Guided Rounds for the 57mm Mk110, ALaMO and MAD-FIRES, an Update

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.

Some speculation: 

MAD-FIRES

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

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.

8 thoughts on “Guided Rounds for the 57mm Mk110, ALaMO and MAD-FIRES, an Update

  1. Mad-Fires, Hit to Kill

    The most well known hit to kill missile is the Lockheed Patriot PAC-3 which uses 180, 10 rings of 18 small propellant rockets spaced evenly around the outside centerline of the missile, Attitude Control Motors (ACMs), the appropriate ACMs fired for near instantaneously change of direction to give the HTK ability, Aerojet had delivered half a million ACMs to Lockheed by end of 2016, Lockheed won the R&D contract for the new AIM-260 to replace the Raytheon AIM-120, presume using same HTK ACM system as Patriot PAC-3.

    The Leonardo/OTO Melara AA 76mm DART round.
    Originally a joint 80’s project with BAE, the CCS, Course Corrected Shell, also known as ‘CORRETTO’. The shell/projectile had several small rockets in order to deviate the trajectory, radio commands were sent from the ship FCS, but the FCS did not know the exact position of the shell, only that of the target, too complex for the time and unreliable, Leonardo moved on to the DART.

    DART, Driven Ammunition Reduced Time of flight, radio controlled sub-caliber shell with canards, warhead and proximity fuze able to make low level engagement down to 2m over the sea. DART fired at 1,200 m/s (3,900 ft/s), can reach 5 km range in only 5 seconds, and can perform up to 40 maneuvers. The DART projectile is made of two parts, the forward end is free to rotate and has two small canard wings for flight control, the aft part has the 2.5kg warhead with tungsten projectiles and millimetric fuze, six fixed wings and the radio receivers. The guidance system is Command Line of Sight (CLOS), TX high frequency/precise Ka-band antenna mounted on gun.

    What little is known of the DARPA/Raytheon Mad-Fires is as DART a sabot/sub-caliber projectile for increased speed/reduced time of flight plus its a rocket assisted projectile to maximize its limited range, pictures show only moveable tail fins, no canards, due to its low weight as only 57mm (standard shells for 57mm ~2.4/2.8kg v 76mm ~ 6/6.8kg, sub-caliber shells will have lower weight, guess Mad-Fires only ~1.4 kg/3 lbs). Mad-Fires has had to delete warhead/fuze for the rocket assisted/base bleed projectile and necessary electronics/powered tail fins etc to give the very precise control needed in high G plus very accurate and guess expensive FCR radar for the necessary higher accuracy required for HTK, would not be surprised if its more expensive than the DART and expect shorter range?

    PS Mad-Fires ” Work will be performed in Tucson, Arizona (61%); McKinney, Texas (22%); and Karlskoga, Sweden (17%)” BAE Systema Bofors AB is based at Karlskoga, Sweden, no feel for which sub-system of Mad-Fires they are doing the R&D, expect using expertise gained on their 57mm 3P projectile.

  2. If 57mm, in theory, it could arm the U.S. Army’s NGCV’s 50mm autocannon if an appropriate 50mm sized round was made, giving NGCVs some Anti-drone and Anti-Air defense, thus making almost all NGCVs limited Air Defense Platforms against hovering and slow-moving targets.

  3. My impression is the ALAMO round is geared toward surface warfare. The idea being to hit targets out to the max range of the Mk110.

    In a swarm scenario, being able to take out small maneuvering targets at range with only a couple of rounds is supremely important as magazine depth and time needed to engage all swarm members is very important.

    For the CG, I think the round is a good fit as it allows for effects on target with much less chance of collateral damage caused by misses.

    Between the 57mm ALAMO and perhaps Hellfire, the CG would be very well equipped to deal with any hostile smaller craft encounters.

    The precision of both weapons is a selling point if you can imagine a scenario of a terrorist operated ship in busy coastal waters.

    It’s not clear to me though if the combination is powerful enough to stop a larger vessel.

    • @Malph. Yes the 57mm Mk 110 with ALaMO is probably adequate against small, fast, highly maneuverable threats. Hellfire might be better against larger threats, but if CG vessels equipped with the 57mm with ALaMO are also equipped with an Anti-Ship Cruise Missile (ASCM) then they probably don’t also need Hellfire.

      It is the small vessels where Hellfire is probably the best choice, assuming they will not have ASCMs. It provides a robust counter the smaller end of the threat spectrum and at least some capability against larger threats. (This is really an area that might benefit from some operations research to pick the best weapon.)

      If we want to look beyond Coast Guard peacetime anti-terrorist (essentially anti-surface only) requirements then the gun (preferably 40mm or larger) starts to look better and a gun/Hellfire combination better still.

  4. What is the cost of the 57mm ALAMO round, or is that still a trade secret? What is the cost of a 57mm round? A blog in 2017 said that the cost of the 57mm round is $1,000 with about 3lb of High Explosives.

    57mm = 2.2 inches in diamter. 155mm = 6.1 inches in diameter.

    If a 57mm round is so cheap, then I wonder if a 57mm ALAMO round can be housed in a 155mm shell to give the Zumwalt destroyers’ 155mm AGSs something to shoot, such as a discarding Sabot shell firing about three 57mm ALAMO rounds for 9lbs of independently targeting shells….or impact the same target with two to three ALAMO shells.

    How and why can a single Zumwalt AGS 155mm LRAP shell cost around $500,000-$1 million dollars for 83 miles of range when a 155mm shell carrying two to three ALAMOs can achieve the same effect for lesser range at a much cheaper cost? (Chuck Hill has a April 2, 2019 video post saying that the ALAMO is a 50% increase in cost when fired for effect compared to the standard 57mm round. So we’re talking about $1,500 per ALAMO round (subjective)!).

    I can’t find specifications on the ALAMO round so I don’t know the cost or the range of this shell, but I will say that the U.S. Navy should design a RAP 155mm shell with GPS ALAMO and hopefully that would be a lot cheaper than canceled 155mm LRAP.

    • I think in the end the Navy will replace the 155mm guns. Seems like a rail gun is most likely. They don’t seem to be interested in what they might do in the interim. The existing guns are a bit strange in that they are smooth bore so would not impart spin to the projectiles. They can’t use the existing and developing 155mm rounds used by the Army and Marines.

      • Yes, that is an unfortunate oversight that the AGS cannons cannot use the 155mm NATO Army rounds.

        The USN, could, in theory, convert the Zumwalts into Arsenal Ships and remove all the AGS turrets in favor of all VLS or MAC tubes in that space. Or the USN could mount the toted M109A8 Army turret for 6-10 rounds max fire per minute of 155mm shells and then incorporate that hyped 1,000 mile cannon. Obviously, this all has nothing to do with the U.S. Coast Guard.

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