The US Navy is concerned about the survivability of Navy surface ships in potential combat situations against adversaries, such as China, that are armed with large numbers of missiles, including advanced models, and large numbers of UAV. In response, the Navy surface evolved a new organizing 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 across a wider array 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 very high-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.
Three new ship-based weapons being developed by the Navy—solid state lasers (SSLs), the electromagnetic railgun (EMRG), and the gun-launched guided projectile (GLGP), also known as the hypervelocity projectile (HVP)—could substantially improve the ability of Navy surface ships to defend themselves against surface craft, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), and eventually antiship cruise missiles (ASCMs).
The Navy since 2005 has been developing EMRG, 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. As the Navy was developing EMRG, it realized that the guided projectile being developed for EMRG, which weighs about 23 pounds, could also be fired from 5-inch and 155mm powder guns.
Gun-launched guided projectile (GLGP), previously known as the hypervelocity projectile (HVP) is the new weapon of US Navy that could improve the ability of Navy surface ships to defend themselves against missiles, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), and surface craft.
When fired from 5-inch powder guns, the GLGP 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. Their impact force—their mass times the square of their velocity—can destroy expensive missiles and multiple warhead.
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.
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 $86,000 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 also cheaper compared with precision ammunition $800,000 to $1 million per Long Range Land Attack Projectile (LRLAP) round. “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.
“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.
A May 19, 2017, press report states: An Army Howitzer is now firing a super high-speed, high-tech, electromagnetic Hyper Velocity Projectile, initially developed as a Navy weapon, an effort to fast-track increasing lethal and effective weapons to warzones and key strategic locations, Pentagon officials said.
Depth of Magazine and Cost Exchange Ratio are Limitations of current Missile Defense
US Navy has have a number of means for defending themselves such as operating ships in ways that make it hard for others to detect and accurately track Navy ships; jamming or destroying enemy targeting sensors; interfering with the transmission of targeting data from sensors to weapon launchers; attacking missile launchers (which can be land-based launchers, ships, submarines, or aircraft); and countering missiles and UAVs headed toward Navy ships.
Navy measures for countering missiles and UAVs headed toward Navy ships include the following: jamming a missile’s or UAV’s sensor or guidance system; using decoys of various kinds to lure enemy missiles away from Navy ships; and shooting down enemy missiles and UAVs
with surface-to-air missiles and the Phalanx Close-In Weapon System (CIWS), which is essentially a radar-controlled Gatling gun. Employing all these measures reflects a long-standing Navy approach of creating a multi-layered defense against enemy missiles, and of attacking the enemy’s “kill chain” at multiple points so as to increase the chances of breaking the chain. (The kill chain is the sequence of steps that an enemy must complete to conduct a successful missile attack on a Navy ship. Interfering with any step in the sequence can break the kill chain and thereby prevent or defeat the attack.)
Two key limitations that Navy surface ships currently have in defending themselves against missiles and UAVs are limited depth of magazine and unfavorable cost exchange ratios. Limited depth of magazine refers to the fact that Navy surface ships can use surface-to-air missiles
(SAMs) and their Close-in Weapon System (CIWS) Gatling guns to shoot down only a certain number of enemy missiles and UAVs before running out of SAMs and CIWS ammunition—a situation (sometimes called “going Winchester”) that can require a ship to withdraw from battle, spend time travelling to a safe reloading location (which can be hundreds of miles away), and then spend more time traveling back to the battle area.
Unfavorable cost exchange ratios refer to the fact that a SAM used to shoot down a missile or UAV can cost the Navy more (perhaps much more) to procure than it cost the adversary to build or acquire the missile or UAV. Procurement costs for Navy air-defense missiles range from several hundred thousand dollars per mission to a few million dollars per missile, depending on the type. In combat scenarios against an adversary with a limited number of missiles or UAVs, an unfavorable cost exchange ratio can be acceptable because it saves the lives of Navy sailors and prevents very expensive damage to Navy ships.
But in combat scenarios (or an ongoing military capabilities competition) against a country such as China that has many missiles and UAVs and a capacity for building or acquiring many more, an unfavorable cost exchange ratio can become a very expensive—and potentially unaffordable—approach to defending Navy surface ships against missiles and UAVs, particularly in a context of constraints on U.S. defense spending and competing demands for finite U.S. defense funds.
