DARPA Developing ‘Flying Gun’ Missile They’re Calling the Gunslinger

Gunslinger gatling gun missile darpa

By http://www.af.mil/photos/index.asp?page=43, Public Domain, Link

The Defense Advance Research Projects Agency (DARPA) wants to build a missile with a gun on the the end of it. As the DARPA expense budget document (page 194) describes it:

The Gunslinger program will develop and demonstrate technologies to enable an air-launched tactical range missile system capable of multi-mission support. This system will utilize the high maneuverability of a missile system coupled with a gun system capable of scalable effects and engagement of multiple targets.

These mission sets addressed will include counter insurgency (COIN) operations, close air support (CAS) and air-to-air engagements. The metrics associated with this system include total range (which includes transit to target, loiter and engagement) and weapon system effectiveness.

The program will address the system and technology issues required to enable development of a robust missile system considering (1) vehicle concepts possessing the required aerodynamic, propulsion, and payload capacity for a wide operational envelope, (2) the algorithms that support maneuvering and target recognition to enable expedited command decision making for selecting and engaging targets and (3) approaches to incorporating modularity of design to reduce cost throughout the design and development process.

The anticipated transition partners for this effort are the Air Force and the Navy.

The idea seems to be that the Gunslinger would be capable of taking out multiple targets, either on the ground or in the air, while allowing a manned aircraft to stay safely out of range of hostile fire.

Exactly what kind of gun the Gunslinger missile system would carry is yet to be determined.

[h/t popularmechanics.com]


  1. avatar The Truth About Charlottesville says:

    Stand with Hillary.

    You’re less likely to get droned next to her.

  2. avatar Gordon in MO says:

    The military currently has drones, remotely controlled airplanes, that can strike multiple targets. A missile suggests a one way trip, so expensive equipment is lost.

    1. avatar Geoff "I'm getting too old for this shit" PR says:

      The US doesn’t seem to have a problem spending well over a million bucks to kill someone they want dead… 🙂

      1. avatar pwrserge says:

        If you kill a $20 million jet with a $1m missile while keeping the enemy too busy dodging drone fire to shoot back at your $200 million aircraft, it’s a win-win-win.

        1. avatar Mak says:

          What about the cost of operating an aircraft carrier during a conflict for example? I don’t think it’s a win win win, it’s a win win for some corporations and politicians.

        2. avatar pwrserge says:

          Not sure if trolling, or just a childhood of paint chip consumption.

        3. avatar Geoff "I'm getting too old for this shit" PR says:

          I wasn’t dumping on them for using million-dollar technology, Serge.

          I’m *celebrating* it… 🙂

        4. avatar Geoff "I'm getting too old for this shit" PR says:

          “What about the cost of operating an aircraft carrier during a conflict for example? ”

          That carrier supports thousands of American jobs. Kids are fed and housed, thanks to those jobs that carrier supports… 🙂

        5. avatar jwm says:

          mak. The majority of the worlds population lives within a short distance from an ocean or sea. Carriers give us mobile airfields that can deploy on short notice in international waters. We don’t need to rely on permission from another .gov to deploy our air assets.

          At this point in time we are the world’s super power. We’re about 80 years too late to stop that. With that power comes responsibility.

          Sometimes you just got to put the hammer down on an asshole that thinks he’s safe because of his zip code.

        6. avatar Hush says:

          Mak, the aircraft carrier is fully staffed and at sea anyway, so using one doesn’t equate to additional expense.

        7. avatar Ron says:

          Mak, this question routinely comes up online,

          “Why does the US military fund a massive navy and airforce to fight low tier enemies?”

          The answer has nothing to do with those particular enemies capabilities, and everything to do with the global economy.

          The global economy requires a peaceful ocean to continue to exist, now that the British are out of that game, we’ve stepped in to do it.

          Wether or not we should’ve done that, isn’t really really relevant anymore, because it’s too late to change that. Though personally, since we contribute so insanely much to that global stability, I think we should demand more from the world. One reason why Trumps support remains, is because of this. Our own allies and obviously China/Russia were taking enormous advantage of this fact.

