‘Proximity’ Ammo Takes Out Enemy Drones
ALEXANDRIA, Virginia — It is notoriously hard to shoot down small drones using small arms and regular bullets, but new ammo for a chain gun gives users a better chance of destroying them in mid-air.
Each of Northrop Grumman’s high-explosive dual purpose 30x133 mm rounds has a small sensor that detects drones and then explodes. It doesn’t have to make a direct hit but be close enough for the fragments in the airburst to take down a drone, said Mike Hafften, the company’s director of ammunition business development.
“It’s tailored toward a kinetic kill capability to conquer the UAS threat,” he said in a briefing with reporters. It is particularly suitable to take down Class I and Class II drones, which range from 20 to 250 pounds.
While the company can’t provide specifics on how the ammo works, the radio-frequency sensor inside each round is based on sensing technology “that has been around for decades,” Hafften said.
The proximity round was developed for the Army and is currently being distributed to U.S. forces, he added. It can also be used to pierce armor, company factsheets noted.
The sensor inside each round does make the ammo more expensive, but Northrop is working on manufacturing processes to reduce the price, Hafften said. It is also more cost-effective to use small arms ammo to destroy off-the-shelf drones that might cost the enemy as little as $200, he noted. An alternative would be a Stinger missile, which is orders of magnitude more expensive to deploy, he added.
The proximity round is used with the M230LF Bushmaster Chain Gun and the ACE Operating System, which detects targets and cues the gun. All three systems are manufactured by Northrop Grumman, although Hafften noted that the round and gun can be used with any cueing system.
Army tests of the counter-UAS system at Yuma Proving Ground in Arizona have successfully defended against multiple drones in small groups, but not large swarms, he said.
Shooting down 100 drones, for example, in one engagement is an expensive test to carry out and has not been done yet. “That’s where this obviously needs to go,” he said.