Electronic gun - future field weapon?


March 31, 2003, 01:32 PM
I will hold on to what I have... "Old" technology as it may be.



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Inventor Seeks to Transform Modern Warfare

WILL a former grocer with only a high school education profoundly transform the nature of modern warfare?

Several American patents and patent applications published recently suggest that James Michael O'Dwyer, an inventor in Brisbane, Australia, aspires to do just that.

Both the United States Defense Department and private investors appear to have confidence in Mr. O'Dwyer's revolutionary ideas. They have already sunk several hundred million dollars into his basic invention — an electronic gun — and its many spin-off applications.

By Mr. O'Dwyer's sights, his gun is the key to a utopian warfare of the future, when precision bombing, robotic soldiers and virtual land mines minimize human casualties, whether they be military or civilian.

The basic component of Mr. O'Dwyer's weaponry is an electronic gun that is vastly different from conventional weapons. The M-16 assault rifle used by the United States Army, for example, uses ammunition stored outside the barrel in a magazine. The weapon fires only after a series of mechanical operations have occurred.

"That system works very well, and it's worked very well for a couple of hundred years," Mr. O'Dwyer said. However, the technology being developed by his company, Metal Storm, is "something very, very different and something very, very new."

With Mr. O'Dwyer's gun, the rounds of ammunition — whether they are 9-millimeter bullets or 40-millimeter grenades — are already packed single file in the barrel, like tennis balls in a can. Explosive charges, wedged between each round, are ignited electronically.

This allows extremely rapid fire (at a rate of up to a million rounds a minute) and also makes for a lightweight, compact and modular weapon, Mr. O'Dwyer said.

"The value starts to come when you bundle them together like a bunch of tubes," he said. A system that can fire 100 60-millimeter rounds — which with conventional weapons would "fill a number of rooms" — can fit into a box 18 inches square and 3 feet deep.

"The size difference is simply amazing," Mr. O'Dwyer said.

Growing up, Mr. O'Dwyer was an indifferent student who was passionate about only one subject: physics. Instead of going to college, he started out on what became a successful career in business. But in 1994, at 49, he was restless. He decided to sell his grocery wholesale business and, with his wife's blessing, he bet the family nest egg — $800,000 — on a new career of inventing. Mr. O'Dwyer had several inventions in mind, including a combustion engine and an air-cooled athletic shoe. But it was the gun that took off.

Do his inventions have implications for the war in Iraq? "In the current conflict, soldiers are fighting in a close-quarter, urban type of warfare, and the systems that we are developing do appear to provide some significant advantage in this area," Mr. O'Dwyer said.

He is evasive, however, about specifics. Speaking generally, he said the gun could be used by a robotic soldier.

"It's difficult to put conventional guns on robots because they have to be tended and oiled and looked after," he said. "If you have a system as simple as a tube without all the mechanical operations, you have something that is small, lightweight, compact and electronic, which means it's a good fit with future battlefield requirements."

Another application is in precision bombing. Mr. O'Dwyer makes an analogy to the way a bubble-jet printer works.

"It has a bunch of small barrels, each one of which fires a little blob, a little projectile of ink," he said. "The system itself fires very rapidly and it's electronically fired, and you can organize your printer to fire at the appropriate time to print a very defined picture on a page."

A drone aircraft, Mr. O'Dwyer said, could be programmed to fire its barrels on an urban "page" — say a city block — in a prescribed, synchronized manner. "You can define the page and the target area within that page very precisely whilst firing very rapidly," he said. Like a bubble-jet printer, it could "absolutely saturate one area without putting so much as one single dot" on an adjacent area that is supposed to be left untouched.

Metal Storm technology may also make traditional land mines unnecessary. Remotely operated guns could protect areas that have been mined with sensors. If a sensor is tripped, Mr. O'Dwyer said, a soldier using a laptop could — via remote surveillance — determine whether it had been tripped by a child, a farm animal or an enemy soldier.

Mr. O'Dwyer is well acquainted with the human losses incurred during warfare. He was just 10 months old when his 23-year-old father, a Queensland teacher, was killed in World War II. His father parachuted into Japanese-occupied territory in Borneo — right into the middle of an enemy barracks.

