Super Long Range Cannons Could Create Global Trench Warfare 2.0

The US army is planning to test-fire a cannon in 2023 with a range of 1000 miles. Current US artillery has 15-45 mile ranges. The benefit of having 1000 mile ranges is that the combat radius of fighter planes is about 700-800 miles unless there is midair refueling. US Aircraft carriers have a strike range of about 400 miles. Cruise missiles cost about $1 to 2 million each. Cruise missiles have about 500-600 mile range. Smart artillery could cost about $85,000 for each shot. Dumb artillery is in the $600-6000 cost per shot. Long-range smart guns could enable a ten to twenty times increase in power to be delivered. Smart targeting would mean no sacrifice in military precision.

In the title of this article I called it trench warfare 2.0. It would not actually be trenches but ultra-hardened bunkers. It would be high volume precision artillery suppression of a massive area. Placing the long range artillery into mountains would enhance the range and vantage point. It would also enable artillery to be more resistant to counter fire. Underground facilities would be resistant to counter fire. I do not think they replace aircraft carriers, but aircraft carriers become even more vulnerable than they already are. If the costs can be kept low, then advancing a tank formation would become far more difficult.

There are new ramjet artillery and missiles which would fired from cannons to 2.5 times the speed of sound where projectiles would take in oxygen to enable small rockets to propel then to five times the normal range. Ground-based missile ranges could go from 60-70 km to go to 300-350 km (210-280 miles). air-launched missile ranges could go beyond 500 km (300 miles). The US was working to convert guns to using hypervelocity projectiles, which were just extremely aerodynamic. Hypervelocity projectiles can triple the range of artillery. The ramjet artillery would still have nearly double the range of hypervelocity projectiles. The ramjet artillery is being developed by Nammo, a Norwegian/Finnish company and Raytheon in the US.

In 2019, the US navy test fired 20 hypervelocity projectiles from the deck gun of a destroyer. The USA currently has about 1300 large powder guns (navy, marines and artillery).

There are few technical details available for the Super Long Range Cannon. However, there are problems for a cannon to fire the projectile to extreme speeds. The barrels would tend to wear out. Getting very long barrels can help to get extra range. Photos and graphics of the SLRC show a longer barrel but they are not as long as what would be needed for the cannon itself to get 1000 mile range.

It seems likely that a combination of technologies is being applied to reach the 1000 mile range. This is likely long-gun barrels, new materials for gun barrels, hyper-velocity shells and ramjets. There could be improved fuels for the ramjets.

Military Transformation With 1000 Mile Guns

In a world with 1000 mile guns that cost less than $100,000 for each precision shot, then aircraft carriers would be replaced by gunships or stealth gunships.

The US tried to create the Zumwalt Destroyer with 80-mile guns. The 80-mile gun project failed.

It would also mean that any advanced military would load up on artillery emplacements built into the mountains with hard rock. There would be some tunnel systems to move guns around. This would mean long-range gun emplacements would be resistant to counter bombardment.

Guns with 1000 mile range likely have projectile speeds in the mach 5-mach 10 range. Those would be effective anti-missile and anti-aircraft projectiles.

Instead of 20-300 mile deep battlefields, the battlefields would be 10 to 20 times as deadly out to 1000 miles. They would be 10 to 20 times as deadly because the volume of cheaper munitions would increase 10 to 20 times for the same budget.

Unlike the Maginot line in WW2, it would be far more difficult to go around weapon emplacements placed every 1000 miles. It could become like 1000 mile trench-hard point warfare. The barrages would be from mountains and islands. Any attacker would need to eliminate the super bombardment areas before being able to properly advance.

Tanks cost $2 million to 6 million each. Two precision-guided long-range shells would be able to take out a tank.

Global or regional “trench warfare 2.0” would mean it would be difficult to go out into the open with non-stealth military assets.

North Korea Has Five Hundred 44 Mile Range Koksan Guns Pointed at Seoul

North Korea has five hundred 170 millimeter Koksan self-propelled howitzers pointed at Seoul, South Korea. It is believed that many are in caves in mountains around Kaesong.

