The United States military wants to build the most powerful cannon ever created, a “super gun” that can fire an explosive shell more than 1,100 miles. Together with new, hypersonic missiles also under development, the super gun will give the U.S. Army the ability to “rip holes in Russian or Chinese layered defenses,” according to a report by the defense industry news site Breaking Defense, published on Tuesday.
Called the “Strategic Long Range Cannon,” the new gun would have the ability to fire a missile over a distance of 1,000 nautical miles, Army Futures Command General John “Mike” Murray told Congress last year, according to the military site Vamboa. That range is the equivalent of 1,150 miles over land.
That would make the SLRC more than 60 times more powerful than the Army’s most powerful existing guns, the M109A7 Paladin and M777 howitzer cannons, which have a range of 18.6 miles, according to Vamboa.com. Even the Navy’s most powerful battleship cannons can fire no more than 23 miles.
According to a Breaking Defense analysis of the Pentagon’s 2020 budget request, the super gun would cost about $305 million over the next three years, 2020 through 2022, just to “refine and prototype” the weapon. But though the military does not appear to have requested funding beyond 2022, “that probably just means the Army’s waiting on initial studies before it commits to further development,” Breaking Defense Deputy Editor Sydney Freedberg wrote.
Other estimates put the cost of the super gun somewhat lower, however. A Jane’s Defense Weekly analysis puts the Pentagon’s projected cost over the three-year period at $228 million for the long-range cannon.
The Army is asking for $91.9 million in fiscal 2020 alone to start work on the super gun according to Inside Defense.
In possible future superpower wars, the super gun would be designed to take over the role played by air power, which is a key element in the military’s current conflicts in such locations as Syria, Afghanistan, and Iraq. In those wars, enemy fighters are primarily guerrillas with limited ability to shoot down or even hinder U.S. aircraft. But the same is not true of rival superpowers Russia and China, according to a Breaking Defense analysis.
With the Pentagon now anticipating a reduction in warfare against low-tech guerrillas, and beginning to plan for massive, global conflicts with Russia and China — each of which have highly sophisticated anti-aircraft weapons — military strategists have become “increasingly anxious” that the high-tech weapons possessed by those potential adversaries could “make the skies a killing zone with nowhere to hide,” Freedberg wrote, creating the need for long-range, ground-based weapons such as the super gun.