“Jet Gun” Technology Promises Lighter High-Velocity Weapons

Wave Motion Jet Gun prototype.
Wave Motion Jet Gun prototype.

In a US$1.6 million contract the US Army DEVCOM Armaments Center commissioned the small Washington state firm Wave Motion Launch Corporation the further development of its innovative Jet Gun technology. 

This contract is directed on providing a prototype and test a version of the technology in a configuration that can be employed in tactical indirect fire roles. The focus is on demonstrating a weapon that could be utilized much as current mortars.

The unique approach of the Jet Gun differs from traditional mortars and guns is that it does not consist of a projectile placed inside a barrel. Instead, the projectile is positioned above or “on top” of a “propelling charge” that creates a jet of supersonic gas that pushes the projectile to high speeds. Without the need for a barrel that must contain the pressures of the propellent ignition significant savings can be made in the weapon’s weight.

In addition, the concept potentially allows achieving significant increases in the projectile velocity without incurring weight and size penalties of the stronger barrels necessary in current cannon. A Jet Gun weapon has the potential of not only being lighter but also much smaller. Both characteristics have major benefits not only in dismounted weapon applications such as man portable infantry weapons but in combat vehicle integrations as well.

Wave Motion Jet Gun prototype fires.
Wave Motion Jet Gun prototype fires.

The contract is a Phase II award under the Army’s Small Business Innovative Research program. Wave Motion previous work was under its selection in the xTech Pacific competition. The company was founded by University of Washington alumni Finn van Donkelaar (who holds the patent and CEO), James Penna (COO) and Casey Dunn.

The company had a previous US$1.3 million contract for Jet Gun development from the Office of Naval Research.

Penna explained progress on this effort, “We are still finishing the contract we had with the Office of Naval Research and can report that we’ve had successful tests occur under that project,”. He further indicated “Wave Motion is developing a more advanced version of the Jet Gun that creates longer jets using solid entrained particles to extend the acceleration path for projectiles to potentially hundreds of times the length of the launcher system.”

The potential capability of both achieving higher projectile velocities which can particularly translate to longer range while also reducing weapon system weight and volume offers substantial value in tactical applications.

by Stephen W. Miller