SOURCES- Nammo, USNI, Nextbigfuture analysis, congressional research service – Navy Lasers, Railgun, and Gun-Launched Guided Projectile, Global Security, The Drive
Written by Brian Wang,

57 thoughts on “Super Long Range Cannons Could Create Global Trench Warfare 2.0”

  1. With the rotation of the planet, you have to lead your target even if it is standing still.

    Gerard Bull lives

  2. The NAMMO YouTube videos suggest that the munitions will have precision terminal guidance capability.
    My question is how difficult will it be for other actors to create these weapons? They do sound like game changers.

  3. My first post disappeared, even though I'm not aware of it being downvoted. Again:

    A lot of folks may have trouble really understanding that this artillery weapon is a strategic weapon, not a tactical one.
    My concern is how easy (or hard) it will be for this technology to be developed (and given to others). We can only hope they will be very difficult and costly to make. Once we have the plans for one, we should put them and any working models deep under that warehouse that holds the Ark of the Lost Covenant, because this weapon has more potential for destabilizing than stabilizing.
    Imagine the mischief (understatement) that, say, Iran could get up to with some of these. Chances are they would be used so as to have some plausible deniability, with some stateless guerrilla/terrorist organization being the proxy. For example, Iran could put one of these just the other side of their border with Afghanistan and hit Riyadh (the capital of Saudi Arabia) with it.
    Now imagine that the North Korean equivalent of Joffrey had these to play with (bearing in mind that he already has thousands of artillery pieces trained on Seoul at all times, a target of minimal military importance).
    The word is "destabilizing."

  4. You are right, 16" shells generally weighed much more than 1,000 lbs. The AP (armor piercing) Mark 8 shell which was used for the Iowa classes 16" guns weighed about 2,700 lbs.

    The numbers I used above were for the Mark 13 & 14 HC (high capacity) type of shell (standard blow shit up round), not the AP shell. The HC shells were the basic 16" shell and many variations were made, even an AA (anti-aircraft) version, all with the same shell but variations in fuses and "payload."

    The bursting charge in the AP shells was only 40.9 lbs while the total weight of the shell was 2,700 lbs. The bursting charge in the HC shells was 153.6 lbs while the total weight of the shell was 1,900 lbs.

    I was just trying to do a back of envelope comparison of destructive payload delivered per shot between something like this supergun and a long range cruise missile and figured the HC shell was the closest to a delivery vehicle + payload model to compare to the missile. But, yeah, the characteristics of how they destroy things are different enough that a real comparison is a much more difficult problem. And which would be better would depend on the specific task.

  5. You are assuming that the enemies will just sit and wait for you to take pot shots at them. They probably have assets waiting before you get into range.

  6. I think digging in will be unlikely. It would be cheaper to just keep the artillery mobile so a first strike against the battery is more difficult. We will likely see more of a push for defensive lasers, missiles, and artillery to defend against hyper velocity threats. For instance, one of the ideas for the Hyper Velocity Projectile is to use a fragmenting version to shoot down fighters and missiles.

  7. I was under the impression that a 16" shell weighed MORE than the warhead of a tomahawk (about twice as much actually), but they chose to spend that mass on armour piecing hardened steel casing, rather that simple explosive.

    2000 pounds of hardened steel smashing through the armour of an enemy ship, followed by 150 pounds of HE blowing up inside the armour, causes more damage than 2000 pounds of HE blowing up outside the armour.

    Of course, this only makes sense if you are firing against enemy battleships with their heavily armoured hulls. Once people gave up on armour, just having more explosive causes more damage.

  8. The projectiles aren't dumb. They guide themselves to the programmed target. You aren't relying on the original artillery aiming with a ridiculous level of precision.

    Providing of course you know where the target is when you give the aiming coordinates to the projectile. And it hasn't moved by the time the shell lands.

  9. The USA doesn't want war to be cheap.

    The USA wants war to be as expensive as possible. That way just about nobody else can afford it.

    Think of the difference between a guerrilla war on land and a blue water naval conflict.

    The land war has a starting price from $500 for a handful of AK47s and ammo. Anyone can stump up that money. The next level just needs a few Toyota Hiluxs with 0.50 machine guns mounted in them, maybe some RPGs. You are still looking at something that can be financed by growing opium or robbing banks. As a result there are dozens of micro-sized conflicts throughout the world. And the USA (and other major nations) has a great deal of trouble crushing such problems thoroughly enough that it actually stops.

