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DARPA wants $13 million to design ‘Gunslinger’ missile system attached with a gun

The Army test fires a Patriot missile in a recent test. The Patriot missile system is a ground-based, mobile missile defense interceptor deployed by the United States to detect, track and engage unmanned aerial vehicles, cruise missiles, and short-range and tactical ballistic missiles. (U.S. Army/Released)
February 19, 2020

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is requesting more than $13 million to design a missile system with a gun attached to it.

In its Fiscal Year 2021 budget request it submitted on Jan. 16, DARPA has specifically requested $13.27 million for its Gunslinger program, which DARPA clarified is unrelated to Marine Corps and Navy programs of the same name, the Drive reported.

The Gunslinger program “will develop and demonstrate technologies to enable an air-launched tactical range missile system capable of multi-mission support,” according to its entry in DARPA’s budget proposal.

The Gunslinger entry added: “This system will utilize the high maneuverability of a missile system coupled with a gun system capable of scalable effects and engagement of multiple targets. These mission sets addressed will include counter insurgency (COIN) operations, close air support (CAS) and air-to-air engagements. The metrics associated with this system include total range (which includes transit to target, loiter and engagement) and weapon system effectiveness.”

As The Drive points out, the Gunslinger program may be an indication that the military is looking for a potential alternative to provide aerial gun support that wouldn’t necessarily need a dedicated aircraft.

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“The program will address the system and technology issues required to enable development of a robust missile system considering (1) vehicle concepts possessing the required aerodynamic, propulsion, and payload capacity for a wide operational envelope, (2) the algorithms that support maneuvering and target recognition to enable expedited command decision making for selecting and engaging targets and (3) approaches to incorporating modularity of design to reduce cost throughout the design and development process,” the DARPA request says. “The anticipated transition partners for this effort are the Air Force and the Navy.”

DARPA’s FY20201 plans for the Gunslinger program would include to “Conduct trade studies, to include propulsion, munitions, sensors, GPS and communications.”

Additionally, DARPA would “develop higher fidelity modeling and simulation environment to support program concept of operations,” as well as “conduct conceptual design sizing and synthesis activities.”

Other projects DARPA want founding for include the “Glide Breaker” project to develop a component of a system that intercepts hypersonic threats, as well as the “Longshot” program designed to expand that range of missiles by carrying them on a slower but more aerodynamic missile system.

The Longshot could be deployed on fighter aircraft carriers or bombers. It looks to “to develop and flight demonstrate a weapon system using multi-mode propulsion that significantly increases engagement range and weapon effectiveness against adversary air threats.”

DARPA would also like to transfer the Longshot system to the U.S. Air Force or Navy, similar to Gunslinger.