Jan 20, 2014 15:20 UTC
Latest updates[?]: Positive reports from Phase 2 testing.
Back in March 2006, BAE Systems received a contract for “design and production of the 32 MJ Laboratory Launcher for the U.S. Navy.” Some hint of what they are talking about can be gleaned from the name. The project is an electro-magnetic rail gun that accelerates a projectile to incredibly high speeds without using explosives. BAE isn’t the only firm that’s working on this program, which the US Navy sees as its gateway to a game-changing technology.
The attraction of such systems is no mystery – they promise to fire their ammunition 10 or more times farther than conventional naval gun shells, while sharply reducing both the required size of each shell, and the amount of dangerous explosive material carried on board ship. Progress is being made, but there are still major technical challenges to overcome before a working rail gun becomes a serious naval option. This DID FOCUS article looks at the key technical challenges, the programs, and the history of key contracts and events.
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Jun 23, 2013 18:47 UTC
Sometimes, a basic improvement opens up entirely new opportunities. Raytheon’s one-piece M982 Excalibur rocket-boosted, GPS-guided shells are costly, but they offer the kind of accuracy that has made artillery relevant again on Small Wars battlefields. Overall accuracy is currently touted as being within 4 meters 90% of the time (3m or less CEP), and the US military recently began buying Block Ib shells. At the same time, the firm is starting to face competition from less accurate but cheaper drop-in solutions like ATK’s PGK, and the wars that propelled Excalibur sales are winding down. What to do?
Part of Raytheon’s response involves a self-funded program to create a new dual-mode GPS/ Semi-Active Laser guidance and navigation unit (GNU) for the Block Ib. Adding the ability to attack moved or moving land targets adds a lot of flexibility on the battlefield, and retains Excalibur’s unique positioning. It also creates entirely new opportunities for Raytheon at sea.
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Aug 17, 2008 13:39 UTC
Medium caliber naval guns confront naval planners with a divergence of opinions: mount large caliber, slower-firing 5″/127mm guns used mostly for naval fire support, or smaller caliber 100-57mm guns with far more rapid rates of fire that can be used against smaller boats, UAVs, missiles et. al. as well? In recent years, a 3rd option has entered the scene: 155mm guns adapted from Army platforms. Key advantages include potential commonality of ammunition stocks, greater destructive power, and better leveraging of R&D into long range and specialized variants with some land/sea commonality. Hence projects like the American AGS system for its Zumwalt Class destroyers, and Germany’s aborted MONARC that would have mounted a turret from their PzH 2000 self-propelled howitzer on the new F125 expeditionary frigates.
AGS is rather large, however, which leaves the question of what to do with ships smaller than the DDG-1000 Zumwalt’s Graf Spee sized 14,500t. The Royal Navy has become the latest navy to jump into this fray, undertaking a relatively low cost research program that looks at the AS90 Braveheart howitzer’s potential for future warships, and for refits to the existing fleet.
They’ll have a number of significant challenges to overcome before they can declare success, but a recent release says the project is moving on to Phase 3 now…
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Sep 30, 2007 17:00 UTC
The Navy announces that it is moving forward with development of the Littoral Combat Ship’s Surface Warfare (SUW) Mission Package, which it describes as “designed to combat small, fast boat terrorist threats to the fleet.” The Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren division is the technical direction agent for the SUW mission package, with NSWC Port Hueneme division providing integrated logistics and testing support. US NAVSEA’s release lists the components as:
“…electro-optical/infrared sensors mounted on a vertical take off unmanned air vehicle [the MQ-8B Fire Scout] to provide over-the-horizon detection; 30mm guns to kill close-in targets; four  non-line-of-sight launching system [NLOS-LS/ "NetFires"]… container launch units, with each system containing 15 offensive missiles; and the MH-60R armed helicopter for surveillance and attack missions. The SUW mission package has software that interfaces with the LCS command and control system to maintain and share situational awareness and tactical control in a coordinated SUW environment… The first two  SUW mission packages assembled for developmental and operational testing use the Mark 46 30mm gun made by General Dynamics Amphibious Systems.”
The $400-500 million question is, will this be enough?…
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Aug 26, 2007 17:20 UTC
Mk 45 firing
BAE Systems has announced a Basic Ordering Agreement (BOA) from the U.S. Navy for up to $368 million to build and refurbish naval weapon systems, and provide support services over the next 5 years. Potential orders received under this BOA are expected later this year and will be carried out by BAE Systems’ facilities in Minneapolis, MN and Louisville, KY.
The BOA covers a wide range of BAE Systems’ programs including the transition of production of the Mk 110 57mm naval gun system from low-rate to full; the overhaul, manufacture and upgrade of the Mk 45 5-inch (127mm) naval gun for the CG-47 Cruiser Modernization program, the Mk 75 76mm gun mount, the Mk 42 extended range guided missile handling mechanism, the Mk 32 surface vessel torpedo tubes (SVTT), and the Mk 36/53 decoy launcher systems (DLS); the manufacture of gun barrels; the overhaul of turbine pump ejection systems (TPES); and work associated with minor caliber guns. BAE Systems release.
Aug 08, 2007 19:55 UTC
F100 AEGIS Frigate
On Aug 3/07, the US DSCA announced Spain’s formal request [PDF] for 2 MK 7 AEGIS Weapons Systems. The heart of the AEGIS weapon system is Lockheed Martin’s AN/SPY-1D Radar System, a 3-dimensional, air/surface search and tracking radar; there is also a software combat system component. Spain also asked for 2 MK 41 Baseline VII Vertical Launch Systems, and 2 MK 45 MOD 2 5″ Gun Mounts. These sets would equip 2 of that country’s F100 Alvaro de Bazan Class AEGIS frigates, which will also serve as the basis for Australia’s Hobart Class ships.
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Apr 26, 2007 07:31 UTC
BAE Systems – Armament Systems Division in Minneapolis, MN received a $108.9 million cost-plus-award-fee modification to previously awarded contract (N00024-05-C-5117) for completion of design, development and integration of the Advanced Gun System (AGS), in support of the DDG 1000 Zumwalt Class program. Work will be performed in Minneapolis, MN (76%); Burlington, VT (19%); and Baltimore, MD (5%), and is expected to be complete by September 2009. The Naval Sea Systems Command in Washington, DC issued the contract.
The Advanced Gun System (AGS) is intended to be the 14,500 ton DDG-1000 “destroyer’s” primary naval gunfire support weapon, fitting into a stealth-enhancing turret and emerging to fire 155mm GPS-guided “Long Range Land Attack Projectile” guided shells up to 100 miles inshore.
MONARC, FGS Hamburg
The difficulty with placing 155mm howitzer-class guns on ships is the level of recoil, which can play havoc with a smaller ship’s stability. The Germans have experimented with KMW/HDW’s ‘MONARC,’ which uses a self-sufficient PzH-2000 mobile howitzer turret mounted on a 6,160 ton F124 Sachsen Class frigate. While an intricate elastic mounting system handled the recoil, adapting all of the PzH-2000′s systems for the corrosive naval environment proved more difficult than expected and MONARC appears to have been removed from plans for the new F125 Class frigates; Oto Melara’s 127mm lightweight naval gun will be used instead.
In the absence of a 155mm gun, the use of long-range, guided rounds like Oto Melara’s Vulcano can certainly extend the range of existing naval guns, and their move toward similar naval and 155mm versions of this ammunition family is also likely to be a harbinger of trends to come.