    An open water naval war has a starting price of a few $billion for a handful of modern diesel-electric subs. To really get things going you want a carrier group ($20B+). Only a tiny handful of major nation states can even get started there, and most of them are either US allies, or stable and sensible enough to not want to get into a major shooting war.

    If a nation is just about richer than everyone else, they want war to be very expensive, not cheap.

  10. I think there might be more advantage to increasing the aircraft range from the aircraft carriers, or being able to build suitable ground runways near the target. These would remove the aircraft carrier from danger.

  11. $1M a shot makes sense for some targets but not for others. You end up hunting a mosquito with a Panzer. There's a lot to be said for cheap ammo.

    My big concern is the 1000 mile range. Will it have any accuracy at all from 1000 miles away? The slightest breeze could throw things off by a degree or two.

  12. "US Aircraft carriers have a strike range of about 400 miles"

    So just park about 10 of these artillery trucks on top of a cargo ship and call it a battleship. You could ping targets from 1000 miles away. Good for bridges and other stationary targets but not for fleeting targets like tanks or planes.

    And I suppose it's out of the question to slap a GPS guidance system on the round to make it more accurate, like they do with JDAMS? Or maybe some kind of smart sensors that can track the first round (used as a tracer) and correct for the second and subsequent rounds? All computer-adjusted, of course. Maybe put a tracer in every 5th round to keep the rounds from straying off target.

  13. This means that airfields will have to go mobile as well? Vertical take off combined with a mobile service structure?

    Of course, you can also partly mitigate this by using the method from Sweden a few decades ago: broaden some parts of the high-way system to allow landing and take off. This allows for many decentralized "airstrips". But then, even if you build a hundred of them, there is no reason that you cannot picke them off with the 1000 mile range gun eventually….

  14. Honest, I try to hold off as much as possible. But you know, lasers need juice and since we're creeping into sci-fi land more all the time now, I couldn't help myself.

  15. You make a good point though. If the gun can range then any stationary target like bridges, airports, railroads etc. are going to get removed from the board pretty quick. These are all valuable military assets necessary for logistics if nothing else. Against mobile targets, not so much. With ICM you would also lay down area denial like minefields pretty quick, chemical weapons or even target populations.

  16. @ $1M+/shot is a bargain depending on your target for a first strike capability. These missiles can open up a lot of possibilities for follow on strikes, and many targets cost your opponent a lot more than $1 million.

  17. Depending on terrain. If the target is shrouded by a mountain, which is common in that area, then the guns may not range. It would be fun to watch ICM splash from a gun like this though!

  18. There's no bunker which cannot be busted. It would just mean better bunker busters, with deep earth penetration.

  19. Yeah, I don't know why he's talking about using it against tanks — and from 1000 miles away? By the time your shell has crossed that distance, the tanks won't be where they were before. Predictive modeling of tank trajectories? Or will they have smart terminal guidance? I don't know how smart electronics would survive the force of an artillery shot firing across 1000 miles. Why not just use missiles?

  20. Nearly twice that, depending on the type and how many upgrades a given weapon has lived through.

    Although they do pack a bigger punch than artillery shells. For example, the conventional warhead on a Tomahawk is 1000 lbs of HE, while an HC shell for the 16"/50 guns on Iowa class battleships had a bursting charge of 153.6 lbs of HE. Similar difference in capacity for any submunitions too.

    By those numbers, and using the OP's $85,000 per 'smart' shell number for this supergun, to take a SWAG at mass of stuff-that-goes-boom on target per weapon, the cruise missile is only 3 to 4 times more expensive. If you assume the supergun shell can deliver the same size bursting charge as the 16"/50 HC shell. Of course, it almost certainly costs more to deploy a cruise missile than a supergun shell too.

  21. People arent understanding this. These weapons will make air fields more expensive and vulnerable things. Can't move them so… You can build defenses for them hope you can intercept the rounds. Which you can but how many and for how long. Old school battle ships had Hundreds of rounds in some cases thousands.

    The question is how fast these rounds can be fired and how long the reload time is. The US actually developed hypersonic rounds for use in its 16 in guns decades ago but never persued it. Politics.

