The Multi-Azimuth Defense Fast Intercept Round Engagement System, or MAD-FIRES, is a missile but it comes out of a 57 mm caliber gun according to Raytheon (who is working on the project with DARPA). It is designed to combine the guidance, precision and accuracy generally afforded by missiles with the speed, rapid-fire capability and large ammunition capacity afforded by bullets.
If it ever becomes a program of record, MAD-FIRES will provide a potent self protection capability against anti-ship cruise missiles (ASCM) to the U.S. Navy’s Littoral Combat Ships (LCS) and future frigates known today as FFG(X). Both types of ships are or will be fitted with BAE System’s Mk110 57mm main guns and the video recently released by Raytheon show the two classes of LCS (Freedom and Independence) as well as an FFG(X) frigate (the F-100 design being proposed by GD Bath Iron Works and Spain’s Navantia) in action, countering various types of ASCMs launched from what appears to be a Chinese H-6K bomber, a Chinese Type 052C destroyer and an unidentified submarine with VLS located forward of the sail.
According to DARPA, attacks by unmanned vehicles, missiles, small planes, fast in-shore attack craft and other platforms pose a perennial, evolving and potentially lethal threat to ships and other maritime vessels. The escalating risks posed by these ever-morphing threats demand that vessels have access to defensive capabilities at the leading edge of air and surface combat technologies. In particular, current close-range gun systems would greatly benefit from an ability to engage multiple and diverse targets coming from a range of directions and do so rapidly and with high precision.
Details about MAD-FIRES’s performance (speed, range), guidance system or the potential presence of a data-link (allowing target re-allocation or re-engagement) are, for now, not available. The video shows that MAD-FIRES discards a sabot when coming out of the barrel. It is controlled by canards at the front and likely achieves both long range and stability via its spinning body (only the canards and fuse appear to be non spinning).
MAD-FIRES aims to advance the state-of-the-art in defensive gun systems by creating a new, low-cost technological foundation for guided, gun-launched projectiles. Specifically, MAD-FIRES aims to incorporate enhanced ammunition rounds able to alter their flight path in real time to stay on target, and a capacity to continuously target, track and engage multiple fast-approaching targets simultaneously and re-engage any targets that survive initial engagement.
Envisioned benefits of MAD-FIRES for future systems include:
- Improved real-time defense against evolving air and surface combat threats, facilitated by:
- Extreme precision
- An ability to defend against greater numbers of simultaneous and diverse attacks
- Decreased per-engagement costs by a factor of 10 or more
- Potential future applicability to air and ground platforms
Trade study for the MAD-FIRES started in 2015, followed by a first development contract signed in February 2016. Raytheon conducted rocket model tests in February this year, followed by a successful a hot fire rocket motor test in May. “All of those tests were successful. It shows that the projectile, the flight control surfaces, and the rocket motor all integrated together. Later this year or next year we will put in all that together for more tests” Raytheon told Naval News during SAS 2019.
If ordered, MAD-FIRES won’t be the first smart, guided ammunition for the LCS and FFG(X). The ALaMO round is preceding it. Designed by L3, ALaMO (Advanced Low-cost Munitions Ordnance) HE-4G is a low-cost 57mm guided smart munition being developed for the U.S. Navy’s Littoral Combat Ship, new Fast Frigate, and the U.S. Coast Guard’s National Security and Offshore Patrol Cutters. ALaMO is designed to help surface vessels fitted with the BAE Systems Mk110 defend against asymmetric threats, such as swarming small boats and Unmanned Aircraft Systems.