Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Naval Guns - Now More Than Ever

Whose up for some good gun talk? I thought so ...

I could spend a whole week just commenting section by section on this 2013 post from the blog UK Armed Forces Commentary.

So much of this is just plain common sense that seems to be lost in much of the commentary about naval gunnery, naval surface fire support, or whatever we are calling it now days.

Let's just mention some of my favorites, and I'll let you dig out the rest.

First, a well designed and proven 5" (127mm) round should be the minimum - air, surface - just an all around multipurpose mount - if you want to keep swarms at bay ... I love that pic to the right;
... firing trials of the 127/64 of the FREMM frigate Carlo Bergamini. The first image shows the excellent capability of engagement at very short range, which can seriously ruin the day for suicide boats and similar threats.
Let's ponder that gun for a moment;
On the FREMM frigates of the Italian navy, the AAHS is installed over two decks (deck 2 and deck 3) and can hold 350 rounds in addition to the 56 held in the feeding drums.
The 127/64 gun system is thus able to fire 30 and up to 35 rounds per minute. The Naval Fire Control System calculates the ballistic trajectories, programs the fuzes and, when the GPS-guided VULCANO rounds is used, sets up the GPS data before launch. It can be easily integrated via LAN onto any kind of Combat System, in a Plug and Play fashion. Thanks to the NFCS, the 127/64 is also very effective in anti-air role.

The VULCANO, differently from LRLAP, ERGM and SGP is not a rocket-propelled munition, but an under-calibre, rocket-shaped dart with a diameter of 90 mm. VULCANO employs a discarding sabot to be fired out of the barrel at extremely high speed while avoiding two of the main complexities of full-calibre rocket-propelled rounds: increased barrel wear and tear, and difficult deployment of the folding fins used for guidance. These problems, along with huge cost escalation, were the factors which killed the ERGM.

VULCANO is a steerable sub-munition with tail fins and canards. The submunition is the same in both the naval 127mm variant and in the land 155mm variant. The difference comes down to the sole sabot and launch charge assembly: the naval shell is an all-up round compatible with any NATO 5’’ gun, while the army variant is modified to employ land-specific modular launch charges.
The VULCANO family comprises the BER (Ballistic Extended Range) variant, which is not guided and only has fixed winglets: it uses aerodynamics and ballistic trajectory to extend its reach to 70 km, and it is useful for a long range bombardment in which pin-point accuracy is not needed.
OK, URR ... gird your loins and be prepared to swoon ...
The most interesting VULCANO variants are, however, the Guided Long Range (GLR) ones. These include:

- GPS / Inertial Navigation System
- GPS / INS / Semi Active Laser
- GPS / INS / Infra-red Imaging
The addition of a SAL seeker to the GPS and inertial navigation guidance makes this variant of the round extremely accurate. With external laser designation of the target, it can engage with high accuracy even moving targets.

The GPS/INS ammunition is mostly suited to use against fixed targets, whenever high accuracy is needed to reduce the risk of collateral damage. The Circular Error Probable for this round variant is inferior to 20 meters. This is possible thanks to the steerable canards and fins which guide the ammunition on the target with a near-vertical descent, which maximizes both accuracy and lethality.
The addition of a SAL seeker makes the VULCANO capable to engage small, fixed, moving and relocatable targets (including vehicles and small boats) with extreme accuracy, with a CEP reduced to a handful of meters. The Semi Active Laser seeker guides the shell on a target illuminated by an external laser marker, which could be “painted” on the objective by a UAV or by observers on the ground.

The IIR seeker is instead meant primarily for anti-ship role. ... The anti-ship VULCANO is meant to be fired over the area where an enemy ship is known to be sailing, and engage the target on its own.
Take a look at what our Italian friends have done to our little buddy, the 76mm Oto Melara ... now with extra Super Rapido;
With a rate of fire of up to 120 rounds per minute, the 76/62 can put a thick wall of iron and fire in the face of any threat aiming for the warship, but it is with the DAVIDE model (STRALES for the export market) that the CIWS capability of the 76mm gun was really achieved.