    A modern BB could have saboted rounds for a 12-18in gun and fire a couple every minute.

    Of course we could field a 8in canon that can fire 10 rounds per minutes….per gun. Lets say its 6 guns per cruisers. thats 60 rounds a minute.

  22. One of my jobs in the Army was calling artillery fire. This can be very difficult to do against moving targets like tanks because of time of flight of the round. This system would be deadly for stationary targets, but unless you have the ability to have the round retarget itself in flight I fail to see how it could be effective against moving targets unless they were constricted by terrain like bridges or narrow passes. Now, a Davy Crockett type of artillery projectile….

  23. Range isn't important without accurate targeting information, both at time of launch and time of impact. The motion of the target during the time of flight of the projectile will degrade the hit percentage. Now if I've done my sums right, using speed of sound at sea level; a Mach 10 projectile will take 7.8 minutes to travel 1000 miles; during that time a tank moving at a sedate 10 mph across country will move 1.3 miles from where the projectile was aimed. Even assuming the projectile has it's own terminal homing system and is steerable, if the seeker has a 20 mile range the projectile has 9.3 seconds to search a 5.3 square mile circle, determine a tank from decoys, other vehicles (I bet semi-trucks, like merchant ships make GREAT missile and projectile sumps), rocks and buildings, fire thrusters and change course enough to hit the moving target (if it has sufficient maneuverability). Oh and we're still assuming the targeting system has a Circular Error Probable of 0.
    Not impossible, but I don't see this as a game changers against mobile units. Seems like a theater level threat against logistic bases and critical infrastructure – like the bridge the tanks have to cross, rather than the tanks themselves.

  24. We've discussed this before, as I recall.

    The problem being that these are not tactical weapons but would be strategic in nature. They would/will be destabilizing in the same sort of way that intermediate range missiles are.

    Worse, these may prove relatively easy to make, compared with missiles, could probably be buried deeply and completely hidden, possibly for years, until they are fired. It might even be possible to move them away via underground railway after they fire to avoid counter-strikes.

    And, unless the barriers to making and operating them are substantial, they will benefit the less capable adversaries. For example, with a thousand mile range, Iran could put one of these inside the borders of Afghanistan and hit Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia while still having some degree of deniability. Can you imagine the fun North Korea's heavy-set version of Joffrey would have with these? These are the kind of things that pretty much define "destabilizing."

    Should an advanced industrial country succeed in manufacturing them, they should classify the hell out of all the plans (for God's sake, don't store them on a machine with an internet connection), and put however many of them they want to make (more than zero, because you never know what the future holds, but not many) somewhere deep underneath the warehouse holding the Ark of the Lost Covenant.

    You can try making them illegal with treaties, too, but good luck with that.

  25. "Cruise missiles have about 500-600 mile range."

    I'm not as familiar with other nations as the US, but the US has both air and ground launched cruise missiles with ranges well over 2,000 miles (3,225 km). Been in service for a long time.

  26. At 1000 miles these guns would basically only be able to target GPS co-ordinates, ie fixed targets, so buildings bases etc.
    Though enough guns could be used for area bombardment if a bunch of tanks were moving through a field and the attacker had enough warning and knew their route and when they would be in the field, ie not easy to do.

  27. I am not sure these things can be as protected as they claim: with guns all (or most in case ramjet range extenders) of the energy is provided at the moment of firing (not as in missiles) so your heat dissipation requirements grow quite quickly with faster shells/longer ranges. On battleships this is not a real issue as they are surrounded by a perfect heatsink, but it is a problem in bunkers.
    —Arrays of heat exchangers or condensation towers are easy to target and cannot be reinforced too much or they lose performance
    —In mountain areas direct cooling through water pipelines from dams might work and could also provide the energy, but it just moves the target to the dam/pumping station which again is not a difficult target to hit.

  28. So I'm thinking a much greater emphasis on stealth, for both mobile systems (ships, tanks) and fixed assets (bunkers).

    Because 1000 km of range doesn't matter if you can't track, in real time, the location of your targets.

    Not to mention a huge emphasis on total air superiority, because you can't even allow a tiny, insect sized, targeting drone.