    2. avatar neiowa says:

      Apparently many idiots also think the a selfdriving Tesla POS makes sense.

  3. avatar Ron says:

    The Missile Gun. I don’t know why or how practical… but I like it.

    1. avatar Ian in Transit says:

      Somewhere there is a “sharks with frick’n lazer beams” meme for this.

      1. avatar Nigel the expat says:

        Came here to see if anyone else was going to mention it. Was not disappointing.

      2. avatar Matt in Oklahoma says:

        You gotta have something in sharknado to defeat them

      3. avatar I Haz A Question says:

    2. avatar Southern Cross says:

      You could offset the cost by using High Points as the gun armament.

      1. avatar Geoff "I'm getting too old for this shit" PR says:

        Why not? Defense contracting does go to the lowest bidder.

        Call ’em up, and ask them to bid…

      2. avatar California Richard says:

        So like this: https://youtu.be/MBBC-xL_MTg
        …. only it will take decades to develop by a comity of “experts” and billions in tax payer dollars, so by the time it hits the battlefield it will be obsolete and less effective and less useful then the kid who duct taped a hi-point to an R.C. drone….. sounds like a “good” .gov program to me!

        *edit* I would have embedded the youtube video, but i never learned how to code

        1. avatar Ricky Baker says:

          You never learned to spell committee either.

    3. avatar BusyBeef says:

      Yeet Cannon

  4. avatar Prndll says:

    I think I saw a cartoon this this once.

  5. avatar Matt in Oklahoma says:

    One month after it comes out someone will have it at the range during competition saying it’s their EDC carried in an ankle holster and have a brace, red dot, DBAL IR illuminator and a light on it wanting to use it in the concealed carry stage.

    1. avatar Jeff in CO says:

      Recently got to use the prototype at an IDPA competition. Definitely had the fastest times, but didn’t realize it was loaded with AP-Incendiary rounds. Unfortunately that range is no more…😒

      1. avatar Matt in Oklahoma says:

        Own it “that guy” 😂

  6. avatar Geoff "I'm getting too old for this shit" PR says:

    “The idea seems to be that the Gunslinger would be capable of taking out multiple targets, either on the ground or in the air, while allowing a manned aircraft to stay safely out of range of hostile fire.”

    We already have a somewhat similar capability, demonstrated about a year or so back when we hit that Syrian airbase with cruise missiles. One of the missiles circled overhead and fed video of the strike in progress so further targeting could be made by other missiles already inbound. Drone warfare is rapidly advancing with technology…

  7. avatar Casey says:

    Keep in mind this is a Popular Mechanics article about a DARPA project. There’s a lot of distance between “things these organizations talk about” and “things that will ever exist”.

    1. avatar Geoff "I'm getting too old for this shit" PR says:

      Yeah, well, that Hellfire that extends steel swords right before impact likely had a similar DARPA genesis…

      “Secret Hellfire Missile With Sword-Like Blades Made Mysterious Strike On Terror Leader In Syria”


      That’s what makes DARPA so cool, they can throw money at a bunch of whacky ideas, and some of them have a very high payoff, like that ‘Ginsu’ Hellfire. Zero explosion, low collateral damage. But if you are the one targeted… 🙂

      1. avatar Geoff "I'm getting too old for this shit" PR says:

        “This knife missile seems like something ACME Corporation would design to kill Road Runner.”


        1. avatar jwm says:

          If it looks stupid but it works then it ain’t stupid.

      2. avatar Southern Cross says:

        During the Yugoslavian civil war I heard NATO were attaching the laser guided bomb package to concrete practice bombs to take out targets in urban environments. Minimal collateral damage.

        1. avatar Geoff "I'm getting too old for this shit" PR says:

          Very true, and painted blue, so after the war no one could be hurt by them. Unless you drop a block of concrete on something, that is…

        2. avatar Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:

          Yup. They put the guidance tail from a JDAM on a cast-iron shell filled with concrete.

