Military Review

Developments of the past for the gun of the future: the SLRC project and predecessors

Developments of the past for the gun of the future: the SLRC project and predecessors

Information on the SLRC project. Photo

In the United States, a promising artillery complex SLRC (Strategic Long Range Cannon) is being developed. In 2023, the Pentagon plans to test a cannon with a range of at least 1000 nautical miles (over 1800 km). Reportedly, the project will be based on a number of modern technologies and solutions capable of achieving the desired characteristics.

Land records

In recent years, the United States has been actively involved in the problem of improving the combat qualities of artillery and for this purpose is developing several new projects. So, SLRC is created in a strategic niche, and projects ERCA, HVP and their derivatives are intended for the tactical level. Some of the new products for these projects have already been brought to testing, but the characteristics obtained are much more modest than expected for the SLRC.

The ERCA (Extended Range Cannon Artillery) project has already resulted in the M155ER experimental 777mm howitzer. It features an elongated 58-caliber barrel (versus 39 clb in the original M777), and is also designed to use the new round with an enhanced charge and the XM1113 active-rocket projectile. The improved howitzer is proposed for use as part of advanced self-propelled guns.

Elongated howitzer M777ER against the background of a serial gun. US Army Photos

The main decisions of the ERCA project are already paying off. In the spring, the next tests with shooting at an increased distance took place. This time, the M777ER gun on a self-propelled platform was able to hit the target at a distance of 65 km. Used for firing ammunition XM1113 and M982 Excalibur. The developers of the project are already talking about the fundamental possibility of a shot at 100 km, but have not yet specified when it will receive practical confirmation.

Developments for the fleet

For surface ships, an artillery mount Mk 51 Advanced Gun System with a 155 mm barrel and 62 klb length was developed. By its design, this product is to a certain extent similar to other ship installations, but it has a number of differences. Installation Mk 51 can use a variety of ammunition, incl. promising Hyper Velocity Projectile (HVP) shells with increased characteristics.

HVP is a unified guided projectile for use in systems of different types and calibers. Due to the optimization of aerodynamics, the presence of a solid fuel engine and controls, an increase in range is provided. With the help of different leading devices, the projectile can be used with 127 and 155 mm cannons, as well as in rail guns. The existing 155-mm cannons are capable of sending HVPs up to 80 km, and for the long-barreled AGS, the calculated range reaches 130 km. High-energy railguns should provide a range of more than 180 km.

HVP projectile. BAE Systems Graphics

The HVP product has passed part of the tests using various systems. A variety of tasks are performed. So, in early September it became known that an experienced AGS gun with the help of HVP was able to hit an approaching cruise missile. However, the exact prospects for HVP have not yet been determined. Tests are ongoing, and the army or navy is not yet ready to make a final decision.

Technology of the past

In the context of ultra-long-range guns, it is necessary to recall the American-Canadian program HARP (High Altitude Research Project), work on which was carried out in the sixties. It was based on the idea of ​​launching light spacecraft using a special artillery complex. At the same time, the key elements of the project were a special cannon and a high-performance projectile.

Within the framework of HARP, several experienced smoothbore guns with a caliber of 5 to 16 inches (from 127 to 416,5 mm) were created. So, a 16-inch gun was made from two serial barrels by welding them and then drilling a channel to remove the rifling. Such a gun with a length of more than 36 m was supposed to fire almost vertically and provide an initial projectile speed of over 2150 m / s. One of the prototypes received a barrel length of 53,5 m during development.

For HARP guns, a special ammunition was developed called Marlet. At different stages of the program, several versions of such a product were used, differing in their design, characteristics, payload, etc. The project began with the use of arrow-shaped sabot projectiles, and in the later stages, full-fledged active-rocket and rocket systems were used.

HVP in the master for use in 155mm guns. BAE Systems Graphics

Tests of HARP cannons with Marlet ammunition continued for several years. Different projectiles with different propelling charges were tested. Various combinations of charge, elevation angle, etc. were studied. In the course of such experiments, the maximum trajectory height of 180 km was obtained - the 16-inch gun fired almost vertically.

Thus, the energy of the gun, when using the optimal angles, made it possible to send the projectile to a distance of hundreds of kilometers. However, this mode of fire was not considered the main one, since the project had other tasks. Firing at low angles was carried out with only a few experimental guns in the order of separate experiments.

Experience and developments

Thus, in the past and in the present, US specialists managed to conduct a lot of experiments and accumulate solid experience in the field of long-range and ultra-long-range artillery. At different times, various systems and individual components have been developed and tested - and all these developments can find one or another place in the modern SLRC program.

One of the experienced guns of the HARP project. US Army Photos

Obviously, in order to fulfill the set requirements, the SLRC complex must include several components with special characteristics. The basis of the complex is a large-caliber gun capable of providing the initial acceleration of the projectile to high speed. It also requires a special projectile capable of using its initial energy as efficiently as possible, additionally accelerating on a trajectory and accurately hitting a distant target. Of great importance in such a complex are fire control facilities, communication and target designation systems, etc.

