The MAD-FIRES round is a prototype rocket propelled smart shell for the Navy’s 57mm guns. Standing for Multi-Azimuth Defense Fast Intercept Round Engagement System, the round will provide guided hit-to-kill capabilities the Navy’s light combatants can only achieve with missiles at the moment. The concept is to give ships an expanded response capability to threats like anti-ship missiles, small boats, or aircraft.
MAD-FIRES was envisioned by DARPA as a low cost system, suitable for widespread deployment and usage against a wide variety of threats. The guided shell should be able to engage a variety of targets at lower cost than a RIM-116 Rolling Airframe Missile or RIM-66/156 Standard Missile. Raytheon has been working on their development of the concept since early 2017, and just test-fired the rocket motor for the round yesterday at Yuma Proving Grounds.
If successful, the MAD-FIRES round should provide affordable air defense of a volume not really seen since the beginning of the missile era. It may also give the Navy’s Littoral Combat Ships and future frigates, both of which are, or will be, armed with the Mk 110 57mm gun, increased self-defense ability. Currently the LCS hulls have only RAM launchers for air defense. That may change in coming years, but for the time being they have at most twenty-one self-defense missiles. After those are spent, the ship has no ability to defend itself besides time fuzed HE shells.
“The Navy is asking for leading-edge capabilities that can take out rapidly approaching targets, and Raytheon’s interceptor for the MAD-FIRES program will deliver” said Dr. Thomas Bussing, VP of Raytheon Advanced Missile Systems.
Guided medium caliber main gun rounds are nothing particularly new. The DART ammunition for the Oto Melara 76mm gun has been around for nearly five years, though it has yet to be adopted by any Navy. It did however, prove the concept of a guided round in the anti-air and anti-missile role. It remains to be seen if MAD-FIRES will make it to the fleet, but it may give the LCS and FFG(X) ships a much needed hip-pocket self defense capability.