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Metal Storm in further grenade-gasm tests, paper issues

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Famed Australian gun-tech company Metal Storm, in a characteristic move, has announced details of further prototype testing and also signalled its intention to raise more money on the stock markets.

The company was pleased yesterday to say that it had "conducted successful Electromagnetic Interference (EMI) Testing on its 40mm ammunition tail propulsion system". The testing was not, however, of a level that would indicate imminent sales - or even imminent certification.

"Our ultimate goal is for the Metal Storm tail system to be certified according to current military standards for anticipated operational use," said CEO Lee Finniear.

Metal Storm's main idea is that it would be a good idea to stack rocket-style rounds of ammunition nose-to-tail inside a gun barrel. The rounds could be fired in sequence from the top of the stack using electric ignition, briefly allowing a very high rate of fire. A number of such multi-shot barrels could be combined, producing a weapon which could splurt out a large amount of ammo disconcertingly quickly.

The only likely application for this at the moment would seem to be in 40mm launched grenade formats, perhaps in order to produce three-shot single barrel models for mounting under military rifles. (Current underslung grenade launchers offer only one shot before reloading.)

Thus, Metal Storm is trying to get its 40mm all-burned-on-launch mini rockets ready to go. Just last month, it announced partially successful jungle test firings fitted with headline-grabbing thermobaric warheads (and issued nearly ten million new shares at the same time).

The electromagnetic trials are evidently proceeding at a cautious pace, which is probably just as well. The Metal Storm screw-on tail propulsion modules designed to attach to 40mm warheads are initiated by electric induction. This is hard to avoid given Metal Storm's configuration but it's unusual in small-arms ammo and would seem to present serious safety and certification issues. It may take a while before the "ultimate goal" of milspec clearance - without which serious sales are rather unlikely - is achieved.

"These tests have given us peace of mind about our ability to ultimately certify a unique inductive firing capability," said Finniear, suggesting that the basic idea was - ultimately - certifiable.

In the meanwhile Metal Storm needs to keep the bills paid. The company also announced yesterday that it's thinking about extending the maturity date of its listed convertible notes, and about raising approximately A$6m by the offer of new ones. The company was formed in 1994, went public in Australia in 1999, and listed on NASDAQ in 2001. The stocks have plunged to a fraction of their original value. ®

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