STRALES is a guidance kit, installed within the gun turret and comprising a radio frequency beam antenna which is normally hidden under a sliding panel in the gun shield, to the side of the barrel. The covering panel slides upwards to reveal the radio frequency antenna when it is time to employ the DART (Driven Ammunition Reduced Time of flight), a guided, sabot-discarding high speed round meant to shot down airplanes and missiles as well as take off FIACs and suicide boats. The DART is an hyper velocity munition capable to cover a 5 km distance in less than five seconds, with enough energy to perform up to 40 manoeuvers and course corrections.
I know this is all, ahem, "old think" ... but, well, get your SWO on!
The most impressive feature, however, is the possibility to employ both STRALES and VULCANO, from the same gun mount, giving the small 76/62 a formidable mission flexibility. ... Thanks to the Multi Feeding system, it is possible to modernize a SUPER RAPIDO or COMPATTO mount, with minimum impact on weights, so that it can simultaneously employ standard ammunition, guided DART rounds when it is necessary to shot down incoming threats, and the whole variety of VULCANO rounds for shore bombardment and anti-ship attacks.
I think that Deputy Secretary of Defense Bob Work should call his office. Here is something involving LCS that gets the Salamander seal of approval;
The evolution of the 76/62 has caught the interest of the US Navy, which during 2012 conducted an extensive design review of the Littoral Combat Ships which noted that the Bofors MK110 light gun is not as effective as would be desirable. One of the most interesting options on the table is the possible future fitting of the 76/62, replacing the MK110. ... It would be very easy to fit the 76/62 on the Lockheed Martin/Marinette Marine monohull LCS, the FREEDOM sub-class. A bit more complex, but not impossible, would be the retrofit of the trimaran LCS of the INDEPENDENCE sub-class, built by General Dynamics/Austal. With the larger caliber, the longer range, and the availability of the multi feeding system, with DART and VULCANO ammunition, the 76/62 would represent a dramatic improvement in firepower for the LCS.
Why couldn't we replace the 57mm with the 76/22 instead of the 30mm on DDG-1000? Because "exquisite" engineering, I presume. Sigh.

As for LCS, I'm not sure what the weight penalty would be, but with the NLOS area empty, there may be some options to ponder.

They have an nice write up about the DDG-1000 AGS 155mm ... with a few jewels that I haven't see in our press releases. Ponder this a bit;
... the more complex and time consuming loading process reduces the rate of fire of the AGS to just 10 rounds per minute, which means that a DDG1000 Zumwalt, with two AGS mounts, can fire around 20 rounds in a minute, against as many as 25 VULCANO rounds fired from a single 127/64 gun.

The LRLAP is also less accurate: the rocket booster is not the best friend of high accuracy, and the CEP is expected to routinely sit somewhere between 20 and 50 meters. The addition of a Semi Active Laser seeker to the LRLAP is reportedly being considered for the future to address this problem and expand the engagement capability, but this is all yet to come.
Of course, the combination AGS/Zumwalt makes for an impressive “bomber”: the 14.000 tons warship carries more ammunition (600 rounds in 2 magazines) than any likely 127/64-equipped vessel, and each shell is much larger, heavier and carries a lot more explosive. The massive gun is capable to fire them over greater distances, as well. However, the AGS is an extremely complex, massive and expensive solution which might never appear on platforms other than the Zumwalt, despite BAE’s effort in marketing an AGS-Lite.
Yes, exquisite.

There is also a depressing discussion of the ERGM and the US MK-45 Mod 4 and all that lost opportunity. Why are we getting our butts handed to us by the Italians of all people?


Enough grumbling ... read the whole thing. There are some very exciting things going on in the naval gun arena. Not the PPT thick, theory, or "expected IOC by 2025" stuff ... but the very much "now" that can be used today.

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