SUPER LONG TOM: AN ESSAY
Edward E. Rochon
Edward E. Rochon on Shakespir
Super Long Tom: An Essay
Copyright © 2017 by Edward E. Rochon
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Some Other Works by the Author
Dirigiplane: An Essay
General Advice: An Essay
Guns & Salvation: An Essay
Inexpensive Subs: An Essay
Plan RD: An Essay
SDI: An Essay
Space Plane: An Essay
The New Vauban: An Essay
Tolerating High G: An Essay
War & Warfare: An Essay
Table of Contents
Long Tom refers to any of several artillery field guns used by several nations. The missile age came with the Buck Rogers sci-fi sentiment that missiles would displace guns as the primary weapon of attack. Look at the cruise missile, the ICBM, the various air-to-air missiles on planes and anti-aircraft batteries. As it turns out, the technology that allows these also allows the development of better cannons at both short and long range (very long range.) In my essay options for using hyper-velocity ack-ack to shoot down ICBM’s was discussed.
The contention is that guns will win out over cruise missiles, both as effectiveness in winning battles, and more importantly, winning on a dollar for dollar basis. The guns will shoot down the missiles reliably, making the missile support systems pointless. At first, they will win out at short range. Later, cannon will replace ICBM’s, cruise missiles and air-to-air missiles at long range. Methods for producing big guns and strong, long barrels will be addressed here that employ hypersonic precision ammunition, produced in quantity at prices more cheaply than missiles and related systems
Chapter 1: Big Guns Made Easy
Big guns are nothing new. The idea of breaking them into pieces for mobility, supporting long barrels with struts to prevent warping, building strong barrels for large powder charges, all have a long history. Coastal artillery has been especially dealt with in the past, since these guns are fixed and allow heavy gun mounts protected by strong fortifications. You do not need to move the gun: good. You have nearby well protected powder charges and big shells: good. Usually used against shipping requiring low azimuth of fire: good. Fixed positions allowing precise positioning of target: good. Usually a long target acquisition time due to slow approach of ships: good. Bombers, missiles came along with longer projected range, and the inability to accurately fire big guns at very long range compounded the problem, though bombs and missiles were not especially accurate or reliable either, just better beyond certain distances.
The first thing is to create symmetrical long barrels as both one piece, and as easily snapped together parts. We do away with the traditional round or polygonal barrel in favor of a star barrel. You might argue about what star formation will work best. Figure 1 compares and illustrates:
Fig 1: Round Barrel & Octagonal Star Barrel
For the two types of barrels, a descriptive visualization comparison below illustrates the main points:
STANDARD ROUND BARREL:
Thick barrel base, tapering to muzzle
Single piece construction limits length.
Uniform length of barrel
Lighter uniform length allows longer barrel
Reinforced star shaped rings strengthen barrel
Star-shapes help with strut support for long barrels
Star projection (male) to star recession (female) mates segments
Alternately, star-shapes allow flush joining with strong attachment.
The traditional thick breech or ignition base of cannon serves two purposes. The initial compression of the accelerant puts great pressure on the barrel, blocked by the weight of the shell. A measured burn reduces this somewhat and allows acceleration up the barrel length. As the shell moves forward, the pressure attenuates with the increased volume between breech and shell. This allows the muzzle to be thinner. The second reason for the thick base is to reduce warping of the barrel. Big guns are heavy and require long barrels for distance firing. Tapering the barrel prevents this or minimizes this.
The difficulties created by this in creating long range guns with sizable shells or not is obvious. It certainly makes mobility of big guns a big problem. It is a problem in ranging the guns whether in fixed position or not.
What are we getting at in our description of the star barrel? First, the star formation tends to strengthen any barrel, allowing the rounded core (inner rounded) barrel to be thinner. The star projections certainly add weight to the gun, but for each projection is empty space of no weight. This takes warping pressure off of the gun. The star masses hold pressure in on firing.
