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One-of-a-kind 'cannon tube' SCat gun, used to improve munition design, fires 1,000th shot

The U.S. Army's 155-mm Soft Catch Gun (SCat gun) in action.



Engineers with the U.S. Army Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center (ARDEC) at Picatinny Arsenal in New Jersey set a milestone when they fired the 1,000th shot from the 155-mm Soft Catch Gun (aka the SCat gun) last year.

The system is comprised of a 155-mm Howitzer with a M199 gun tube and 540 ft of catch tubes.

Engineers are able to measure the forces a 155-mm projectile experiences after being fired from a cannon tube. The data is recorded using on-board recorders, which help engineers design robust and reliable precision munition systems and components.

That information is then transferred to a computer and analyzed. The data provides valuable feedback to engineers and warfighters to help in the future development of weapons and munitions systems.

According to records, the first shot from the SCat gun was fired April 30, 2007 at 12:15 p.m. Roughly nine years later, on June 21, 2016 at 9:43 a.m., the 1,000th shot was fired.

"The team has reached a pinnacle for testing of developmental items for future Armament systems for Precision Guided Weapon and Munition systems," said Robert Marchak, mechanical engineer in the Fuze Division of the Munitions Engineering Technology Center.

"The future is an open door at this point and will help ARDEC to achieve more capabilities for the warfighter. With the future brings new opportunities for advancement in more systems to assist in development for the DoD," he said.

"The SCat Gun was designed to last for 50 years. With proper maintenance and upkeep, it will last even longer. Efforts are underway to assess the current system and future development for other assets to fill the gap for testing of High-G and Higher Velocity Armament Systems being developed by the Tri Services and DoD contractors and other government agencies," Marchak added.

How the SCat gun works
SCat is a hybrid system that uses both pressurized air and water to help slow down the projectile's momentum. It is the only system of its kind in the world.

The first part of the chain of catch tubes only contains atmospheric air. The next section, 320 ft of the tubes, contains pressurized air, followed by an 80-ft section with water.

A small burst diaphragm seals one end of the pressurized air and a piston seals the other end.

The piston also separates the water and pressurized air sections. The burst diaphragm and piston are replaced after each test fire.

VIDEO: Engineers with the U.S. Army Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center set a milestone last year when they fired the 1,000th shot from the 155-mm Soft Catch Gun (also known as the SCat gun).

Once fired, the projectile achieves free flight for approximately 6 ft and travels down the catch tubes, generating shockwaves that interact with the atmospheric air section, the burst diaphragm, the pressurized air section, the piston, and the water section.

In a little over 1 sec, the projectile shock waves break the burst diaphragm. The air section is compressed and pushed forward, and shock and pressure shear the piston, moving it against the water (momentum transfer), all while slowing the projectile to a stop.

The piston is ejected out of the end of the system, followed by the air and water, and finally the projectile comes to rest in a mechanized brake system.

On-board recorders inside the projectile measure the accelerations of the projectile from the gun-launch and the catch events.

With a muzzle velocity of 888 m/sec, the entire test takes a little over 1 sec from the time the projectile is fired until it has completely stopped.

The speed of 888 m/sec is equal to 1,986 mph.

Source: Picatinny Arsenal

Published March 2017

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