          Engineers call them a “kinetic energy weapon.” Drop it from enough height with a low enough coefficient of drag, and you can cause quite the bit of damage when that “rock from heaven” hits the ground.

          Make it out of Tungsten or DU, shape it like a lawn dart, and you could penetrate concrete bunkers.

  8. avatar pwrserge says:

    It’s not a bad idea… A missile will be much more capable in a furball than an armed aircraft and far more expendable. Basically it’s a one-shot force-multiplier drone. You shoot off a salvo of these and hang back with the manner aircraft to snipe the enemy aircraft while they are mixing it up with highly maneuverable gun drones. Not bad DARPA, not bad… Somebody has been watching their Sci-Fi recently.

    1. avatar uncommon_sense says:


      If we are correctly understanding these missiles, they are absolutely necessary and inevitable for three reasons:

      (1) Unmanned “missiles” can maneuver through a LOT more G-forces than manned aircraft. Thus, unmanned “missiles” will be able to shoot down enemy manned aircraft rapidly and with impunity. This is a necessary evolution in warfare.

      (2) Unmanned “missiles” will cost a minuscule fraction of the price of our latest generation super-cruise stealth fighter jets. Even our gargantuan and over-bloated U.S. military budget is only large enough to pay for, at most, about 100 to 200 of our latest generation super-cruise stealth fighter jets. On the other hand 1,000 of these “missiles” probably represent a rounding error on the U.S. military budget.

      (3) Our U.S. military budget could easily pay for 10,000 of these unmanned “missiles”. And these “missiles” are WAY more maneuverable than manned fighter jets and would be able to down manned enemy jets at will. Being able to overwhelm your enemy with superior numbers, vastly superior combat effectiveness, and at relatively low cost is a guaranteed strategy to win EVERY time.

      1. avatar pwrserge says:

        Better yet, it gives the ability for any ship equipped with missile cells to launch an instant CAP.

        1. avatar uncommon_sense says:

          Ooohhh. And I was only considering air-superiority. Launching 50 of these unmanned “missiles” (all at once no less) from a warship against any target (land, sea, or air) would be devastatingly effective. Yikes.

          The real key to these unmanned “missiles” is whether Uncle Sam can get their actual price down to $100,000 each assuming a purchase quantity of 100,000 (for a total cost of $10 billion). Given that each “missile” would more-or-less be disposable, I honestly think that is easily doable.

          For reference I keep putting the word “missile” in double quotation marks because these things are really just small, highly maneuverable aircraft. And because they are so small and fast, they do not need the large wing surface area that comes to our minds when we think of an aircraft. Thus, I am using the term missile and enclosing it in double quotation marks.

        2. avatar pwrserge says:

          It’s a great way to give smaller warships the ability to deal with large anti-shipping strikes. Your flight of Chicom 4th gen rust buckets comes blazing in thinking they’ll be able to take out a cruiser. All of a sudden… flight of angry gun drones.

  9. avatar CTstooge says:

    It’s no SLAM but sure why not?

  10. avatar Joe says:

    No freaking lasers? No thanks.

    1. avatar Geoff "I'm getting too old for this shit" PR says:

      They got sword-bombs, dude. What more do you want? 😉

      “The CIA designed a secret Hellfire missile that’s basically a meteor filled with swords to minimize civilian casualties”


      1. avatar Defens says:

        As the missile deploys its scimitars and makes final approach on target, does a loudspeaker start wailing, “Aloha Snackbar”?

        1. avatar jsallison says:

          Yakety Sax.

        2. avatar Fred says:

          That is the funniest reference I’ve heard or seen in months. Kudo’s my friend. You made my day. Still laughing.

  11. avatar Jr says:

    If they zoom out the photo is it next to an “ACME” crate?

  12. avatar Defens says:

    This seems highly illegal. A bank of assault guns bolted to the end of an NFA explosive device? And if all those barrels are shooting 6.5 Creedmoor, it could actually trigger the end of the world.