What is meant by star-shaped rings? You may say that the barrel still has problems. The inner vertices are thin and could burst under great compression. The long barrel will still have warping problems. We can resolve this by incremental and detachable reinforced rings. Big guns are hard to move about. The answer has always been breaking them into parts, or huge carriages that require railroads or special considerations for roads and bridges. Clearly, simplicity and ease of construction and breakdown is of very great importance. Time wasted is money wasted, labor time wasted, and invariably wasteful to manpower for the men who require rapid response to save them from the oncoming enemy offensive.
A few points about truing the barrel and ease of manufacture. What has been harder than figuring out the value of (pi) in mathematics from earliest times? And are straight or round lines easier to measure? “Oh, we solved all that with calculus,” you say. Things still need to be measured. They are not measured with calculus but with straight edge, compass or measuring tape. Laser beams substitute for straight edge. Machining makes compass and tape more accurate. But big guns to be accurate need extremely refined tolerances for barrel, shell and accelerant reaction. We must admit that straight lines are easier to measure with extreme precision, regardless the accuracy of the measuring device. There is also the problem of calibration and likelihood of human error. Star vertices are tiny points. Star symmetry is straightedged. The outer symmetry of the barrel is less important than the inside, but minute differences in big guns can produce a tendency to warp. Things symmetric tend to alter symmetrically more than when not symmetrical. Moreover, the vertices allow for truing the round bore muzzle and breech more accurately. The star with straightedges and vertices improves the accuracy from multiple points to validate measurements.
Rounded shells still have and likely always will have advantages in aerodynamic properties over polygonal ammunition. So we stick with rounded barrels for that reason. Barrels are made with metals, or otherwise heated materials now and for the foreseeable future. Extrusion of star-shapes or any shape is no big problem. Look at your mothers’ cookie cutter shapes. Straightedges are trued more easily as stated. Vertices by coming to points are measurable point to point around and about more precisely. Many points of references ensures quality control precision.
Now getting back to rings and setup and breakdown. Reinforcing rings can be slipped down a straight barrel from muzzle or from detached breech fairly easily and quickly. These can be of varied thicknesses, thicker for breech side, thinner for muzzle side. Because of their inner inverse star shape, using wraparound is also good. We hinge the star halves on one side, then wrap around and bolt down and tighten on the other side. The flush straight star surfaces are easy to flush in manufacturing. Curved surfaces on submarine hulls or anywhere are a bitch when working with metals or hard substances. We note that the many sides of the star hold the ring in very securely. A round ring on a round surface is not nearly as secure, more likely to slip, loosen or otherwise fail.
Another option is to use triangular support rods to strengthen the gun barrel. These rods could be the full length of the barrel or segmented. In this case the rings would have their inverse star shape partially filled in as with a small triangle filling the vertices of the inner star shape as shown in Figure 2 below:
Fig 2: Ring about Star Barrel w/ Triangle Rod Supports
The black or dark triangles are the rods that can span the full length of the barrel, or be segments connected together and clamped by the ring structure to support the star barrel at necessary points. The number of rings can vary. In this case illustrated above, the outer ring collar makes room for the triangle support rods. These rods give extra strength to the barrel. (Use computer ebook readers, if graphics are not readable.)
For segmented barrels, male and female connection keep the barrel flush and strong. The visualization is as follows:
STAR BARREL CONNECTORS:
Male: Rounded portion of barrel projects from star flanges.
Female: Larger opening (by barrel wall width) projects over barrel joint surface.
Male rounded portion slips into the female connector.
Rings slip down barrel to secure, or wraparound ring joins with secured hinges.
Option: Vertical tie rods through star flanges secured by pressure or screw inserts.
Option: Threaded ends on male and female surfaces. Male end exposed (cross threading danger.)
Option: Cam with cam run in female connectors with twist lock indentations.
The male barrel slips flush into the female insert widened to the barrel outer surface width. The barrel can be secured by a triangular strut below, or several struts placed around the barrel at the price of more weight possibly warping the barrel and impeding fast motion. The above assumption works on the premise of separate pieces. We have the option of stacked hinged pieces in the manner of a fold stick.
The stack can be vertical or horizontal, or adjustable to any angle on its carrying vehicle or supporting structure. A visualization is listed below:
STACKED SEGMENTED BARREL CONNECTORS:
The breech piece is at bottom or end stacking side.
