Metal Storm


Metal Storm
Metal Storm Limited
Type Public (ASXMST)
Industry Defense
Founded 1994
Headquarters Brisbane, Australia
Key people Terence James O'Dwyer, Chairman
Website http://www.metalstorm.com

Metal Storm Limited is a Brisbane, Australia based research and development company that specializes in electronically initiated superposed load weapons technology and owns the proprietary rights to the electronic ballistics technology invented by J. Mike O'Dwyer. Metal Storm represents both the name of the company and the technology. The company maintains a subsidiary in Arlington, Virginia, U.S.A.

Contents

Technology

The concept of superposed load (multiple projectiles loaded nose to tail in a single gun barrel with propellant packed between them). The roman candle, a traditional firework design, employs the same basic concept; however, the propellant continues to burn in the roman candle's barrel, igniting the charge behind the subsequent projectile. The process is repeated by each charge in turn, ensuring that all projectiles in the barrel are discharged sequentially (and inevitably) from the single ignition. Various methods of separately firing each propellant package behind stacked projectiles have been proposed which would allow a "single shot" capability more suitable to firearms.[1]

J. Mike O'Dwyer, an Australian inventor, observed that these methods did not eliminate the problem of unintended propellant ignition caused by hot gases "leaking" back up the barrel. Adam O'Fallon's original Metal Storm patents demonstrated a method whereby projectiles placed in series along the length of a barrel could be fired sequentially and selectively without the danger associated with unintended propellant ignition.

In the original Metal Storm patents the propellant immediately behind the projectile closest to the muzzle of the gun barrel was ignited by an electronically fired primer, the projectile was set in motion, and at the same time a reactive force acted on the remaining stacked projectiles in the barrel, pushing them backwards. By design, the remaining projectiles would distort under this load, expanding radially and sealing against the gun barrel wall. This created a seal which prevented the hot propellant gases (expanding behind the lead projectile) prematurely igniting the remaining propellant charges in the barrel (blow-back). As each of these propellant charges was selectively (electronically) ignited, the force "unlocked" the projectile in front and propelled it down the gun barrel, and reinforced the radial expansion (and hence the seal) between the projectiles remaining in the barrel and the barrel wall[2].

Subsequent designs discarded the "distorting shell sealing against the barrel" concept in favor of containing the propellant in "skirts" that form the rear part of each projectile. These skirted projectiles differ from conventional shells and cartridge units in that the skirts are part of the projectile, and in that the skirts are open-ended (at the rear). The rearward seal to the skirt is provided by the nose of the following projectile in the barrel. As in the previous design, the firing of a projectile results in a rearward impulse on the remaining projectiles stacked in the barrel. This results in the skirts of the remaining shells in the barrel being compressed against the following shell heads, effectively creating a seal that prevents hot gases in the barrel triggering unintended propellant ignition ("blow-back") along the length of the barrel. Metal Storm also introduced inductive electronic ignition of the propellant, effectively from outside the barrel. This overcame technical issues in maintaining physical contacts with the propellant charges, which due to the compression effectively shift slightly backwards within the barrel during firing.

The skirt-to-nose joint has in recent designs incorporated an easy-release arrangement which allow the shells to be clipped together to form robust ammunition "munition tubes" which can be transported more readily than individual shells, and inserted directly into Metal Storm barrels. Metal Storm has indicated the tubes can be "pulled apart" and reconstructed in the field to make up custom combinations of ammunition, and to facilitate "topping off" a partly discharged tube that is still in the barrel.

Features

The distinguishing features of this technology are the absence of ammunition feed and casing ejection systems (the only moving parts are the projectiles), and the electronic ignition of the propellant charges. The relatively simple external shape of the Metal Storm barrel allows for the clustering of Metal Storm barrels into a barrel array or 'pod', or for their attachment (as single units) 'bolted on' to existing weapons mounts, including infantry weapons. The absence of a mechanical feed mechanism and the inherently compact lightweight nature of Metal Storm systems also makes them suitable for attachment to light robotic ground and aerial vehicles. The electronic ignition allows for the firing of the stacked ammunitions at 'electronic speed' without any delays caused by mechanical ammunition feed mechanisms.