Today’s missile defenses are “brittle,” “inflexible,” and “expensive,” said Vincent Sabio, the HVP program manager at the Pentagon’s Strategic Capabilities Office. “We need to be able to re-engineer (missile defense) from the bottom up (and) go back to Congress and say, ‘We have a choice here: We can either have an effective defense, or we can continue inching along the way we are with our heads in the sand.’”
The most basic problem is a simple, if daunting one: we can’t afford many interceptors. In addition, current systems require bulky launch systems an enemy can easily detect: a trailer for Patriot, a truck for THAAD, a silo for GBI. Since real-world reliability rates and “shot doctrine” require firing two interceptors at each incoming threat, an adversary can probably run us out of ammo by firing half as many offensive weapons as we have interceptors. What’s more, a typical offensive missiles — which just has to hit the right coordinates on the ground — is much cheaper than a defensive missile — which has to hit a rapidly moving target.
Today’s missile defense interceptors are ultra-high-performance systems, Sabio said, designed to take out an incoming threat in a single shot with a high Probability of Kill (Pk). But there’s another way to get a high Probability of Kill, Sabio says: Fire lots of cheap weapons, each with a low Pk on its own, but a high probability that one will hit eventually.
SSLs, EMRG, and GLGP offer a potential for dramatically improving depth of magazine and the cost exchange ratio:
Depth of magazine. SSLs are electrically powered, drawing their power from the ship’s overall electrical supply, and can be fired over and over, indefinitely, as long as the laser continues to work and the ship has fuel to generate electricity. EMRG projectiles and GLGPs can be stored by the hundreds in a Navy surface ship’s weapon magazine.
Cost exchange ratio. An SSL can be fired for a marginal cost of less than one dollar per shot (which is the cost of the fuel needed to generate the electricity used in the shot), while GLGP reportedly had an estimated unit procurement cost in 2018 of about $85,000.
Gun-launched guided projectile (GLGP) or Hypervelocity projectile (HVP)
The Navy since 2005 has been developing EMRG, 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,” 45 or roughly Mach 5.9 to Mach 7.4 at sea level. EMRG draws its power from the ship’s overall electrical supply.
Industry-Built EMRG Prototype Demonstrator General Atomics prototype
The Navy originally began developing EMRG as a naval surface fire support (NSFS) weapon for supporting U.S. Marines operating ashore, but subsequently determined that the weapon also has potential for defending against missiles, which strengthened Navy interest in EMRG
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
When fired from a power gun, the projectile flies quickly, but not as quickly as it does when fired from EMRG. In addition, whereas the Navy’s original concept was to use the EMRG projectile for both EMRG and powder guns—and might still decide to do that—the Navy now states that the high-speed projectile fired from powder guns might instead be a different projectile. For both of these reasons, the high-speed projectile for powder guns, which was originally called HVP, is now referred to by the Navy as the gun-launched guided projectile (GLGP).
The Navy’s FY2021 budget submission states that The Gun Launched Guided Projectile program leverages Hypervelocity Projectile (HVP)
technology developed under each of the respective Strategic Capabilities Office (SCO) and Office of Naval Research (ONR) Future Naval Capabilities (FNC) programs to provide gun-based Anti-Ship Cruise Missile (ASCM) defense. Gun-based ASCM defense capability increases both ship’s weapon capacity against ASCM raids and battle persistence in successive ASCM raids.
The performance improvement is achieved without relying on Vertical Launch System (VLS) cells for weapon deployment. This effectively deepens the ship’s magazine for raid defense and supports larger allocation of VLS cells to offensive capability. In addition to improved capacity and battle persistence, gun-based ASCM defense solutions provide a cost effective response to an ASCM attack due to the unit cost
of the projectile relative to missiles.
The introduction of gun-based ASCM defense for large caliber guns is made possible by recent advancements in microelectronics, sensors, and energetic systems that enable precision guidance and tailored lethality. GLGP incorporates these HVP technologies into an aerodynamically streamlined sub-caliber airframe to achieve a highly maneuverable projectile. When launched from the MK 45 Gun Weapon System (GWS) at high velocities, GLGP’s high maneuverability combined with high kinetic energy at the intercept yields effectiveness against ASCMs
One advantage of GLGP is that the 5-inch and 155 mm guns from which it would be fired are already installed on Navy cruisers and destroyers, creating a potential for rapidly proliferating GLGP through the cruiser-destroyer force, once development of GLGP is complete and the weapon has been integrated into cruiser and destroyer combat systems. Navy cruisers each have two 5-inch guns, and Navy Arleigh Burke (DDG-51) class destroyers each have one 5-inch gun. This would create 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 Navy’s concept of distributed lethality.
