A Missile With a Gun On It Is as Weird as It Sounds

2020/02/1582185067.jpg
Read: 909     12:55     20 February 2020    

By Kyle Mizokami

DARPA wants to build a new missile. Called “Gunslinger,” this missile won't be like any other missile ever made—it will carry a gun capable of engaging enemy aircraft or troops on the ground. It’s all part of the military’s effort to put robots—and not humans—in harm’s way, allowing manned aircraft to coordinate the battle at a safe distance.


The Alert 5 aviation blog made the first note of the Gunslinger and posted the Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) solicitation. DARPA describes Gunslinger as:

“An air launched tactical missile capable of multi-mission support. 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.”

Generally speaking, missiles are either air-to-ground or air-to-air weapons. It’s rare to have a weapon that can accomplish both missions, and when it happens (the latest version of the Sidewinder air-to-air missile, AIM-9X is one example) it tends to be prohibitively expensive in the air-to-ground role. But Gunslinger will also be capable of engaging multiple air or ground targets, making it more cost effective. A single missile might shoot down two enemy fighters, or make multiple guns runs on enemy air defence missile systems.

The Air Force and Navy are looking for a weapon that can engage enemy ground forces without exposing manned aircraft to hostile fire. Modern surface-to-air missile systems such as the Russian Buk are extremely capable, making it doubtful aircraft such as the A-10 Warthog can survive long over the modern battlefield. Gunslinger is useful because it can engage multiple targets on the ground without risking a pilot and $100 million dollar aircraft. If Gunslinger is shot down, then U.S. forces lose a missile—and the enemy typically loses two surface-to-air missiles.

Air-to-air missions are even more interesting. Modern fighters like the F-22 Raptor and F-35 Joint Strike Fighter are meant to shoot down enemy aircraft from beyond visual range, forgoing dogfights in favor of one long-range ambush after another. Gunslinger mixes things up: an F-35 fighter could launch Gunslinger at a gaggle of enemy fighters and follow it with a volley of medium-range missiles like the AMRAAM air-to-air missile.

The enemy fighter force is then caught on the horns of a dilemma: it must evade the AMRAAM missiles but also keep in mind Gunslinger is closing the distance to shoot them out of the sky. Gunslinger could force enemy fighters to keep their distance, allowing U.S. fighter jets to use their superior stealth, sensors, and weapons to engage their adversaries from a safe distance.

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A Missile With a Gun On It Is as Weird as It Sounds

2020/02/1582185067.jpg
Read: 910     12:55     20 February 2020    

By Kyle Mizokami

DARPA wants to build a new missile. Called “Gunslinger,” this missile won't be like any other missile ever made—it will carry a gun capable of engaging enemy aircraft or troops on the ground. It’s all part of the military’s effort to put robots—and not humans—in harm’s way, allowing manned aircraft to coordinate the battle at a safe distance.


The Alert 5 aviation blog made the first note of the Gunslinger and posted the Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) solicitation. DARPA describes Gunslinger as:

“An air launched tactical missile capable of multi-mission support. 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.”

Generally speaking, missiles are either air-to-ground or air-to-air weapons. It’s rare to have a weapon that can accomplish both missions, and when it happens (the latest version of the Sidewinder air-to-air missile, AIM-9X is one example) it tends to be prohibitively expensive in the air-to-ground role. But Gunslinger will also be capable of engaging multiple air or ground targets, making it more cost effective. A single missile might shoot down two enemy fighters, or make multiple guns runs on enemy air defence missile systems.

The Air Force and Navy are looking for a weapon that can engage enemy ground forces without exposing manned aircraft to hostile fire. Modern surface-to-air missile systems such as the Russian Buk are extremely capable, making it doubtful aircraft such as the A-10 Warthog can survive long over the modern battlefield. Gunslinger is useful because it can engage multiple targets on the ground without risking a pilot and $100 million dollar aircraft. If Gunslinger is shot down, then U.S. forces lose a missile—and the enemy typically loses two surface-to-air missiles.

Air-to-air missions are even more interesting. Modern fighters like the F-22 Raptor and F-35 Joint Strike Fighter are meant to shoot down enemy aircraft from beyond visual range, forgoing dogfights in favor of one long-range ambush after another. Gunslinger mixes things up: an F-35 fighter could launch Gunslinger at a gaggle of enemy fighters and follow it with a volley of medium-range missiles like the AMRAAM air-to-air missile.

The enemy fighter force is then caught on the horns of a dilemma: it must evade the AMRAAM missiles but also keep in mind Gunslinger is closing the distance to shoot them out of the sky. Gunslinger could force enemy fighters to keep their distance, allowing U.S. fighter jets to use their superior stealth, sensors, and weapons to engage their adversaries from a safe distance.

Popular Mechanics



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