Replaceable banded hinges used (no welding or screwing into barrel.)
Manpower or machine flips stack with sufficient room.
The top piece stacks backward (muzzle to second piece.)
Hinge slips back to secure tight fit and hinge retightened.
Muzzle and 2nd piece stack forward with same hinge adjustment.
The 3rd piece stacks backwards with adjustment.
The 4th piece stacks forward with hinge adjustment.
Rings seal on either side of hinges to secure.
The breech piece and stack can be elevated to aid unstacking.
Assuming a vertical stack, we have a forward and backwards positioning of the hinges that are secured by collar to the star barrel. These hinges can be easily removed and replaced for maintenance. We want no welded hinges or screwed into the barrel hinges. The hinge will be secured in firing by rings on either side. The gun can elevate up and down to aid this, so that the gun housing or carriage does not get in the way. Pulleys or sticks below will prevent too hard a slam of pieces together. If the stack could swivel on its truck, this would help too, allowing a horizontal adjustment.
The star formation keeps the barrel strong while minimizing barrel weight, providing surfaces to strengthen and support the gun. With a very long gun, we still want some way of moving it quickly without warping the barrel. In some cases a base runner could swing with the gun for fixed installation, especially. You would have a runner that moved with the turret or mount. The star bottom slot would have lubricated angled shoes. Struts would be connected on a runner on the base piece. When the gun was level, the outermost strut would be near the muzzle. When the gun elevated, the sliding runner would pull the struts closer to the breech and mount. As the angle increases, the stress on the barrel decreases. A gun at 90 degrees has only its own weight pressing down to distort. As the angle approaches 90 degrees, the need for under support is hardly needed, but the angle makes the strut remain connected to the barrel as they come closer to the breech.
What about long guns on ships or places where runners would be a potential problem due to base properties or rough ground? You support the gun above and below with spars. Struts push up from below, and pulley cables suspend from above. For a ship gun mount we have the following visualization:
SHIP TURRET STAR BARREL SPARS:
The turret has a spar below pointed in the direction of the gun.
The spar moves with the gun barrel, struts adjusting as required to bear load.
A derrick type spar is atop the turret.
The top spar moves with the gun synchronously.
Cables let out or draw in to hold the long tom out over the ship.
When stowed the guns are kept vertical and spars tucked in tightly.
The mast array and gun heights must be considered for sensor array interference.
Long guns could be a problem in port, hanging out far from the deck. Storms might add problems. Generally, the guns stow upright to reduce warping stress. The spars are stowed upward in a way to support the barrel. The spars add weight to the turret but keep the barrel straight.
Manufacturers developed slow/delay burn accelerant to control pressure in the barrel and to keep push in the barrel until projectile expulsion from the gun barrel. Old style gunpowder would burn in a flash before the bullet left the barrel. Friction between the bullet and barrel slowed the velocity of the bullet, reducing effective range and striking force. Long barrels allow more time to accelerate the bullet, to rifle the bullet. Less acute rifling turns on a longer barrel still allow the projectile to spin at the required speed. A shorter barrel would make more turns over less distance to achieve the same effect. The turning tends to slow the projectile as well. Smooth bore barrels do not have this problem but friction remains. Too tight a bullet to barrel fit creates friction and possible barrel/breech failure. Too loose a fit and the bullet loses acceleration and true fire by gases escaping past the bullet in the barrel and the wobbling of the trajectory in the barrel.
A delayed burn of accelerant takes pressure off the base. Old cannons with gunpowder needed thick bases to take the force occurring all at once. Prolonged burn takes pressure off the base and distributes forces more evenly. We do not talk of the speed of the gases, but the burn time of all the accelerant to be used up. Long barrels required a longer period of burn or faster accelerants to push the projectile forward during a shorter burn time. The object is to keep explosive force on the projectile until it has left the barrel. To make a hyper-velocity gun, we consider faster accelerant gas expansion speeds and prolonged burn time to obviate the increased friction from a longer barrel. More explosive power, faster explosive power, more friction surface, means a greater need for heat dissipation to spare the barrel from damage.