  13. avatar Ralph says:

    Why not just drop a safe on the bad guys? It always worked on Wile E. Coyote.

    1. avatar uncommon_sense says:


      In all seriousness, many of the approaches that the coyote used are honestly worth considering.

      As you suggested, a large and heavy object simply free-falling from a high altitude would be devastating to any vehicle or even an isolated section of a building. It would not have to explode and it would not need any propulsion system. And with today’s technology it could be self-guided or remotely guided with quite-literally pin-point precision.

      Then we could go with the “low and slow” approach like the small flying saucer that the coyote sent toward bugs bunny. No one would give a second look to a small radio controlled drone buzzing around, until it flies right into the open window of a car or building and explodes.

      Finally (not sure if the coyote explicitly did this) we could use a simple swarm approach, which would be a variation on the large object meme. Instead of dropping one large and heavy object from high altitude, drop a single payload of 500 darts that weigh two-pounds each. Either keep them bound together until the last few hundred feet or use a simple technology to keep them close to a center guided dart and ensure that all 500 darts will be within a 10-foot diameter circle as they hit the target on the ground. Once again, use existing technology for self-guidance or remote guidance for pin-point accuracy.

      People might initially laugh at these concepts. Think about it a bit and you will realize that it is an utterly devastating and, perhaps most important, INEXPENSIVE approach.

      1. avatar pwrserge says:

        Rods from God. Take a few 500kg DU rods into low earth orbit and suddenly nobody is laughing at the Space Force.

        1. avatar Southern Cross says:

          It’s just the cost of getting them into orbit.

          Where’s that space elevator?

        2. avatar uncommon_sense says:


          The darts would not even have to be depleted uranium and they would not have to weigh over 1,000 pounds.

        3. avatar uncommon_sense says:

          Southern Cross,

          Apparently, SpaceX can push a 30,000 pound payload into low Earth orbit for about $60 million. Assuming that each dart weighs a paltry 2 pounds and a single salvo is 500 darts (which weighs 1,000 pounds total), a single SpaceX launch for a cool $60 million gets 30 dart salvos into low Earth orbit.

          At that price, it would cost Uncle Sam $2 million per dart salvo. That is actually on par with various drones and missiles that we already have and use. Of course that is the cost to be able to drop them from space. I suspect the cost to drop them from an actual airplane at 40,000 feet altitude is far lower than $2 million.

          Fun fact: encapsulate each individual dart with radar absorbing coatings and they will be invisible to radar as well. The target would quite literally have absolutely no idea that anything was amiss until several 2 pound darts travelling at something like 500 miles-per-hour hits them. Game over.

        4. avatar Leslie says:

          But fired from Low Earth Orbit, any DU round of insufficient mass would have vaporized long before even hitting its target, by burning up upon reentry…

        5. avatar Southern Cross says:

          I heard in the Vietnam war some kind of dart projectile was dropped from helicopters at an altitude of no more than a few hundred feet and they were lethal by the time they got to ground level.

        6. avatar uncommon_sense says:

          Southern Cross,

          While a two-pound dart in free fall from a few hundred feet would certainly be lethal, I am thinking that the U.S. military would want to release them from a much higher altitude for two reasons:

          (1) Stealth. No one on the ground would give a second thought to what appeared to be a commercial jet airliner cruising along at 36,000 feet altitude. In fact I highly doubt that anyone would even notice that aircraft at 36,000 feet, especially if they were inside a vehicle or building. Thus, targets on the ground would have absolutely no idea that anyone was inbound for them.

          (2) Barrier penetration. A two-pound dart falling at 150 miles-per-hour from a couple hundred feet would certainly kill a human being. A two-pound dart falling at 500+ miles-per-hour from 36,000 feet would be utterly devastating and still be lethal after punching through various structures, possibly even including concrete and light armor. I doubt that would be the case for a two-pound dart falling from a few hundred feet.