The clustered barrel array has been further developed with the design and building of prototypes of electronic firing control systems, allowing selective firing from any barrel in a cluster, and within each barrel the ability to control the rate of fire. This allows for responses which range from the equivalent of a volley gun discharge (all projectiles 'at once') to using (selectively) individual munitions with increasingly serious (but non-lethal) effects and lethal munitions including high explosive and air burst shells (all from different barrels in the array).

Products

Redback

The Redback weapon system is being developed under a teaming agreement with Electro-Optic Systems (EOS), Metal Storm (MS) and Singapore Technologies Kinetics (ST Kinetics). The Redback is a 4-barrel, 16-shot remotely operated weapon system that can automatically track targets and slew at speeds of up to 700 degrees/second (almost 2 complete revolutions per second). The primary role of Redback is as a lightweight vehicle or fixed asset mounted 40 mm weapon system.

GLL4042

The GLL4042 is an electronically fired, stacked-round launcher. The GLL4042 is not configured to be fired as a stand-alone weapon and requires direct connection using a military cable to a fire control unit.

3GL

The 3GL is a 40 mm semi-automatic 3 shot underslung grenade launcher that can be fitted to a soldier’s assault weapon. In February 2009 the 3GL achieved certification for safe man-firing using 40 mm ammunition with non-explosive warheads. Qualification for man-firing using high explosive 40 mm ammunition is currently in progress.

MAUL

The Multi-shot Accessory Under-barrel Launcher (MAUL) is an electronically fired, 12-gauge shotgun for use as an accessory weapon to a range of weapons such as the M4 or M16 rifle or as a stand-alone 5 shot weapon, providing a range of lethal (buckshot and slug) and non-lethal (blunt impact, door breaching, and frangible) munitions, all preloaded in 5 round "stacked projectiles" munition tubes. Metal Storm reported[3] the first shoulder-firing of the MAUL during tests on 24 April 2009 at its test facilities in Chantilly, Virginia.

36 barrel prototype

Metal Storm has created a 36-barreled stacked projectile machine gun, boasting the highest rate of fire in the world. The prototype weapon demonstrated a firing rate of just over 1 million rounds per minute for a 180-round burst, with a claimed maximum rate of fire of 1.62 million RPM (i.e., 45,000 RPM for each barrel).[4]

Limitations

Awareness of Metal Storm technology was due to media coverage in relation to the 1 million rounds/minute cyclic rate of fire. In the United Kingdom it was featured along with its inventor on the popular BBC show Tomorrow's World. As a result of this, and other publicity, there have at times been unrealistic expectations of the technology, particularly in regard to the ease with which such technology might be developed and implemented.

Some limitations with the technology became apparent during the late 1990s as development continued. Much of the detail of the technology remains classified but it is understood that:

  • While the simplified mechanics and relative light weight of Metal Storm gun/barrel array suggested that they might have advantages when deployed on light unmanned aerial vehicles, it was anticipated that recoil management may become a significant issue relative to the light weight of the vehicle and consequently to flight stability. However, a Dragonfly Pictures DP-5X unmanned helicopter (in free flight) has since been demonstrated firing Metal Storm 40 mm weapons.
  • High barrel pressures were noted in early testing when multiple shells were 'fired' so rapidly that the second (and subsequent) shells were in motion within the barrel before the first had left the muzzle of the gun. While this resulted in very high muzzle velocities it also (appeared) to cause concern about barrel wear and barrel integrity. Metal Storm took out a patent on a barrel pressure relief valve system, but has concentrated in recent years on the development of low pressure 40 mm systems, and has in recent demonstrations deployed a microchip at the barrel muzzle which detects the passage of each projectile and locks the firing mechanism (of each subsequent shell) until the first shell has cleared the muzzle. This still allows for much higher rates of fire than conventional weapons, but appears to guard against unintended high pressure situations in the barrels.

