Instead of Defending America’s Health, the Army Tests a Supergun

March 23rd, 2020 - by Robert Weissman / Public Citizen & Patrick Tucker / Defense One

ACTION ALERT: We Are at WarTell Trump to Speed Mobilization to Slow the Pandemic

Robert Weissman / Public Citizen 

 (March 21, 2020) — This is a global challenge with no precedent in our lifetimes. We are, in essence, at war with the coronavirus. We must act accordingly. 

The coronavirus is threatening to overwhelm our entire health care system. Medical professionals don’t even have enough of basic supplies like the cotton swabs needed to administer tests. 

Think about that for a second: Our ability to defend ourselves from this pandemic could come down to a lack of something as seemingly insignificant as cotton swabs. 

There’s also a beyond-severe shortage of other critical equipment, like masks and ventilators. And without markedly expanding our nation’s manufacturing capacity, once a vaccine is developed we still wouldn’t be able to make it fast enough or in sufficient quantities. 

The federal government can — and is the ONLY entity that can — solve these problems. 

President Trump must immediately wield something called the Defense Production Act — historically used in time of war — under which the government can compel American companies to prioritize making goods required for national security. 

Trump has suggested he will use the law at some point. We need it now.

ACTION: Tell Trump to employ the Defense Production Act RIGHT NOW to drive generation of the supplies, treatments and capacity that our health care system, and the world’s people, are desperate for. Add your name.

Thanks for taking action. Stay safe. 
Robert Weissman is the president of Public Citizen 

P.S. This message is part of our ongoing outreach to help you stay informed and involved as our nation and the world grapple with the coronavirus emergency. Public Citizen — like many nonprofits and other small businesses — is feeling the financial strain as this crisis intensifies. If you can, please consider donating to support the critical work we’re doing together. Public Citizen | 1600 20th Street NW | Washington DC 20009

The Army Just Tested Its New Supergun

Patrick Tucker / Defense One

 (March 6, 2020) — It’s the latest weapon meant to intimidate China and Russia: a giant cannon that can fire shells about three times farther than a standard howitzer.

In the tests, conducted at Yuma Proving Ground in Arizona, the 58-caliber XM1299 cannon used a “supercharged” propellant to fire two types of munitions about 65 kilometers — much farther than a traditional howitzer’s 18-kilometer range. The Excalibur precision-guided munition hit a “precise” target, officials said.

The other, the rocket-assisted XM1113, was tested for range, not precision, the officials said. It was the longest test yet for the cannon, which is essentially a modernized howitzer being developed under the Extended Range Cannon Artillery program. 

Brig. Gen. John Rafferty Jr., who directs the Long Range Precision Fires Cross Functional Team at Army Futures Command, said that the cannon promises a new way to attack targets that lie some 20 to 60 kilometers away. It “allows commanders to attack differently, provides them a weapon system other than helicopters and armed drones to go after targets that are deeper on the battlefield,” he said.

The Army has ordered 18 XM1299s from BAE Systems, and aims to send them to a battalion in 2023. 

“That will give us the opportunity to test the platform in the hands of an operational unit and evaluate the operational concept for support fires at the division level,” said Rafferty. “We’ve proven the capability; we’ve proven the range.” 

The Army is also looking at different projectiles, including one that uses a ramjet. Rafferty said he expects a contractor to demonstrate it this year.

The big challenge now is finishing an autoloader that will allow the cannon to fire six to eight rounds per minute — to “deliver that volume of fire to create the effect of mass,” as Rafferty put it: in other words, to devastate an enemy position the way an enormous bomb would. But he cautioned that an  autoloader is “not a simple machine.” It has to load the munition, the propellant, and the course-correcting fuse that allows the shell to change direction (slightly) in mid-air. 

Work is proceeding at Picatinny Arsenal in New Jersey, where engineers expect to begin lab testing later this year and hope to issue requests for proposals to industry in three to four months.

Patrick Tucker is technology editor for Defense One. He’s also the author of The Naked Future: What Happens in a World That Anticipates Your Every Move? Tucker was deputy editor for The Futurist for nine years.

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.