14. Surface Weapons for the Littorals

(Published article in SP’s Naval Forces Dec2012-Jan-2013)

A good gun cause’s victory, armour only postpones defeat.

Vice Admiral S. O. Makarov

Littoral warfare has come as a reality check for the blue water forces as they have to now also focus on their capability in countering the threats in very shallow waters of underwater diesel submarines, mines and swarm of hostile boats in adversary’s home waters. In addition they have to offset threat from the near shore defences of missile batteries, gun batteries and air attacks before they can gain entry to the coastal area. The navies during the cold war period have been out fitted for a standoff combat on the oceans as against a battle in the littorals, the focus has to shift to tackling challenges emanating from the virtual shores, as ships have to perforce operate in littorals for gaining unfettered access to areas of national interests.  The international waters commence from 12 nm onwards and allow unrestricted freedom of movement for boats and ships, which in turn implies that smaller craft can come sufficiently close to warships with the intention of causing harm, before the warships can ask them to stand clear. The traffic in littorals is fairly heavy, with small craft poorly equipped for effective communications, fishing in groups, deficient markings, and disparities in language. It is therefore convenient for hostile craft to mingle with local craft, hide their weapons until the last moment, and carry out attacks in swarms. Further these craft have excellent knowledge of local waters, weather and topography due to which they can carry out their operations with ease. The identification of hostile craft and neutralising the threat with in the short reaction time presented by them presents a formidable problem. Till recently, blue water navies were used to operating with long range standoff weapons in the open seas and ships were built to meet the surface threats emanating far away from shores. The carrier battle groups, missile cruisers and destroyers could direct formidable firepower against shore targets, by utilising their air power and missiles at long ranges. Thus also enabling projection of power from standoff distances in the littorals and carry out support of land operations. The blue water operations required large ships with great fire power; however the littorals need agile ships with weapons which can rapidly attack multitude of targets for survivability. Since naval ships are built to operate over decades, there existed a large gap with respect to war fighting equipment in the littorals.

Traditionally naval ships have been equipped with a heavy gun (57 mm calibre up wards), an auxiliary gun of up to 35 mm calibre and a small calibre gun for close air/ missile defence, the number of turrets depending upon the size and role of the specific ship. These guns are not effective at very close ranges against surface craft due to inability of the guns to rapidly train, elevate or depress to prosecute swarming targets from different directions at close quarters. Examples of some heavy guns include OTO Melara 76 mm gun, (traditional /compatto/rapid), Bofors 57/70 mm MKII / MKIII, CADAM Turret / Loire 100mm / MK55 Mod 68, OTO Breda 127/54, OTO Melara 127/64, and Giat CADAM Turret. The auxiliary guns include, OTO Breda 40/L70 twin, Mauser EADS MLG 30/27 mm, Rheinmetall GDM-08 with MSP 500, Oerlikon Gam/BO 1, Allied Telesyn DS 30M Automated Small Calibre Gun System, Rheinmetall RH 202. The close in weapon systems includes; Mauser Oerlikon MeRoKa, Signaal GAU-8/A, GE / GDC MK 15 Mod 2, Raytheon / Diehl RIM 116 Block 1 HAS.

Incidentally The US Navy’s requirements for the LPD 17 and LCS ship programs included the need for weapon systems capable of defeating small, fast, highly manoeuvrable surface craft. The MK 46 GWS was selected to provide these ships a capability against small surface craft. The MK 46 GWS is a remotely operated naval gun system that uses 30mm high velocity cannon, a forward looking infrared sensor, a low light television camera, and a laser rangefinder for shipboard self defence against small, high speed surface targets. The gun can be operated locally at the gun turret or remotely at the Remote Operating Console in the Combat Information Centre (LPD 17 class)/Mission Control Centre (LCS class).

The small hostile craft’s weapons of choice include hand held weapons (the PK / RPK 7.62 mm, the NSV 12.7 mm, the Rheinmetall MG 3, the AK 47, AK 74, the FN FAL, the H&K G3 etc), and rockets launchers like RPG-7. Scenario and simulation studies have established that most of the NATO frigates are vulnerable to an attacking swarm of four to eight such small hostile craft.

Various studies have also revealed that ships using a mix of sophisticated high and low calibre weapons with high probability of hits, have much greater chance of survivability then those with semiautomatic systems. This has led navies to resort to upgrading or modernising the main & auxiliary gun and CIWS out fits. The upgrades include both sophisticated software and the ordnance. The aim is to achieve a high firing rate coupled with very high hit probabilities. Feasibility studies have confirmed possibility of retrofitting of modern systems on existing platforms. Following systems have been contracted for by a fairly large number of navies across the globe, including the NATO navies.

