On-The-Fly Ammo Swapping Will Make Tomorrow's Apaches Even More Deadly

Swapping ammo types at the press of a button has been a feature of FPS games for years but has never actually made it into real combat. But the US Army thinks that with recent advances in computerized high-speed sorting, flipping between warheads could become nearly automatic.

The M230 chain gun mounted on the underside of the Army's Apache attack helicopter is already nothing to sneeze at—it's a 30mm auto-cannon what spews hot metal at 625RPM. However, the type of ammo they carry—standard, incendiary, explosive, or tracer rounds—comes pre-loaded on the belts and can't be changed as the situation dictates.

This lowers the helicopter's combat readiness, which is exactly what the Army is trying to avoid. "These mixes are always a compromise and may not be optimum for a particular engagement," the Army noted in a SBIR solicitation. So, rather than using the one-size-fits-all belt approach, the Army is developing a computerized sorting system that will instantly switch between various ammo types.

The envisioned prototype system will a smaller magazine than the current M230—400 rounds vs. 1,200—and only fire at half the speed 312RPM (that's still five bullets per second, mind you). The Army hopes to leverage the technology that allows Amazon to perform high-speed package sorting for the project.

This could be a incredibly useful technology, especially if combined with eye-tracking technology. Think about it, you've got an automatic system that tracks where and what the pilot is looking at and swaps the ammo type accordingly. He looks at a building, explosive rounds turn it to rubble. He looks at a APC, armor-piercing rounds shred it. He sees enemy soldiers hiding behind a wall, smart rounds English their way around it. The possibilities are endless. [US Army via Wired - Image: Jose Gil / Shutterstock]