The experience of the HARP project shows that even with the technologies of the middle of the last century, it is possible to create a weapon with a firing range of hundreds of miles. However, borrowing a finished design is not possible. This is hindered by the obsolescence of the experimental systems, the complexity of their production and operation, as well as insufficient operational qualities for the army. The development of a modern ERCA product is also impractical due to the insufficient level of initial characteristics. In fact, an ultra-long range cannon has to be developed from scratch.

Perhaps the SLRC in the future will be able to use a guided "hyperspeed" projectile HVP, modified as necessary. However, it is unclear whether such a product will be able to provide the required 1000-mile range. Perhaps the development of a new product is required, incl. based on the same technologies.

Models of advanced artillery systems. The SLRC is likely between the two SPGs. Photo

Perhaps the simplest task is to create a complex of communication and control facilities. The United States has extensive experience in this area, and in addition, a variety of systems for this purpose are already in service. Probably, the SLRC complex can be easily integrated into the existing control loops, which will simplify the interaction of artillerymen with intelligence and staffs - and bring the effectiveness of fire to the desired level.

Unknown future

It should be recalled that not much is known about the SLRC program to date. Only the most basic requirements and some features of future operation have been announced. The exact composition, appearance, etc. have not yet been disclosed, although some models and posters appeared at the events.

If they reflect reality, then in the future the US Army will receive a weapon on a platform with the possibility of transporting it using a tractor. It will be serviced by a crew of eight people, and four cannons will be included in the battery. Also, such a unit should include a command post, communications equipment and various support vehicles. The complex will be air transportable, although it will require heavy aircraft.

With the help of the SLRC, the American army plans to break into enemy defenses. Shells with a range of more than 1800 km will have to hit key defense targets at great depths, simplifying the further work of other types of troops. Ultra-long-range guns will take over part of the tasks of operational-tactical missiles, but they will be able to use simpler and cheaper ammunition - with obvious benefits.

At the moment, the SLRC project is at the development stage, and the appearance of a prototype and the first firing is expected in 2023. As we can see, by now the United States has accumulated solid experience in the development of artillery and increasing the firing range. Whether with its help it will be possible to solve a new super-difficult task of creating an ultra-long-range weapon, it will become known in the foreseeable future.
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  1. Sergey_G_M
    Sergey_G_M 6 October 2020 06: 14
    I can even tell why they only shot upwards from those 16 inches.
    1. When firing at an angle at a maximum distance of about 45 degrees, the projectile will stay in dense layers of the atmosphere 2-3 times longer and will seriously slow down.
    2. When shooting with an elevation angle less than 90 degrees, the barrel wear will become very serious and you can forget about a cheap shot.

    In general, it is not clear why these wunderwaffe when there is OTP.
    To get stuck in 53,5 meters of barrel length and you still think that it will be cheaper than OTP?
    1. Bormanxnumx
      Bormanxnumx 6 October 2020 13: 15
      Quote: Sergey_G_M
      ... When shooting with an elevation angle of less than 90 degrees, barrel wear will become very serious and you can forget about a cheap shot.

      How is barrel wear related to elevation angle?
      Quote: Sergey_G_M
      I can even tell why they only shot upwards from those 16 inches.

      Because the HARP project was created to study the possibility of launching satellites using light gas cannons.
      1. ZEMCH
        ZEMCH 6 October 2020 19: 14
        Quote: BORMAN82
        How is barrel wear related to elevation angle?