A longer barrel aids dissipation by providing more surface area for heat to dissipate from. A tightly fitted projectile in a long barrel produces wear and heat warping factors on the bullet. Smooth bore cannons allow faster ejection speeds, less time for warping. It also allows tail separation from a bullet designed to be fairly loosely fitted except for the base of the bullet. The bullet base is wider or expands upon firing to seal the gases. This can affect stabilization in a smooth bore fired shell. We have the option of a segmented projectile with base and warhead (bullet projectile in transit or shell.) The base receives the friction and so the heat. Heat expands material, especially lower melting point material, less hard material. A base material in a plastic state (near melting) at the time of projectile expulsion, and of a different substance from the warhead/shell will expand and fall off the projectile upon expulsion. This allows a smoother flight for the smooth bore shell upon expulsion, if quality control allows good timing and computation of heat coefficients upon the segmented shell body.
Another option with hyper-velocity ammunition is the layered or onion effect. The tip of the bullet is made of the base material of the projectile. The part of the projectile coming into contact with barrel is a softer substance with a fairly low melting or vaporization point. As the projectile goes up a long barrel, it heats the softer substance to the melting point or boiling point. The liquid or gas is expelled with the projectile, the projectile stripped of its outer layer, with a precisely symmetrical core material on its way to target. Even if the outer layer vaporized in transit, its expansion would create a vapor lock between the expanding accelerant and the muzzle escape point. The onion option may be better than the expanding or thicker base option with hyper-velocity shells. It solves heat dissipation in the form of the liquid or gas spray, protects both shell and barrel from wear and warping.
At any rate we are talking of more expensive ammunition but with much greater range and striking force. The idea is to cover the expense in overhead and get a reasonable variable cost of production on each unit. Once R&D is done, it is done. Many shells spread factory setup expense over many units, reducing prices. Hyper-velocity guns also have potential in space transport and mining, spreading the cost of R&D over a broader economic base.
We must note that hyper-velocity ammunition must be manufactured to exacting specifications. All of its weight distribution and geometric form must be near perfect symmetry. The materials and explosive charge must be highly homogeneous. Any in flight forces acting on the bullet must affect the projectile uniformly. The cross section of the shell will be uniform in any atmosphere or vacuum transit by its small size compared to the transit space. You do not expect the temperature and pressure to vary at any given point over several inches or even feet at any moment in time. But the trajectory will certainly vary in the forward motion.*
*Sunlight or heat source on one side of a shell may have some effect. Dust impact may not average out for exacting targeting specifications.
Faster projectiles have more kinetic energy per mass. This allows more kill power, minimizes or eliminates size of explosive charges in the warhead. A smaller projectile places less friction on the barrel and heating on the projectile in absolute terms. We always prefer small ammunition and precise trajectory over large warhead in general. But never say never; we can have exceptions. And a mortar with faster accelerant gases can move a precisely formed shell swiftly and accurately within the kill zone of the warhead charge. Mortars have short barrels that minimize friction on the shell and barrel in trajectory. The great weight of the mortar shell also slows transit, reduces friction in terms of impact point converging forces, though not on shortening friction period. We can imagine a hyper-velocity mortar.
Chapter 2: Gun Accelerants
Fast shells require great expulsion power and speed. This is minimized by smaller shells with more kinetic impact. Great charges produce loud gun reports. Fast accelerants are more expensive than gunpowder and other substitutes. They are prone to be toxic. Noise, pollution and expense are certainly factors working against hyper-velocity guns.
Air guns have been around for a long time. Achieving desired muzzle velocities was the big drawback for pellet guns and air rifles in general. Due to noise, toxins and even expense in some cases, we should never give up on improving air gun technology. We still use air guns today and with some popularity among certain people.
Air guns work on air pressure, free air, or can be used with carbon dioxide or some other gas put under pressure in some cartridge or vessel. Compression of the free air is a problem. Keeping cartridges light and cheap with sufficient compression is a problem in matching the power of powder burning guns.