  29. This makes it less expensive for a power like the US to take and hold ground in a theater like Iraq or Afghanistan. No need for expensive air support because an airstrike is effectively just a call and 2 minutes away at all times throughout the country.

  30. At that size and the restrictions involved, if it isn't something like a land based railgun like some Blitzer designs, then it probably needs to be an electrothermal cannon to increase the velocity, and a ramjet round (which the HVP most definitely is not) to get that high range. As an alternative, they might be able to add a rocket assist pack to the basic HVP as a starting point for this strategic cannon as the HVP doesn't even have a tapered tailcone part, but then that isn't part of the bulk HVP purchases. Ramjet round would be a whole new thing that isn't an HVP though.

    Adding a rocket tail to an HVP round then gets to the cost point where, why not just buy the new guided variant of MLRS and call it a day?

  31. Too expensive because they were one-offs for the Zumwalt and nothing else, which makes the manufacturing run short, thus no cost amortization. If they had gone for the original vertical cannon in the VLS pits rather than a turret and used basically off-the-shelf Excalibur rounds they could have hopped onto that acquisition train, but that means using something from the Army, something the Navy is loath to do.

    If they truly use a common HVP projectile (which appears to be the case, just using different sabot to accommodate the different platforms), then you get a large lot order across various services, in theory, to improve the development cost amortization.

    But the current HVP is not rocket assisted nor a ramjet round. A ramjet round significantly complicates the seeker design due to the nosetip needing to be smooth for the ramjet yet accommodate the seeker parts.

  32. It would not actually be trenches by ultra-hardened bunkers. I was using trench warfare 2.0 to describe precise artillery suppression of a massive area. Some in mountains to suppress areas below but also underground facilities that would support firing points. I do not think they replace aircraft carriers, but aircraft carriers become even more vulnerable than they already are. If the costs can be kept low, then advancing a tank formation would become far more difficult.

  33. It would not actually be trenches by ultra-hardened bunkers. I was using trench warfare 2.0 to describe precise artillery suppression of a massive area. Some in mountains to suppress areas below but also underground facilities that would support firing points. I do not think they replace aircraft carriers, but aircraft carriers become even more vulnerable than they already are. If the costs can be kept low, then advancing a tank formation would become far more difficult.

  34. Just note that the navy decided not to buy the projectiles for the Zumwalt destroyers since they were too expensive. I would think 1000 mile hypervelocity projectiles would be as expensive as missiles. So this is a I will believe it when I see it deployed in the field.

  35. Move fast or die. It takes time for a projectile launched a 1000 miles a way to arrive. Just be gone from the target area. I would assume there has to be an asset to locate and track targets. Find and destroy the asset. Intercept the projectile, either hi powered laser or shot gun pellets.

  36. IF, these guns appear, they will not replace aircraft carriers etc. It will be one more tool in the bag. It will not cause trench warfare to reappear either. It is deadly to sit in one location. Maneuver warfare is the way to stay alive on an evermore deadly battlefield. Misdirection and deceit will be more important too. Major weapons systems will be THE target to hit. Enter space weapons like Rods from God. Weapon, counter-weapon. Nothing changes, hence the old saying, "Same ole shi7, different day".

  37. The biggest thing this is going to do is make support operations behind the front lines hell. Can't setup barracks within a 1,000 miles of the front lines or it may get shelled. Air support will have to come from a 1,000 miles away or the air fields may be destroyed. Can't stockpile supplies and ammunition or they might get blown up. Any large scale tank operation is going to have to be well planned out and movements hidden or they may get destroyed.

  38. It could happen for countries that lack those countermeasures.

    So, probably only in proxy wars between the big powers.

  39. Sounds like a nice deterrent capability, actually.
    Stage 1: Tactical nukes to take out the entrenched batteries (some issues with this…)
    Stage 2: Lasers <= big capacitors <= big batteries <= LENR

  40. Considering all the new iron shield type active protection systems for combat vehicles and more for later and the growing ability to take cannons at the time that they are shooting , this is not likely to happen.

  41. Sounds like Space, where you shoot off each other's radiators and hunker down, as the distances are too great to actually be offensive in a troop movement way. Shows the great importance of understanding mental illness and power addiction for future survival, as weaponry *advances*. See Janov for details.

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