Mr. O'Dwyer expresses some of the same motivations expressed by the scientists who developed the atomic bomb, which was dropped just a few days after Mr. O'Dwyer's father was killed in combat.

"To invent a new defense system brings with it a responsibility," Mr. O'Dwyer said. "It's important that the technology is supported and developed by our governments to provide advantage so that we hasten the end of a conflict and bring our people home earlier."

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March 31, 2003, 02:08 PM
Some very cool technology here:
But I have to wonder, you would need to drive around in a dump truck to feed a gun that can fire a million rounds a minute. And some one will figure out an electronic jamming device that will render one of these guns useless with the push of a button. But then, I have a black powder gun and a '48 Ford truck...

March 31, 2003, 02:12 PM
Discussed before.
Metal storm seemed to me like a decent idea for area denial and maybe close range missile defense.
Does not seem like a good concept for small arms.

March 31, 2003, 02:27 PM
But I have to wonder, you would need to drive around in a dump truck to feed a gun that can fire a million rounds a minute. Just because it can doesn't mean it will. There's nothing that says that the rate of fire couldn't be modulated by an onboard computer chip, which would either be pre-determined, or set by the user depending on the situation.

Of course,then you start running into the issue of electronic gizmos designed to fry the circuitry of such a weapon.

March 31, 2003, 02:59 PM
Another solution driving around in quest of a problem.

Jim Watson
March 31, 2003, 05:14 PM
I have been reading about these for some time. They are a version of the 250 year old Roman Candle gun. With modern separators between loads and electronicly timed ignition, the system can probably be made to work.

But what do you do when it is time to reload? Carry around a crate of pre-charged barrels to insert into the action and plug into the controller? That might work on a warship with a large crew but I don't see it for even a track, much less a personal weapon.

Might could be used for Barney gun control. You get your license and a gun with sealed barrel(s) containing a dozen charges and no way to reload.

George Hill
March 31, 2003, 06:40 PM
The Metalstorm.
For some reason that POS is like nails on a chalk board to me. I think it's crap. Even if it was Scottish, I'd still think it was crap.

However, an electronically fired gun is very possible.
In fact we already have them.

You can buy a rifle from Remington that fires each round electronically. Talk about fast lock time... how's speed of light?
Or you could use an electronics system to fire off the round where the electronics are used to trip the trigger... like in all the top end paintball markers. Just do a quick google search on a marker called the Angel LCD. The advatages of that is a fantastic "felt" trigger pull to improve accuracy... the trigger feels the same every time... and you can use the electronics to govern and control the rate of fire. I can see a lot of advantages in that. Built in smart gun technology for those that want that.
To be honest I like the idea of a smart gun - just none of what we have had so far qualify.
I think there is a future, and I think we are living in it.

I remember the last time I went up against a cat armed with a Bob Long "Intimidator" paintball marker. He must have unloaded over half his hopper at me in one burst. I evaded by... ahem... falling off a 10 foot cliff. However I redeemed myself by tagging his arse right in the goggles when he peeked over the edge. :neener: :D

March 31, 2003, 07:33 PM
You reminded me of a similar success (goggles) back there in the front half of another century.

During a long and tedious firefight (under 30 yards), two guys were blasting each other, alternating barrage and wily sniping. Back and forth it went, debris all around... then quiet, patient snipe. Until finally, one came out the winner with a perfectly timed and aimed shot to the tip of the loser's nose.

I was the loser and that clay BB hurt two ways - pain and embarrassment.

I'd heard the "pop" across the vacant lot but didn't hear the "splat", so when I peaked over the window sill I got it square in the schnozzle... had to be the slowest "round" ever travelling between a Daisy pump and a nose.

For those too young to know, BBs went from copper-clad to lead, to hard-to-get, therefore we used clay. Rolled little balls, cocked the Daisy, inserted BB and blew it down to the plunger. Strangely they did pretty well, but the dynamics of flight weren't quite as good as the coppers. [And NO - I never had an AD/ND while loading] :)


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