I hope all of the technical jargon in the title didn’t throw any of the laymen (or laywomen) in the audience too far off. Anyway, until we manage to catch one of those alien tic-tac machines and figure out how to reverse engineer it, our military will be stuck using the tired old technology that we’ve come up with on our own. One development that may be coming down the pike on that front is a recent request from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). They’re asking for millions of dollars in R&D money to develop a “flying gun” for a project named Gunslinger. And it sounds pretty wild. (The Drive)
Tucked away inside the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s most recent budget proposal is a request for millions of dollars to explore what one could best describe as an unmanned flying gun capable of engaging airborne and ground-based targets. This comes around a year and a half after DARPA first announced it was working on what it called a “Flying Missile Rail.” The system would carry its own air-to-air missiles and would be launched like a drone from under the jet’s wing, after which they would fly off and engage aerial targets with their missiles.
DARPA is asking for $13.27 million in its budget request for the 2021 Fiscal Year for the flying gun effort, which it has dubbed Gunslinger. The budget documents say that this is a new program and it is in no way related to the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps program of the same name, which developed a system to detect incoming hostile gunfire.
The details are rather sparse, but from the sound of it, what they’re looking for sounds more like a souped-up drone than a missile, though it would be fired from below a fighter jet’s wing like a missile. Once it takes off (far faster than the jet) it could overtake targets both in the air and on the ground and deploy its own missiles and gunfire. Assuming this is practical, it sounds like a major advancement that could potentially keep pilots safer than directly jumping into a dogfight themselves.
The idea of missiles releasing other missiles isn’t exactly new. Some of our ICBMs are cable of launching multiple warheads at different targets once they are in flight. But ICBMs aren’t exactly known for being particularly nimble and controllable after they’ve been launched. The Gunslinger should be able to navigate and select between multiple targets and engage them until it finally runs out of steam.
So what type of gun would the “flying gun” be equipped with? Since the project isn’t really even on the drawing board yet, that’s impossible to say. But considering what our needs are, perhaps it will be something along the lines of the 30mm GAU-8/A Avenger cannon found on the A-10 Warthog. The folks at The Drive who broke this story also provided this short video of the GAU-8/A Avenger and the M61 Vulcan that some of our newer fighter jets include so you can compare and contrast the two. Or maybe you just like to see huge, blisteringly fast cannons blow stuff up. (Who doesn’t?) So we’ll close with that.