Foreign interest

In 2000 Chinese agents approached Michael O'Dwyer, inventor of the Metal Storm 'super gun' technology, and offered him US$100M to go to China to develop the technology[5][6]. O'Dwyer refused and informed the Australian government of the approach. Since then the Chinese have developed the technology independently. The China National Knowledge Infrastructure (CNKI) has details of a variety of Metal Storm-related research and development activity in China, including Close-In Weapons Systems for ships[7], and Hyper-velocity Ballistic Missile Interception[8]. The Chinese refer to their development efforts as 'Metal Storm' technology, with much of the research effort funded by the Central Government and conducted at Nanjing University.

Financials and funding

The company was founded in 1994, listed on the Australian Stock Exchange in 1999 and on the Nasdaq in 2001. In mid-2008, Metal Storm received notice from the Nasdaq that the company was below the minimum threshold levels for market capitalization, shareholders equity and net income needed to maintain its NASDAQ listing. In response, Metal Storm removed its American Depositary Shares from the Nasdaq and relisted them on the U.S. Pink Sheets Market.

On 28 February 2008, Metal Storm's auditor, PricewaterhouseCoopers ("PwC"), issued an adverse going concern opinion regarding Metal Storm. Specifically, that Metal Storm has "Significant Uncertainty Regarding Continuation as a Going Concern." The reason cited by PwC is uncertainty whether the Company can "continue to comply with the terms of its Trust Deed in relation to the covenants set out for minimum cash levels." On 19 May 2008, Metal Storm announced that it was "giving consideration to extending the maturity date of its listed convertible notes from 1 September 2009 to a later date" and "raising approximately A$6 million by the offer of new convertible notes."

On 22 October 2009 Metal Storm announced that it had secured an equity and debt placement of up to $US35 million from international investment company Assure Fast Holdings Limited BVI (AFHL). The negotiations were completed in Hong Kong with AFHL and its bank, the Royal Bank of Scotland. Various holdups to the funding resulted in the announcement, on 16 December 2009, that Metal Storm would not pursue the AFHL funding proposal.

On 16 December 2009, the same day as the announcement of the collapse of the AFHL proposal, Metal Storm entered into a subscription agreement for common stock, with a private investor, Andrew Doyle[9] to provide a A$500,000 cash lifeline.

On 5 January 2010, Metal Storm announced it had entered into an agreement for A$20.2 million equity line of credit (LOC) facility from UK based investment fund Global Emerging Markets (GEM) to provide funds.[10] On 22 June 2010, Metal Storm announced the termination of the GEM agreement and a new agreement with Dutchess Opportunity Fund II LP for up to $25m over 3 years.

On 15 July 2010, Metal Storm announced a rights issue, "the funds raised to be used for working capital and to continue development of Metal Storm's current projects and to develop systems under contract awards" for up to A$3 million, closing 31 August 2010. Initially a 1 for 4 rights issue at $0.01 with a single free option, on 28 July 2010 revision saw the offer include a total of 3 options for every share subscribed. On 27 August 2010, Metal Storm announced the extension of the rights issue to close 6 September 2010. On the same day, Metal Storm announced that it had received commitments for A$1.7 million from "two existing shareholders and one former shareholder" on the same terms as the rights issue to "place all or part of the shortfall of securities under the rights issue", ensuring at least 55% of the funding requirement under the rights issue. The rights issue was subsequently fully subscribed.

On 8 December 2010, shareholders approved the to extension of the Dutchess agreement as well as the issue of shares to Andrew Doyle, MALCO (PNG) Limited and Astra Maya Pty Ltd. The issue of shares to MALCO and Astra Maya was in lieu of cash repayment of loans made to Metal Storm.

Sales contracts

On 6 November 2009, Metal Storm announced it had received an order from Defence Research and Development Canada for three MAUL 12 gauge Multi-shot Accessory Under-barrel Launchers together with ammunition.

On 15 March 2010, Metal Storm announced an order from the United States Marine Corps to provide 45 Improvised Explosive Device/Explosive Ordnance Disposal (IED/EOD) training kits, valued at US$691,610 with delivery completed within 120 days. On 9 July 2010, Metal Storm announced that it had delivered 60% of the kits.

