China is changing the game: Testing ultrasonic small arms bullets on live targets!

China’s prototype hypersonic bullets may eventually lead to the development of game-changing anti-material weapons

China is working to bring its hypersonic weapons program down to the level of small arms, as seen in recent tests of prototype hypersonic bullets… on live targets!

“Researchers from an army medical center in Chongqing recently fired 5mm steel projectiles at speeds of Mach 11 at anesthetized live pigs to understand the effects of ultrasonic bullets on human targets,” the South China Morning Post reported this week.

Citing a paper from the China Ordnance Society peer-reviewed journal Acta Armamentarii, the South China Morning Post report noted that the supersonic bullets in the thigh did not kill the pigs immediately, but caused serious injuries throughout their bodies.

The report stated that, “the pigs suffered extensive internal injuries, mainly broken bones and bleeding in the intestine, lungs, bladder and brain.”

He said the bullets penetrated the thigh at speeds between 1,000 and 3,000 meters per second, but at 4,000 meters per second, the bullets left a large wound cavity at the point of impact.

Ordinary bullets are generally fired at 1,200 meters per second, which allows them to penetrate targets as solid objects. However, bullets reach melting point temperatures at supersonic speeds, reducing their penetration capabilities.

According to the South China Morning Post report, China’s supersonic bullets appeared to burst into flames upon contact with the target, displaying tremendous energy upon impact. However, they reportedly “melted and cracked at high temperatures,” the report said.

The report also stated that such impacts resulted in crater-like injuries, liquefying the bullet and flesh, and that the targeted piglets were euthanized six hours after the tests.

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Chinese researchers cited in the report said that although tests on soap targets can reproduce the physics of ultrasonic impacts on living tissue, more tests on live animals are needed to understand the effects of such projectiles on other vital sites such as the head , chest and abdomen.

The South China Morning Post noted that the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has no open reports of developing ultrasonic small arms. However, it has funded several weapons projects capable of launching small-caliber projectiles at supersonic speeds.

He also highlighted the technical challenges in designing such a weapon. For example, modern conventional weapons are not powerful enough to propel bullets at supersonic speeds, indicating the need for weapon barrel materials that can withstand such force. Other issues include reduced range due to the balls melting in the air, portability and noise levels.

Although such weapons may not be feasible with traditional weapons, weapons may provide a workable solution. The Asia Times has previously reported on the progress of China’s rail weapons program, noting that it is designing such weapons for naval, land and mobile weapons applications.

Unlike conventional firearms, Railguns use electromagnetic energy to propel projectiles at supersonic speeds up to seven times the speed of sound and ten times the range of traditional firearms. Railguns are fully kinetic weapons that rely on sheer speed to deal damage rather than projectile explosives.

Hypersonic projectiles can penetrate the latest armor materials and would be nearly impossible to shoot down, unlike missiles. Additionally, the lack of explosive payloads and propellants makes them safer to handle and allows more rounds to be carried.

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In addition to the possibility of hypersonic bullets for ship-mounted defense, China has developed prototype hand-held weapons. In 2020, China introduced its Small Synchronous Induction Coil Gun, in rifle, pistol and robot configurations, which fires at different wood and metal targets.

Although the prototypes are too weak and impractical to be used as weapons, they prove that it is possible to reduce railgun technology to the level of small arms.

Although current technological limitations make ultrasonic handguns seem like science fiction today, the anti-material sniper may be a possible application of the technology in the future.

The anti-material sniper involves the use of large caliber rifles against military equipment, structures and lightly armored vehicles. While anti-material rifles are not primarily used against human targets, their extended range and power give them excellent long-range capability even against purpose-built sniper rifles.

The size of anti-material rifles and their ammunition make them ideal candidates for sophisticated technological upgrades. Due to their size and power, anti-material rifles are treated as crew-served weapons fired from prepared positions, using large-caliber ammunition that can be loaded with different payloads, such as explosives, incendiaries, or even electronics.

For example, the Extreme Accuracy Tasked Ordnance (EXACTO) system, developed by the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), features a tiny laser guidance system mated to a .50 caliber bullet. This technology allows the bullet to track, correct course in mid-flight and hit targets beyond the range of conventional sniper rifles.

Therefore, the future of hypersonic small arms may favor weapon-based anti-materiel rifles if the miniaturization of weapon technology and power sources allows the development of practical, crew-served, infantry-based weapons.

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