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Last Updated: Tuesday, 20 April, 2004, 10:49 GMT 11:49 UK
US hopes fire gun maker's shares
Metal Storm's 36 barrel prototype fires at one million rounds per minute
The Metal Storm prototype can fire a million rounds per minute
Hopes of an order from the US military have sparked a 50% surge in the shares of Metal Storm, the Australian maker of the world's fastest gun.

The five-day rally has prompted probes at the Nasdaq and Australian Stock Exchanges where the company is listed.

But the firm's general manager, Ian Gillespie, said excitement had been fuelled by a recent US and UK roadshow.

The US Defense Department is scouting for weaponry suppliers for a new breed of unmanned aircraft.

Thinking about tomorrow

The company sees its prototype gun playing a role in the next generation of electronic battlefield equipment.

Firing at up to a million rounds a minute, the gun's only moving parts are its bullets, propelled by electronic impulses rather than traditional mechanical firing mechanisms.

The company also expects to demonstrate a prototype unmanned helicopter to US defence chiefs later this year, AFP news agency reported.

"It will assist them for the first time to undertake small-scale strikes to support ground troops, escort convoys and retaliate against mobile man-launched ordnance such as those used in Iraq recently," AFP quoted Metal Storm chief executive Charles Vehlow as saying.

Metal Storm has 51 technology patents in the US, and is eyeing the vast opportunities to be had in US defence procurement: last year, America spent $450bn (249bn) on the military.

Boeing tests drone

The technology chimes with US plans to develop remote-controlled vehicles, possibly for use in Iraq.

On Sunday, US aviation and defence giant Boeing tested a prototype X-45 robotic aircraft in California.

The company said the plane was able to take off, drop a bomb on target and land, without a human pilot.

Boeing hopes to receive orders for hundreds of the planes, which would cost $10m-15m each, AP news agency reported.




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