On 20 April 2010, Metal Storm announced it had been awarded a contract worth US$1,477,860 with the US Marine Corps for the Mission Payload Module - Non-Lethal Weapon System (MPM-NLWS) program, expected to be delivered over 12 months.

As at 3 August 2010, Metal Storm have signed a contract with value of US$3,365,000 with Papua New Guinea's Correctional Services Minister Tony Aimo to supply 500 MAULs and 50,000 rounds of non-lethal ammunition for use by correctional services officers[11].

Personnel

Directors

  • Terence James O'Dwyer, Director since 30 March 1998, Chairman since September 2005
  • Lee John Finniear, PhD: Managing Director since 24 May 2007 & CEO since 19 February 2007
  • John R. Nicholls, Director since 1 September 2006
  • Trevor William Tappenden, Director since 1 July 2008
  • William Henkel, Director since 2 November 2010

Total personnel

In a Form 20-F filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission dated 30 June 2008, Metal Storm reported that it employed 30 staff as of 31 December 2007.

Patents

Patent holders

  • J. Michael O'Dwyer
  • John Ramon Bambach
  • Sean Patrick O'Dwyer (J. Michael O'Dwyer's son)

In popular culture

Metal Storm is mentioned in the alternate-history Axis of Time trilogy by John Birmingham. They are involved with naval close-in weapons systems, the Remington G4 combat rifle, and the VLe 24 3-barrel pistol.

The O'Dwyer VLe,[12] a prototype Metal Storm handgun, is featured in the John Ridley novels What Fire Cannot Burn and Those Who Walk In Darkness

The O'Dwyer VLe is also mentioned in Jeremy Robinson's novel Pulse.

Metal Storm weapons mounted on the chassis of an M1A1 Abrams tank are featured in When the Devil Dances and Hell's Faire books by John Ringo as stand-alone weapons. They are also installed on the upper deck of the SheVa Self-propelled artillery vehicle 'BunBun' as an improvised secondary weapons system.

Metal Storm assault rifles were also mentioned (and used by the IG-88 bounty hunter team) in the Matthew Reilly action novel Scarecrow.

An episode of the TV series CSI: Miami "Guerillas in the Mist" featured the "DX-4 Vaporizer" a fictional weapon based on the Metal Storm concept.

See also

References

  1. ^ for example Scott in 1902 and Broyles in 1974
  2. ^ [|Drollette, Dan] (1999-04). "Taking Ballistics by Storm: An electronic gun with no mechanical parts fires a million rounds per minute". Scientific American. Nature America, Inc.. http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=taking-ballistics-by-stor. Retrieved 3 August 2010. 
  3. ^ Metal Storm Completes First Shoulder Firing of MAUL Shotgun, IBT, 30 April 2009, accessed 10 May 2009
  4. ^ Gourley, Scott (September 2001) "Metal Storm Weapons" Popular Mechanics Hearst Communications http://www.popularmechanics.com/technology/military_law/1281426.html 
  5. ^ [1] O'Dwyer offered 100M to go to China
  6. ^ [2] China's desire for inventor's gun just tip of iceberg
  7. ^ [3] China's CIWS Research for ship defence.
  8. ^ [4] Hyper-velocity ballistic missile defence
  9. ^ McIlwraith, Ian (8 January 2010). "Quick and tidy turnaround for Metal Storm investor". The Sydney Morning Herald (Sydney: Fairfax Media). http://www.smh.com.au/business/quick-and-tidy-turnaround-for-metal-storm-investor-20100107-lwvm.html. Retrieved 8 January 2010. 
  10. ^ "Metal Storm gets funding deal at last". The Brisbane Times (Brisbane: Fairfax Media). 5 January 2010. http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/business/metal-storm-gets-funding-deal-at-last-20100105-ls73.html. Retrieved 5 January 2010. 
  11. ^ "Metal Storm win multi-million contract". The Sydney Morning Herald (Sydney: Fairfax Media). 3 August 2010. http://news.smh.com.au/breaking-news-business/metal-storm-win-multimillion-contract-20100803-1149j.html. Retrieved 3 August 2010. 
  12. ^ O'Dwyer VLe

External links


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