Raytheon to build prototype smart bullets to protect surface warships from swarming attacks

ARLINGTON, Va., 16 Jan. 2017. Intelligent munitions experts at the Raytheon Co. will develop and test prototype independently targeted smart bullets to help defend U.S. Navy surface warships from swarming attacks involving manned and unmanned aircraft, missiles, and fast-attack boats bearing down from many different directions at once.

Raytheon to build prototype smart bullets to protect surface warships from swarming attacks
Raytheon to build prototype smart bullets to protect surface warships from swarming attacks
ARLINGTON, Va., 16 Jan. 2017. Intelligent munitions experts at the Raytheon Co. will develop and test prototype independently targeted smart bullets to help defend U.S. Navy surface warships from swarming attacks involving manned and unmanned aircraft, missiles, and fast-attack boats bearing down from many different directions at once.

Officials of the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) in Arlington, Va., announced an $8 million contract modification Friday to the Raytheon Missile Systems segment in Tucson, Ariz., for phase-2 of the Multi Azimuth Defense Fast Intercept Round Engagement System (MAD-FIRES) program.

The goal of MAD-FIRES is to develop enabling technologies for a medium-caliber guided projectile that would combine the guidance, precision, and accuracy of missiles with the speed, rapid-fire capability, and large ammunition capacity of medium-caliber bullets like 20-to-40-caliber ammunition designed to destroy lightly armored vehicles, aircraft, and personnel.

This contract modification asks Raytheon to build and test prototype MAD-FIRES smart bullets. During the first phase of MAD-FIRES Raytheon worked on concepts, simulations, and risk reduction. Also working on the program's first phase was the Lockheed Martin Corp. Missiles and Fire Control segment in Grand Prairie, Texas.

Related: Navy considers 360-degree multispectral persistent surveillance for surface ship defense

As originally conceived, DARPA officials said they expected several contracts for the first and second phases of the MAD-FIRES program, so it's likely that Lockheed Martin eventually will receive a MAD-FIRES phase-2 contract, as well.

Attacks by unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), missiles, small planes, fast in-shore attack boats, and other maritime threats pose a deadly and evolving threat to ships and other maritime vessels, DARPA officials say.

These kinds of threats demand that Navy ships have access to leading-edge defensive capabilities -- specifically an ability to engage several different kinds of targets coming quickly from a range of directions. Ultimately, Navy leaders want the ability to defend against these kinds of swarming attacks rapidly and with high precision using today's close-range shipboard deck guns.

MAD-FIRES aims to advance the state-of-the-art in defensive gun systems by creating a new, low-cost technological foundation for guided, gun-launched projectiles.

Related: How vulnerable are U.S. Navy vessels to advanced anti-ship cruise missiles?

The program seeks to incorporate enhanced ammunition rounds able to alter their flight path in real time to stay on target, and a capacity to target, track, and engage several fast-approaching targets simultaneously and re-engage any targets that survive the initial engagement.

Friday's $8 million order to Raytheon increases the total value of the company's MAD-FIRES work to $27 million. Raytheon will do the work in Tucson, Ariz.; Chelmsford, Mass.; and McKinney, Texas, and should be finished by March 2018.

For more information contact Raytheon Missile Systems online at www.raytheon.com, or DARPA at www.darpa.mil.

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