Even though GLGPs fired from 5-inch powder guns might not be able to counter anti-ship ballistic missiles (ASBMs), they could indirectly improve a ship’s ability to counter ASBMs by permitting the ship to use fewer of its SAMs for countering ASCMs and more of its SAMs for countering ASBMs.
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).
When fired from 5-inch powder guns, GLGP reportedly achieves a speed of roughly Mach 3, which is roughly half the speed it achieves when fired from 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 Hyper Velocity Projectile, a supersonic artillery round, is fired from ordinary cannon at 5,600 miles per hour and can kill incoming threats for a mere $86,000 a shot. In rough terms, for the $3 million price of one late-model Patriot, you could buy about 35 HPVs.
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.
Types of missions performed will depend on gun system and platform. The program goal is to address mission requirements in the areas of Naval Surface Fire Support, Cruise Missile Defense, Anti-Surface Warfare, and other future Naval mission areas. Mission performance will vary from gun system, launcher, or ship. 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.
Navy Slide Depicting HVP Operations Against Various Target Types
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 daunting challenge posed by defense against the proliferating threat of ballistic missiles is that it is prohibitively expensive to be prepared to intercept a swarm of incoming missiles. New technologies, however, can revolutionize defense against ballistic missiles because small, smart projectiles can be inexpensive. It takes 300 seconds to pick up such a launched missile’s signature, the missile must be tracked and a vector calculated for defensive projectiles. A single 25-pound projectile can dispense more than 500 three-gram tungsten impactors and be fired at hypervelocity by electromagnetic energy. Their impact force—their mass times the square of their velocity—can destroy expensive missiles and multiple warheads.
GLGP uses a high-explosive (HE) warhead for the NSFS mission; that a total of 113 5-inch gun barrels are available in the fleet (which could be a reference to 22 cruisers with two guns each, and 69 destroyers with one gun each); and that as a game-changing capability, it is guided and can be used at ranges of up to 26 nautical miles to 41 nautical miles for NSFS operations, for countering ASCMs, and for anti-surface warfare (ASuW) operations (i.e., attacking surface ships and craft).
“We need to be able to address (all) types of threats: subsonic, supersonic; sea-skimming, land-hugging; coming in from above and dropping down on top of us,” said Sabio. “There are many different trajectories that we need to be able to deal with that we… cannot deal with effectively today.” “That projectile is being designed to engage multiple threats,” Sabio said of the HVP. “There may be different modes that it operates in (in terms of) how does it maneuver, how does it close on the threat, and whether it engages a (explosive) warhead or whether it goes into a hit-to-hill mode. Those will all be based on the threat, and we can tell it as it’s en route to the threat, ‘here’s what you’re going after, this is the mode you’re going to engage in.’”
A January 8, 2019, press report states Last summer USS Dewey (DDG-105) fired 20 hyper velocity projectiles (HVP) from a
standard Mk 45 5-inch deck gun in a quiet experiment that’s set to add new utility to the weapon found on almost every U.S. warship, officials familiar with the test have told USNI News.
While initially conceived of and developed for the Navy’s emerging Rail Gun Weapon, the Pentagon and Army are now firing the Hyper Velocity Projectile from an Army Howitzer in order to potential harness near-term weapons ability, increase the scope, lethality and
range ability to accelerate combat deployment of the lethal, high-speed round.
On September 3, 2020, at the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico, an HVP fired from a 155 mm gun reportedly successfully intercepted a cruise missile target. It was reportedly the first time that an HVP had intercepted such a target. The 155 mm gun was mounted on an Army selfpropelled howitzer that was participating in a field test of the Air Force’s Advanced Battle Management System (ABMS)
General Atomics Awarded Army Contract Modification to Mature Gun Launched Guided Projectiles in Jan 2021
General Atomics Electromagnetic Systems (GA-EMS) announced today it has been awarded a contract modification from the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command Armaments Center (DEVCOM AC) to further the development and maturation of hypersonic projectiles. 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.”