WASHINGTON ― Boeing and Nammo have jointly test-fired a Ramjet 155 weapon, amid the U.S. Army’s efforts to modernize its long-range precision fire capability.
During the June 28 test at the Andøya Test Center in Norway, the Ramjet 155 was fired from an L39 cannon and its engine successfully ignited, according to a statement from Boeing, an American firm partnered with the Norwegian company to develop and produce boosted artillery projectiles. The engine draws in air to bolster the forward motion of the projectile.
The companies aim to design their artillery round for use by L39 and L58 cannons, the statement read.
The Army currently uses the L39 cannon and is preparing to field an Extended Range Cannon Artillery weapon in fiscal 2023 that is an L58, meaning it has a longer gun tube to achieve greater range.
“We believe the Boeing Ramjet 155, with continued technology maturation and testing, can help the U.S. Army meet its long-range precision fires modernization priorities,” Steve Nordlund, Boeing Phantom Works vice president and general manager, said in the statement.
The launch followed years of research, development, and more than 450 static and short-range tests, Boeing said.
Boeing and Nammo were awarded a contract in July 2019 under the Army’s XM1155 program, an effort to further develop extended-range artillery munition. The duo was awarded a Phase II technology contract nearly two years later.
“The test results demonstrate that ramjets are viable and can fundamentally change the future of artillery,” Nammo CEO Morten Brandtzæg said. “The test — with all aspects from cannon firing, to the projectile body, fins, and trajectory all functioning perfectly — represents a real technological breakthrough in artillery.”
The test’s key achievement was to “make sure that [the projectile] was able to come out of the cannon and survive the launch, you have a lot of G-forces,” Mark Altobelli, director of Boeing Phantom Works, told Defense News in an interview at the Space and Missile Defense Symposium in Huntsville, Alabama, this week.
The industrial team also observed the ignition, verified the propulsion performance and ensured the motor burns in a stable way while maintaining good thrust, Dan Palmeter, a business development official with Phantom Works, added in the same interview.
As the Army modernizes its long-range precision fires to include adding the Extended Range Cannon Artillery weapon to its inventory, ramjet technology could be a way to solve the problem of wearing out the gun tube. Current munitions in a longer tube are wearing the cannons out earlier. The ramjet projectile doesn’t require the breach pressure in the cannon that a regular projectile does, explained Palmeter.
The development program with the Army has two years left, Palmeter and Altobelli said. The program will culminate with a guided flight.
Also among those companies working on ramjet technology for the U.S. government is Raytheon Technologies, which is partnered with the Netherlands Organisation for Applied Scientific Research to design the engine. Northrop Grumman has also completed testing of ramjet technology as part of the XM1155 program.
Zamone “Z” Perez is an editorial fellow at Defense News and Military Times. He previously worked at Foreign Policy and Ufahamu Africa, where he helped produce podcasts. He is a graduate of Northwestern University, where he researched humanitarian intervention and atrocity prevention in his thesis.
Jen Judson is an award-winning journalist covering land warfare for Defense News. She has also worked for Politico and Inside Defense. She holds a Master of Science degree in journalism from Boston University and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Kenyon College.