a consequence, imposing higher costs on attackers.


The Navy described HVP in September 2012 as is a next generation, common, low drag, guided projectile capable of completing multiple missions for gun systems such as the Navy 5-Inch, 155-mm, and future railguns. Types of missions performed will depend on gun system and platform.


HVP’s low drag aerodynamic design enables high velocity, maneuverability, and decreased time-to-target. These attributes coupled with accurate guidance electronics provide low cost mission effectiveness against current threats and the ability to adapt to air and surface threats of the future.


An April 11, 2016, press report states: The Pentagon wants to take a weapon originally designed for offense, flip its punch for defense and demonstrate by 2018 the potential for the Army and Navy to conduct missile defense of bases, ports and ships using traditional field guns to fire a new hypervelocity round guided by a mobile, ground variant of an Air Force fighter aircraft radar.


A September 19, 2016, press report states: After much deliberation, both public and private, the Pentagon, which has shifted emphasis away from the electromagnetic rail gun as a next-generation missile defense platform, sees a new hypervelocity powder gun technology as the key to demonstrating to potential adversaries like China and Russia that U.S. military units on land and sea can neutralize large missile salvos in future conflicts….


“If you do that, you change every 155 [mm] howitzer in the U.S. Army in every NATO country into a cruise missile and tactical ballistic missile defender and, oh by the way, you extend their offensive range,” [Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert] Work said

Distributed Lethality

One advantage of the HVP/5-inch gun concept is that the 5-inch guns are already installed on Navy cruisers and destroyers, creating a potential for rapidly proliferating HVP through the cruiser-destroyer force, once development of HVP is complete and the weapon has been integrated into cruiser and destroyer combat systems. This would implement one the US nav’s concept of distributed lethality.


Navy surface fleet leaders in early 2015 announced a new organizing concept for the Navy’s surface fleet called distributed lethality. Under distributed lethality, offensive weapons such as Anti Ship Cruise Missiles (ASCMs) are to be distributed more widely across all types of Navy surface ships, and new operational concepts for Navy surface ship formations are to be implemented.


The aim of distributed lethality is to boost the surface fleet’s capability for attacking enemy ships and make it less possible for an enemy to cripple the U.S. fleet by concentrating its attacks on a few veryhigh-value Navy surface ships (particularly the Navy’s aircraft carriers), according to Congressional Research Service Report.


“Although Navy surface ships have a number of means for defending themselves against anti-ship cruise missiles (ASCMs) and anti-ship ballistic missiles (ASBMs), some observers are concerned about the survivability of Navy surface ships in potential combat situations against adversaries, such as China, that are armed with advanced ASCMs and with ASBMs,” observes CRS report: Navy Lasers, Railgun, and Hypervelocity Projectile: Background and Issues for Congress.


Hypervelocity projectile” (HVP)

BAE Systems states that HVP is 24 inches long and weighs 28 pounds, including a 15-pound payload. BAE states that the maximum rate of fire for HVP is 20 rounds per minute from a Mk 45 5-inch gun, 10 rounds per minute from the 155mm gun.


DDG-1000 class destroyers (called the Advanced Gun System, or AGS), and 6 rounds per minute from EMRG. HVP’s firing range, BAE Systems states, is more than 40 nautical miles (when fired from a Mk 45 Mod 2 5-inch gun), more than 50 nautical miles (Mk 45 Mod 4 5-inch gun), more than 70 nautical miles (155mm gun on DDG-1000 class destroyers), and more than 100 nautical miles (EMRG).


The high velocity compact design relieves the need for a rocket motor to extend gun range. Firing smaller more accurate rounds improves danger close/collateral damage requirements and provides potential for deeper magazines and improved shipboard safety. Responsive wide area coverage can be achieved using HVP from conventional gun systems and future railgun systems.


The modular design will allow HVP to be configured for multiple gun systems and to address different missions. The hypervelocity projectile is being designed to provide lethality and performance enhancements to current and future gun systems. A hypervelocity projectile for multiple systems will allow for future technology growth while reducing development, production, and total ownership costs.


Research Challenges & Opportunities [include]:

— High acceleration tolerant electronic components

— Lightweight, high strength structural composites

— Miniature, high density electronic components

— Safe high energy propellants compatible with shipboard operations

— Aerothermal protection systems for flight vehicles


HVP evolved from Electro Magnetic Rail Guns, EMRGs

As the Navy was developing EMRG, it realized that the guided projectile being developed for EMRG could also be fired from 5-inch and 155mm powder guns. Navy cruisers each have two 5- inch guns, and Navy Arleigh Burke (DDG-51) class destroyers each have one 5-inch gun. The Navy’s three new Zumwalt class (DDG-1000) destroyers, the first of which entered service in October 2016, each have two 155mm guns


Electro Magnetic Rail Guns, EMRGs , a cannon that uses electricity rather than chemical propellants (i.e., gunpowder charges) to fire a projectile. In EMRG, “magnetic fields created by high electrical currents accelerate a sliding metal conductor, or armature, between two rails to launch projectiles at [speeds of] 4,500 mph to 5,600 mph,” or roughly Mach 5.9 to Mach 7.4 at sea level. US Navy’s electromagnetic rail gun uses electrical energy generated by its host ship and stored over several seconds in a pulsed power system to create a magnetic field that propels the kinetic energy projectile well over 100 miles toward a wide range of targets, such as enemy vehicles, or cruise and ballistic missiles. In January 2015, it was reported that the Navy is projecting that EMRG could become operational on a Navy ship between 2020 and 2025.


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