Here is a proposal for some big gun air guns. We need a lot of air molecules heated to a great temperature to produce acceleration. This creates a problem of stored pressure on barrel or cartridges. This means we must heat compressed gases fairly quickly and release the gas to moderate heat and pressure on the breech and nearby areas, as well as any cartridges used. We can use cartridges or not. Big guns still use powder in bags. You could call these bags cartridges of a sort. Free powder or accelerant insertion has fallen out of fashion, although, liquid or rapid powder injection in a precisely measured amount is a possible solution for reducing shell weight and cartridge extraction problems with guns. But here we talk about air pressure guns.
The easiest way to keep gases in condensed form without excessive heat or pressure is to liquefy or solidify the gases. On the down side, maximum condensation produces extreme cold against breech material and barrel that could have destructive effects on the gun integrity.
Dry ice (carbon dioxide) is a fairly cheap gas with a fairly high freezing point. To create accelerant you would need to heat these solid gases, creating a temperature extreme between initial ice state and hot gas state. We insert a dry ice charge into the chamber. The dry ice is surrounded by a ceramic casing (that may or may not be reusable.) The ceramic cases minimize contact with the barrel and breech, while allowing heat transfer to the dry ice charge. Now we must super heat the carbon dioxide as quickly as possible and without corrupting the integrity of the gun.
A flash heating cap is inserted behind the dry ice. The cap would have sufficient oxidizer to prevent expanding carbon dioxide from smothering the flame until gun firing time. After that, the snuffing out of the flame at the moment of firing will help fast insertion of new ammunition and charges. We suppose something with a great deal of BTU’s rather than great explosive force for the heating source. The shell base is protected against the cold as well as the heat buildup by a double breech sliding into place. The double breech has a pressure activated nozzle that releases the gas against the shell base. This double breech could have spring tension, or some expanding hydraulic tension when some fluid, gas or material expands within it. You see interlocking triads of triangles, or perhaps something more akin to a camera lens shutter. These parts have a release gauge such that the opening snaps open immediately, allowing expanding gas to travel up the barrel length to expel the shell. We close the standard breech. The cap directs its dragon breath down the center of the barrel directly into the dry ice. Burn time must be minimized to take pressure off the barrel, and heat kept within tolerances acceptable to the barrel material. Once the dry ice is inserted, heating must be quickly achieved. We do not want extremes of cold and heat against the gun surfaces.
The gun fires; the breech opens; the ceramic insulator ejected, the double breech resets to allow insertion of another shell and dry ice accelerant. The cap flame thrower is reinserted and the breech closes to allow another firing.
Chapter 3: Gun Future
With continuing improvements in gun and ammunition technology, the age of cruise missiles, ICBM’s and other types of missiles are going to face an ever increasing challenge that they will lose in the end. In the future, both close range and super long tom guns will be able to shoot down cruise missiles with deadly accuracy and high kill confidence. They will beat them out in the most bang for the buck arena as well. Surface ships will shoot down cruise missiles, surface to surface missiles more cheaply than the enemy can build their missiles.
Nano-technology opens up the world of smart bullets and shells. Radio proximity fused shells were pretty good at shooting down Japanese planes during WWII. Smart ammunition is still in its infancy. And I mean smart ammunition, not missiles or even large bombs. Fire and forget is quite likely as well. Too many shells heading at target will erase any computing advantages of the missiles, providing ship borne, airborne or land borne ack-ack set them out in the right direction and at the right time.
We know that missiles, aircraft and Buck Rogers stuff have been hogging the budget in such matters. Missiles get the astronauts into space. But the Army may be able to insert cargo and perhaps even men into space quickly. The Air Force and Navy will have a means to resupply satellites quickly, or even put up some standby satellites between wait time for launching replacement satellites. Planes and ships will get back to guns big time in the future. And you still have lasers and ray guns to deal with. But the brute force of shells are harder to deflect for incoming missiles. We will see new ways to use passive sensors to lock onto incoming fire. Forget about ECW working with any efficiency.
