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Selective Ammunition Feed System for Machine Guns and Auto Cannons


OBJECTIVE: Develop a compact, lightweight, high-rate ammunition feed system that will enable an airborne machine gunner to select a specific type of round for a particular shot. This will allow efficient use of rapidly evolving , force multiplying"smart rounds"including precision guided munitions, as well as current ammunition. Benefits include improved lethality, reduced collateral damage, improved vehicle performance due to reduced ammunition carriage, efficient use of expensive smart rounds, and potential for application across many vehicle and high-rate-of-fire weapon types. DESCRIPTION: Modern sorting systems take advantage of non-contact sensors, advanced computer algorithms, and precision actuation systems to sort heterogeneous items quickly and accurately. Mail, packages, luggage, farm produce, and manufactured components are commonly sorted in a highly efficient manner using such systems (reference 1). Microelectromechanical (MEMs) technologies and high speed digital communications are enabling the development of"smart"rounds for small caliber (12.7 30 mm) weapons (references 2a 2e). These smart rounds and specialized rounds are force multipliers but are expensive compared to typical rounds (references 2b, 3) and must be used judiciously. Military vehicles, as well as stationary ground emplacements, use machine guns and autocannons as offensive and defensive weapons. Current gun systems typically feed rounds from magazines or ammunition belts which are loaded with predetermined mixes of various munitions, e.g. ball, high explosive incendiary (HEI), tracer, etc. These mixes are always a compromise and may not be optimum for a particular engagement. Introducing additional / custom mixes becomes a logistical burden. Some guns use dual feed mechanisms (M242 Bushmaster) to enable more flexibility in selecting rounds, but that approach is clearly limited in growth capability. If shooters are to use smart rounds in an effective and affordable manner, weapon systems must have the ability to load a specified round at a particular time. Certain large caliber, low rate-of-fire weapon systems have developed robust selective feed systems (reference 4), but no such systems exists for the small caliber weapons commonly used on aircraft, boats, and light vehicles. Previous efforts to address this issue have had limited success, achieving operationally representative 325 rounds/minute loading rates but suffering from heavy, immature mechanisms prone to jamming (reference 5). A successful Smart-Feed system has application across a broad spectrum of weapon systems and portable sorting systems. High-rate-of-fire weapons ranging from 12.7mm machine guns, to 20/25/30mm auto cannons, to 40mm grenade launchers are likely candidates based on currently active smart round development programs (references 2a 2e). Such weapons are widely used on ground vehicles, helicopters, boats, and in ground emplacements by militaries and civil authorities around the world. A smart feed system would also enable the use of a turreted gun to deploy programmable countermeasure flares in any pattern desired rather than being restricted to finite sectors as is done today. Smart-Feed technology would enable high-speed, portable sorting / dispensing systems for commercial applications such as; in medical research labs where space is limited and hundreds of identically shaped but uniquely labeled specimen vials must be meticulously manipulated, or in mobile / emergency distribution sites where filling of customized supply orders or routing of packages could be done at high-speed from varied stocks of standard sized item containers. The present Topic will concentrate on the development, integration, and demonstration of a selective ammunition feed system (Smart-Feed) for machine guns and auto cannons such as those commonly used on Army helicopters. Key capabilities of the system will include; near real-time inventorying of rounds, reliable and accurate mechanization of ammunition selection and feeding, lightweight and compact configuration, speed of operation in continuous and burst modes, and safety of operation. The fully provisioned Smart-Feed system shall impose no penalties for space, weight, and power when compared to current ammunition storage / feed systems. PHASE I: Demonstrate feasibility of system. The awardee shall; create a conceptual design based on the AH-64D Apache helicopter, use modeling and simulation to assess the key capabilities summarized below, compare and contrast the resulting design to the existing AH-64D ammunition system (reference 6). Early coordination with AH-64D manufacturer is encouraged. Efforts result in Technology Readiness Level (TRL) 2 system. KEY CAPABILITY.................AH-64D CURRENT..................SBIR GOAL Firing Rate..............................600 rounds / min.......................300 rounds / minute Capacity of Magazine...............1200 rounds @ 0.77 lb ea ..........400 rounds @ 0.77 lb ea Size (magazine only)................42"D x 36"W x 18" larger System Weight*.......................1165 lbs...................................775 lbs (66% of current) Power.....................................3 HP hydraulic+electric higher Reliability...............................10,000 MRBF** less Selection Accuracy...................Not applicable...........................95% *includes full ammo load, magazine, feed chuting, transfer drive unit. Items 3a through 3c, 4 on reference 6. **MRBF = mean rounds between failure Smart-Feed will use the existing feed chute interfaces on the M230 chain gun (reference 7). The Government will provide technical drawings as required. A particular challenge is how to deliver the selected round(s) from the magazine to the feeder at the gun turret. Specification of the desired type of round, corresponding fusing parameters, and rate of fire will be done by a system other than the Smart-Feed system. Interaction with the"smarts"of each round (i.e. setting fusing, arming, initializing parameters) will be done by a system other than the Smart-Feed system and need not be demonstrated. Communications between the aircrafts fire control system and Smart-Feed need not be addressed under the Phase 1 or Phase 2 efforts. Rounds are randomly loaded into the ammunition carriage container. PHASE II: Demonstrate proof of concept. The awardee shall; design and build a Smart-Feed system for the AH-64D chain gun, demonstrate key capabilities in a benchtop environment, employ M848 dummy rounds for all demonstrations. Other types of M230 ammunition shall be simulated by repainting dummy rounds with appropriate color code bands. Efforts result in a TRL 4 system. PHASE III: The Smart-Feed technology will be validated in a ground-based live-fire demonstration, thereby resulting in a TRL 6 system ready for subsequent integration onto specific military boats, ground vehicles, and helicopters. The awardee shall design and build a Smart-Feed system compatible with the mechanical, electrical, hydraulic, and digital communications interfaces of the AH-64D helicopter. The system shall be live-fire tested on the ground using a Government furnished test stand or aircraft including an AH-64 gun turret. Operating commands (inventory status, type / number / rate of rounds to be delivered, etc.) shall be provided to the Smart-Feed system in a digital format compatible with that of the AH-64, but need not be generated by the aircraft. The basic technology for lightweight compact commercial sorting / dispensing products will also have been proven. Adaptation of the technology will enable portable systems useful in temporary or emergency instances where customized logistics supply orders must be rapidly and accurately built up for distribution. Customized orders for medical supplies, food, tools, or hazardous waste response supplies could be rapidly dispensed onsite from pre-stocked trucks, thereby reducing response times and reducing potentially critical errors.
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