Engineers working for the U.S. Army are using electricity in an attempt to extend the range of artillery rounds.
Researchers at Picatinny Arsenal in New Jersey are giving artillerymen more control over propellants using electrical charges. Their work could allow greater range, power and versatility for long-range artillery rounds, writes Matthew Cox for Military.com.
Electric voltage could give greater control over artillery propellants
“If you can control the burn rate and energy output of a propellant with electric voltage, this opens a whole new capability,” said David Thompson, a chemical engineer and member of the research team.
Currently two kinds of motors used for extended range propellants in the U.S. Army. One, known as a base-bleed motor, burns right out of the gun and gives some extended range. The other, a rocket assist motor, kicks in at the top of the flight to increase the velocity of the shell.
“With electric voltage, you could use one motor that does both,” Thompson said. “You could create a low-voltage, right out of the gun, and get that base-bleed effect, and then hit it with a high voltage and get the rocket-assist effect, ultimately increasing the range over that which either motor can provide on its own.”
U.S. Army artillery shells could become easier to use
Artillerymen currently use the base-bleed XM1128 shell, with a maximum range of 30 kilometers, and the rocket assist XM1113, which can hit a target up to 40 kilometers away. Electrical voltage could increase the range of both rounds.
There are other benefits to the project as well as increasing range. Artillerymen could also be given more control over the rocket propellant, increasing power and speed.
“When you fire a gun propellant at some tank, the performance differs in different temperatures,” Thompson said. “For example, the round’s velocity is different when it’s fired in a hot temperature than in a colder temperature.
“So, the troops have their manual that basically says ‘If you put your gun at this angle, and fire this charge, it will get this much velocity and you’ll hit the target.’ But, because the propellant’s effectiveness can change in different environments, they have to compensate for temperature. Our idea was to use an electrical igniter with a propellant that we can control, allowing us to burn the propellant at different speeds and rates.”
While lots of testing still needs to be carried out, Thompson believes that the new system “would not cost any more than the propellants that we have fielded now.”