      2. avatar Geoff "I'm getting too old for this shit" PR says:

        “…drop a single payload of 500 darts that weigh two-pounds each.”

        Air-dropped flechettes were use in world-war 1 :

        “…typically about 1.75 inches (44 mm) in length, 0.5 inches (13 mm) in diameter, and weighing about 0.7 ounces (20 g).[3]

        The weapons were designed to be dropped from an aircraft. They contained no explosive charge but as they fell they would develop significant kinetic energy[4] making them lethal and able to easily penetrate soft cover such as jungle canopy, several inches of sand or light armor.”


        1. avatar uncommon_sense says:


          Now imagine a two-pound dart (flechette) that was about 0.7-inches diameter, 10-inches long, with a tungsten carbide tip, falling from 36,000 feet at terminal velocity. I have to believe that would defeat light armor and concrete, especially when you drop a salvo of 500 such darts (with some hitting split seconds before others) and all confined to a circle of 10-feet diameter.

          Heck, you could probably accomplish a devastating strike with just 100 such darts. (Spread into a 10-foot diameter circle, that would be about one dart for every square foot.)

  14. avatar GS650G says:

    I want one for deer hunting. From 2 states away.

  15. avatar Texican says:

    It’s a bullet that has a gun that fires smaller bullets!

  16. avatar Dave says:

    Definitely encroaching on Dr. Evil territory. A missile with a gun attached. No doubt its development program was called the “Alan Parsons project” and these missiles will be launched from a “death star”

  17. avatar Thomas says:

    May be a system that could use the metal storm technology. No moving parts needed to fire the projectiles.

    1. avatar Vic Nighthorse says:

      Metal Storm is 37 years old now, out of business, and it’s assets bought up for pennies on the dollar five years ago. It has been a big dud so far.

    2. avatar Southern Cross says:

      If the system is disposable that would reduce the unit cost.

      Even in military procurement you will be surprised how much nickel and diming occurs.

  18. avatar Connie says:

    Defense contractors rejoice! From above comment, hoping to get them down to $100,00 each, very, very doubtful. John Bolton is creaming over this.

  19. avatar Matthew Leonard says:

    “War Is a Racket” by Gen. Smedley D. Butler, USMC Maj. Gen. Ret.
    Read ’em an’ weep, folks. It’s ALL a RUSE for the ALMIGHTY DOLLAR.
    Gov’t & Religion (i.e. the King and his Wizard) are just sanctioned Mobsters who NEVER want any body “muscling in” on their territory.
    JFK didn’t want to go to ‘nam. LBJ had stock in Bell Helicopter.
    W2 ends in ’45. ‘nam starts to crank up in ’63…..”18″ years later. Lotsa boomers…….

  20. avatar Ear wax ON, Ear wax OFF says:

    Does it have a bumpstock adaptor for the fifty round cartridge thingy that goes up? If not, WHY NOT? Don’t mess with a good thing, as long as it’s a weapon of war in the possession and control of the military or Bumbleberg. And where is the silencer? If I can put my phone on “silent”, why can’t we put the Warthog on silent? I can still hear it.

  21. avatar D. MacKAY says:

    An Obvious counter measure to Hypersonic missiles

  22. avatar Stephen brown says:

    Already bought one

  23. avatar tim mccoig says:

    have u ever heard of propaganda ? BUT I DO HAVE A REAL UNICORN FOR SALE ? free shipping

  24. avatar ChuckB says:

    The biggest problem i see with this concept is lack of ammo capacity for extend action.
    If you make it big enough to carry a fairly large amount of ammo, your “missile” will no longer be a missile but a drone (or RPV if you like).

    1. avatar pwrserge says:

      I could be just about the size of the gun pods the put on F4s. Hm… strap an engine, guidance / targeting system, and an engine to an F4 gun pod. Job done. Can I have my $20 billon “development grant”… That buys a lot of surplus gun pods, rocket engines, and duct tape.

  25. avatar possum says:

    What propagandist do not say, gunm is future Lazer.

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