Comments on the recent post, “Defense Primer: U. S. Precision-Guided Munitions,” had enough new information to justify an update on the two smart rounds being developed for the 57mm Mk110, ALaMO and MAD-FIRES. We last discussed ALaMO on April 2, 2019 and MAD-FIRES, May 28, 2019.
This 24 July, 2019 report on MAD-FIRES confirms that, “If ordered, MAD-FIRES won’t be the first smart, guided ammunition for the LCS and FFG(X). The ALaMO round is preceding it. Designed by L3, ALaMO (Advanced Low-cost Munitions Ordnance) HE-4G is a low-cost 57mm guided smart munition being developed for the U.S. Navy’s Littoral Combat Ship, new Fast Frigate, and the U.S. Coast Guard’s National Security and Offshore Patrol Cutters. (emphasis applied–Chuck)
A 2017 report that suggests MAD-FIRES might be applied to the Mk38 mount and discusses earlier development of guided bullets as small as .50 cal. under the EXACTO program.
This 2018 contract tells us that development of the MAD-FIRES should be completed in May 2020. No indication that the Coast Guard will get MAD-FIRES, but it is probably premature to expect that.
This 27 Sept. 2019 contract, indicates this is still a DARPA program, meaning it is still in development.
The Raytheon Co., Raytheon Missile Systems, Tucson, Arizona, has been awarded an $11,133,688 cost-plus-fixed-fee contract modification (P00017) for a within-scope change to previously awarded contract (HR0011-15-C-0081) to develop long-lead, high-risk items in preparation for the MAD-FIRES Phase III program. Fiscal 2019 research and development funds in the amount of $11,133,688 are being obligated at the time of award. Work will be performed in Tucson, Arizona (61%); McKinney, Texas (22%); and Karlskoga, Sweden (17%), with an estimated completion date of January 2021. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, Arlington, Virginia, is the contracting activity.
The video above seems to show a couple of things about the MAD-FIRES round. First that is expected to “hit to kill” rather than being a proximity fused round. Second that It is a subcaliber round, you can see the discarding sabot parts fall away as the round leaves the muzzle. The discarding sabot suggest it will be a higher velocity round than the current unguided 3P round and that it may have a longer range.
The use of a different discarding sabot or perhaps none, may mean the same projectile could be fired from either larger or smaller caliber weapons.
The MAD-FIRES program often seems to be linked to an earlier program called EXACTO that created a guided .50 caliber round. That program used a form of laser guidance, which may be the case with MAD-FIRES.
There are reports that the British Type 31e frigate will use the MAD-FIRES round. This is logical in that this will be the first ship in the Royal Navy to use the 57mm gun, but there is also something unusual about this design. In addition to the 57mm, the ship is armed with 40mm guns, one forward and one aft on top of the hangar, in lieu of Phalanx or another CIWS. The 40mm gun, like the 57mm is a Bofors design, marketed by BAE. It may be that the 40mm guns will also be equipped with MAD-FIRES. A 40mm so equipped could start engaging incoming anti-ship cruise missiles at much longer range than Phalanx could. This could be the CIWS of the future.
ALaMO is apparently intended primarily to target smarms of small boats. To at least some extent it can be used against air targets, but the developer has not been making any claims regarding countering anti-ship cruise missiles which may be telling. It may be that ALaMO is not as fast, as maneuverable, or long ranged as MAD-FIRES. It is almost certainly cheaper.