As for active sensors, ships at sea will surround themselves with small, stealthy drones that act as sonar and radar repeaters. This means that ground search and air search radar will need less power to see faraway. A drone at sea will detect a return signal much closer to target, boost the signal and send it precisely back to the mothership with just the right amount of power to reach the ship. These drones may be lozenges that skip forward faster than the ship, rest on the water, popping up a stealthy antenna, recharge using photoelectric cells or use sunlight heat to water below gradient to drive low RPM generators to recharge batteries. By resting, they save fuel consumption overall. A 60 knot drone keeps up with a 30 knot ship quite easily in jumps and starts.
Given mission advance time, the Air Force can launch drones in front of strike planes and bombers to scan for enemy countermeasures. If necessary, bombers or support craft can launch fast drones to expand their detection area for enemy fighters, missiles and submarines or surface ships that might interdict them. They will take evasive maneuvers. These drones will be mass produced and quite cost effective, keeping the mothership alive and well against any stray shell or lone missile. The enemy will need to overwhelm their enemy fleets as in the old days.
You will have something that might be called JESS (Just Enough Signal Strength) in communications. Signals will go between transceivers telling each other just how much power is needed to reach the recipient in both directions. This is important. Ships do not want excessive transmission power from drones or from any assets to make radio detection more easy, or for decryption. I mention all these sensors technology, because they work in favor of guns.
You may know the Marines and Navy do work on guns with ranges of perhaps 250 miles to support ground troops or otherwise any assets. Compare this to the no more than 25 mile big gun range for battleships in WWII. Big guns could reach well beyond that 25 miles in the past, but with great difficulty. This essay highlights techniques to make big guns more effective in the future. We have assisted trajectory artillery today, using rocket boosters. Hyper-velocity guns simply use brute power to get the extra distance. And direct fire, cannon gun battles will be a bigger part of the reasons for their development. The truth will out, and wisdom comes with truth, and technology is the advance of natural sciences wisdom. Things move on. We can talk of bombing the world back to the stone age. What then? I am convinced that preparing for war is the best way to peace in a world filled with lust and vice. If power comes out of the barrel of a gun, the shoddy barrel that blows up in your face with Chairman Mao’s shoddy steel will destroy the shooter. Impotence comes with folly. The wise soldier is a civilized soldier requiring calm demeanor to be wise and judicious in action. The civilized soldier is a peace lover. His glory is staring down any enemy to thwart attacks. That is peace of a sort, if not peace of the soul. People who think otherwise really want to deprive people of the sword of truth that must never leave man’s hand, not even in heaven. They wish to disarm the people of wisdom to sate their lust for vain political power, money, their criminal lusts vented and without retribution. We must have none of that. Build better guns for peace. It is the trigger finger, not the gun that is the real power. A fool will die from his folly; a wise man live as long as his wisdom increases proportionately with his lifespan. If God takes his life in youth, who is wiser than God? And who is the sage, be he Chinese or Cherokee, who knows all things? So we continue to die, but we must then strive to live all the more uprightly, and with a clear conscience, lest consequences overtake us even beyond death.
Other Works by the Author
Collected Poems I
Collected Poems II
Elements of Physics: Matter
Elements of Physics: Space
Elements of Physics: Time
Unified Field Theory: An Essay
Space as Infinity II
Golden Age Essays
Golden Age Essays II
Golden Age Essays III
Golden Age Essays IV
Golden Age Essays V
My current biography and contact links are posted at . My writings include essays, poetry and dramatic work. Though I write poetry, my main interest is essays about the panoply of human experience and knowledge. This includes philosophy, science and the liberal arts. Comments, reviews and critiques of my work are welcome. Thank you for reading my book.
A brief preface lays out purpose and outlook on cannons and guns in the future. Chapter 1 proposes a star-shape barrel formation for guns in the future, using un-tapered barrels but supported by rings and triangular struts between the star flanges. We discuss segmented guns, setup and breakdown and related matters. These matters include supporting the long barrels by spars, cables, types of ammunition. Chapter 2 goes into accelerants and what the problems are and possible solution. I even posit a dry ice charge rapidly heated to produce a very fast airgun ejected projectile. Chapter 3 considers the future of big guns and guns in general from the point of view of sensing devices. We restate the preface point that guns have a future and will triumph over missiles in the end. Big guns may even launch space payloads after the Jules Verne fashion. I have discussed these matters in other essays of mine as well.