This is a ramjet artillery round, similar to the one fired from a howitzer.

Boeing has presented the best look yet at its 155mm artillery shell, with the ramjet engine actually sending it down range. The company also says that recent testing of this design, which it is developing in collaboration with Norway’s Namco, has broken the existing range record for a ramjet-powered artillery round. However, how far the sphere flew is unknown.

A press release issued today by Boeing included the photo of the Ramjet 155 round seen at the top of this story, as well as details on milestone testing and other future plans for this munition. Nammo first unveiled a 155 mm ramjet-powered shell design in 2018. Both companies are now developing this round as part of the US Army’s Extended Range Artillery Munition Suite (ERAMS) program.

Boeing and Nammo also announced last year that they had tested the Ramjet 155, which set the previous range record for a round of this type. Both companies declined to say how far it traveled in that instance.

Boeing has previously said the Ramjet 155 is intended to be capable of engaging targets more than 70 kilometers (~43.5 miles) away. Nammo said the ramjet-powered projectile may eventually be able to fly up to 150 kilometers (just over 93 miles), depending on the weapon it is fired from.

Typical 155 mm artillery shells are fired using different propelling charges. Extended-range variants incorporating a small rocket booster in the base of the round also exist and are now in service worldwide.

The Ramjet 155 incorporates an air-breathing ramjet engine. Detailed details about the design are limited. The general concept, which companies around the world have been experimenting with for decades, involves extending range through a combination of sustained supersonic flight and the fact that the engine is actively pulling the projectile through the air.

The Ramjet 155’s guidance package will include the same “mission computer” component found on Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) precision-guided air-dropped bombs. This points to a GPS-assisted method of guidance suitable for attacking static targets. There remains the possibility that some type of seeker or combination of seekers could be integrated in the future to enable it to engage moving targets.

Boeing and Nammo hope to demonstrate the precision-guidance capabilities of the Ramjet 155 in another test soon.

Even though the initial design is only capable of attacking specific fixed target coordinates, the Ramjet 155 could offer a significant capability leap over existing 155 mm howitzer guns. The expected range of ramjet-powered rounds is consistent with that of historically large-caliber artillery rockets.

As an example, the latest A6 and A7 versions of the venerable M109 self-propelled 155 mm howitzer now in service with the US Army have ranges of 22 kilometers (~13.6 mi) and 30 kilometers (~18.6 mi) using existing non-powered and rocket-assisted ) can hit distant targets. arms and ammunition. With the Ramjet 155, the range of those howitzers would be at least doubled, if not extended even further.

That extra range also gave the 155 mm howitzer batteries dramatically increased flexibility. With a strike range of 30 kilometers, one of these weapons can attack anything in a circular area of ​​about 2,827 square kilometers (about 1,092 square miles). If their range is increased to 70 kilometers or 150 kilometers, the space over which they can engage targets without risk of redeployment will increase to 15,394 square kilometers (5,944 sq mi) and 70,686 square kilometers (27,292 sq mi) respectively. Increases.

Howitzer guns already have the inherent ability to easily shift focus from a target area that is within their range in response to new developments on the battlefield.

Still, whether the US military, or any other world military, eventually acquires stocks of the Boeing/Namco Ramjet 155, or any other ramjet-powered 155 mm shell design, remains to be seen. Boeing and Namco are just one team working on the advanced 155mm round as part of ERAMS. The Army is already referring to whichever of these rounds it ultimately decides to acquire as the XM1155.

Teams led by Raytheon and BAE Systems are also working on competing designs. Raytheon’s round is another ramjet-powered variant, which it is developing in collaboration with the Netherlands Organization for Applied Scientific Research, also known by its Dutch acronym TNO.

BAE Systems’ shell is a so-called sabotage concept that involves releasing a small projectile after launch which then flies off at very high velocity. The expected maximum range for this design is at least 110 kilometers (just over 68 miles). It is derived from ammunition the company developed for the US Navy’s unsuccessful Electromagnetic Railgun project. BAE says its Is one of.

For the US Army in particular, a new ramjet-powered or other long-range 155mm shell is just one part of a much larger initiative to increase the reach of its units tactically and strategically. This includes a number of other programs related to the development of new land-based cruise and ballistic missiles, drones, loitering munitions and more.

Also, the Army’s future artillery strategy, especially when it comes to the advanced 155 mm howitzers and their ammunition, now appears to be in transition. For some time, the service has been pursuing a new tracked self-propelled 155 mm howitzer called the XM1299, which is designed to make maximum use of ERAMS ammunition and has improvements including an auto-loader .

However, senior Army officials have now questioned whether this is necessarily the most cost-effective option and whether other options available on the open market could soon provide similar capabilities.

“If we go in a different direction it really becomes a fiscal year 2025 budget decision,” Doug Bush, assistant secretary of the Army for acquisitions, logistics and technology, said recently. defense news, “However, I think the need is still there. We still need long distance in a more affordable way, which is an important reminder.”

Another issue is that the heavily armored XM1299 is not really suitable for lighter forces, such as army airborne and airmobile units, who may be better served by a lighter howitzer design. In 2021, the service tested several wheeled self-propelled 155 mm howitzer designs, including several foreign types, but did not follow through on any of them.

The Archer from BAE Systems Bofors in Sweden, seen in the video below, was one of the first foreign wheeled self-propelled 155 mm howitzers tested by the US Army.

“The [Army artillery] The strategy is looking at a combination of factors,” Bush also said. defense news Back in September. “Where do you need towed artillery, perhaps tracked or perhaps wheeled? “What can you do with weapons to gain more firepower than building new guns?”

No matter what, “the broader lesson is that you still need artillery,” he said at the time. “It’s the No. 1 killer on the battlefield, still in this conflict [in Ukraine],

Overall, it is clear that the Army still views expanding the range of its artillery units as an important focus area. Boeing and Nammo’s ramjet-powered artillery round, or one of the other ERAMS shell designs, appears to be a key part of achieving that capability.

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