        Physics, gravity, wear on the bottom of the barrel is higher
    2. Zaurbek
      Zaurbek 7 October 2020 07: 30
      If, for example, "Hermes" is declared for 100 km ...
    3. Arkady Gaidar
      Arkady Gaidar 10 October 2020 20: 26
      I was also surprised, why be so smart when the same tasks are easier to solve with operational-tactical missiles.
      Of course, the projectile itself (in this case, the rocket) is more expensive, but the launcher will be more mobile and cheaper.
      It will not be possible to hide such an American fool from the reconnaissance of a potential enemy, or not for a long time, but it will cost almost like a space shuttle.
      But in the area of ​​reducing the cost of launching small satellites into near-earth orbit, the idea is very interesting.
      1. t-12
        t-12 26 November 2020 14: 07
        If the enemy is obviously unable to destroy the fool, then there is no need to hide it. There is a fool somewhere in Kuwait (cheap sea delivery of ammunition) and controls Syria, Iraq, Iran. You can chase the natives without spending expensive rockets and not depending on the weather (for the operation of the assault aircraft).
  2. Thrifty
    Thrifty 6 October 2020 07: 24
    Light satellites will be launched into space with the help of these "rods"? The swinging of the barrel will be such that the next shot will be made in a few hours, when the vibrations of the barrel have died down to acceptable values! And what about barrel wear, what is its resource in general? ?? Or, most importantly, to knock out money, and then think about how to solve a lot of problems? ??
    1. Simargl
      Simargl 8 October 2020 16: 08
      Quote: Thrifty
      Light satellites will be launched into space using these "fishing rods"?
      Our Jules Verne wrote a long time ago how such a gun should look like.
      Bury 300 meters in the ground and there will be a lot.
  3. silberwolf88
    silberwolf88 6 October 2020 08: 43
    strange attempts to create something expensive and meaningless ... back in the 60s, they decided on the tasks (and, accordingly, the ranges of application) of Artillery systems and missile weapons ... where and what is more effective ... the goals of such an exercise are not clear ...
  4. garri-lin
    garri-lin 6 October 2020 10: 23
    The declared ranges are unattainable if the ammunition does not have its own engine. And full-fledged. That is, an artillery launch for balestic missiles. Expensive ammunition plus a very expensive launcher. Comrades are on the right path. Correct. They say the truth is that recently there have been dollar bills with tan marks in circulation. The machine can be seen glowing from continuous work.
    1. Vadim237
      Vadim237 6 October 2020 12: 47
      So it will definitely not be a classic howitzer and the projectile itself will be an actively reactive special design.
      1. garri-lin
        garri-lin 6 October 2020 14: 11
        What I wrote is an expensive rocket with a marching hypersonic flight speed. The question is why this rocket has an artillery launch with exorbitant overloads and an expensive launcher in the form of a mega-killer. It is not easier to bring the ammunition to the trajectory with a conventional rocket booster. You will need much more gunpowder. But you don't need a mega-killer.
        1. Vadim237
          Vadim237 6 October 2020 19: 52
          It's easier to shoot from the barrel than to create a solid-fuel booster for launch, it costs a lot of money - the gun will definitely not be innovative, judging by the photograph of the carriage, it is just an improved M65 280 mm gun and the projectile itself will have a folded aerodynamic wing that will open at an altitude of 60 kilometers or more for planning aeroballistic flight.
          1. garri-lin
            garri-lin 6 October 2020 20: 11
            It's easier to shoot from the barrel. It's harder to make that barrel. And everything else that the barrel needs to do is even more difficult. The length in calibers is enormous. It is long in meters just beyond understanding. The projectile speed is higher than that of ordinary ones. This means the load on the trunk is higher. This means the barrel is thicker than a conventional gun. The barrel resource will definitely not be large. Several hundred shots. If you count everything, then the solid-fuel accelerator will also come out cheaper. Plus, the transportation and vulnerability of the gun will be a headache for the troops. And with a solid-propellant accelerator a rocket on a twin launcher is an analogue of Iskander. Only the missile, due to its longer range, will be larger.
            1. Alexey RA
              Alexey RA 7 October 2020 17: 07
              Quote: garri-lin
              And everything else that the barrel needs to do is even more difficult. The length in calibers is enormous. It is long in meters just beyond understanding. The projectile speed is higher than that of ordinary ones. This means the load on the trunk is higher. This means the barrel is thicker than a conventional gun. The barrel resource will definitely not be large. Several hundred shots.

              In short, the "Parisian Cannon" in all its glory. smile
              1. garri-lin
                garri-lin 7 October 2020 17: 21
                Not really. The Parisian was weaker in projectile speed. Although, in general, the concept goes from there.
  5. Operator
    Operator 6 October 2020 11: 31
    Here's a fig to shoot far from artillery shells with rocket engines - what, using MLRS (the declared range, for example, "Polonaise" is 300 km) faith does not allow? laughing

    Another thing is that the conical shape of the body of the HVP artillery projectile is optimal for speeds of 5-6M, but what prevents the use of the same form factor for the warhead of a guided MLRS projectile, which is separated after the launch of the rocket engine has finished working? At the same time, the radar / optical signature of the URS during flight on most of the trajectory will be reduced by several times.
    1. Vadim237
      Vadim237 6 October 2020 12: 55
      This weapon and such a projectile is an alternative to OTRK and MRBM - a cheaper option for delivering a nuclear charge and accurately hitting strategic targets, again an alternative to cruise missiles and tactical guided bombs, such a projectile flying along an aeroballistic trajectory with the ability to plan the upper atmosphere will be very difficult to shoot down any air defense, which the caliber of this gun is precisely known to be 280 mm.
  6. Tsoy
    Tsoy 6 October 2020 15: 11
    Saddam Hussein says hello.

    In the 90s, a little before the first desert storm, there was a horror story that Iraq was creating a howitzer capable of hitting the territory of the United States.
    1. Alexey RA
      Alexey RA 7 October 2020 17: 09
      Quote: Choi
      Saddam Hussein says hello.

      Rather, Gerald Vincent Bull. Moreover, the HARP mentioned in the article is his brainchild.
      1. Tsoy
        Tsoy 8 October 2020 22: 35
        Korea already, Gerald Vincent Bull. Moreover, the HARP mentioned in the article is his brainchild.

        Thank you for reading about it. I didn't know the details before. A bitter end for an inventor.
    2. Simargl
      Simargl 8 October 2020 16: 12
      Quote: Choi
      there was a horror story that Iraq was creating a howitzer capable of hitting the territory of the United States.
      Nuclear powder is needed.