The Italian OTO MELARA 127/64 LW Light Weight Naval Gun is used on board the Italian FREMM and the German F125 frigates. This rapid fire gun can be installed on large and medium size ships, for surface fire and naval gunfire support, with anti-aircraft fire as its secondary role. The compactness of the gun feeding system makes it possible to install it on narrow section crafts. The gun can fire all standard 127mm/5 inches ammunition including the new Vulcano long range guided ammunition. VULCANO is a family of Extended Range (ER) unguided ammunition and Long Range (LR) guided ammunition for the 127mm naval guns and 155mm land artillery system. VULCANO is a new and emerging technology based upon a fin stabilized airframe with canard control for terminal guidance; mechanical interfaces are same as standard 127mm ammunition. Various configurations for VULCANO projectiles are available for 127mm naval gun as unguided extended range multirole ammunition, guided long range ammunition with IR seeker and autonomous IMU / GPS guided ammunition.

The OTO MELARA 76/62 SR, today in service with 58 Navies worldwide, is a multirole medium calibre naval gun mount, designed for anti-missile and anti-aircraft as main role, and conceived for installation on multipurpose ships of any class and type.  From the operational point of view, the 76/62 gun can fire at the max rate of fire (120 rds/min) all the loaded ammunition, without interruption, delivering a huge amount of ammunition payload on the target Vs time, also on very distant targets. The 76/62 gun’s powerful and stabilized servo systems allow fast reaction to re-phasing commands from one target to the other and precision and accuracy in aiming. Moreover the mount can also be fitted with a dual or multiple ammunition feeding system in order to provide the user with the capability to easily and rapidly select, from the carousel, different types of ammunition, in accordance with the incoming threats.

The 76/62 gun mount can be deployed for:  Naval Gun Fire Support Anti Surface Warfare (ASuW) Anti Air Warfare (AAW) Anti Missile Warfare (AMW) and Asymmetric warfare in particular. The latest developments in the ammunition field have placed the 76/62 gun mount in an enviable position in terms of lethality in countering asymmetric threats and air targets including both high speed manoeuvring missiles and the new NGS and ASuW requirements, emerging from Littoral warfare.

The 3AP fuse can fit the 76/62 pre-fragmented ammunition, ensuring top performances in critical engagement conditions, such as those involving sea skimming missiles and fast manoeuvring boats. The 3AP fuse can be programmed in three operating modes:  Impact (Fast and Delayed Action);  Time (Volume Saturation and Air Burst);  Proximity (Standard, Gated, Anti-Missile, Conventional Air Defence, Air Defence, Anti Surface); The 3AP fuse has a microwave RF sensor which behaves like a seeker detecting the target at long range. The relative velocity and position are measured and a built-in CPU sets up the trigger point of maximum lethality. Moreover a Digital Signal Processor provides full rejection of sea clutter at minimal distance from sea surface. All the 76/62 gun mount including the ones already in service can be upgraded by the introduction of a Fuse Programmer Device.

 DCNS has awarded a contract to Sagem to modernise the fire control systems onboard the French Navy’s six Floreal-class surveillance frigates. Under the contract, Sagem will modernise fire control systems based on new-generation Electro-Optical Multifunction System (EOMS-NG) to provide fire control for the ship’s main artillery, a 100mm gun as well as contribute to their tactical situation awareness and self-defence of the ship. The single unit high-performance EOMS-NG optronic system features day-night infrared search and track (IRST) type passive panoramic observation, identification, tracking and fire control as well as very short reaction time between detection and engagement. Ideal for fighting piracy and illicit traffic, the EOMS-NG will replace the existing Najir optronic system. SAGEM’s VIGY MM which can be Integrated in a Combat Management System or operated in a stand-alone mode, VIGY MM allows manual or automatic sector surveillance, automatic target tracking, aid to identification and transmission or reception of 3D target designation information. VIGY MM is able to simultaneously control several guns of different calibres. It is easy to operate and maintain. VIGY MM comprises:

-A high-performance gyro stabilized platform providing an accurate line of sight

-A ballistic computer allowing high accuracy gun firing

-A Man-Machine Interface (MMI).

Drawing on Sagem’s 30-year experience in electro optical detection and fire control, VIGY MM capitalizes on its predecessors’ proven high reliability, performance and accuracy. Over 400 systems in the VIGY MM range (formerly PANDA, LYNX, NAJIR Mk1, Mk2 and 2000, VIGY 20) are currently operated by 30 navies worldwide

Nexter ARX®20 cupolas comes as an alternate solution, compared to the 12.7-mm systems and the turrets fitted with a 25 or 30 mm gun with its compactness and low weight similar to 12.7 machine guns, 20 mm guns fire more powerful projectiles. The Nexter Narwhal naval remote weapon systems is particularly designed for use in light ships with very high manoeuvrability for monitoring and close-in combat actions but may also be suitable for heavier tonnage ships. The effectiveness of the weapon is optimised by a stabilised sight associated with a fire-control system, while improving the operator’s safety. In its basic configuration, the NARWHAL consists of a gyro stabilised mounting armed with a 20 mm cannon, a day camera and a fire-control system which is remotely-controlled from a control panel enabling system operation, target acquisition and tracking and fire opening by the operator

Indian Navy’s Warship Procurement Plans

“The Navy, today, is poised to achieve new milestones with the imminent induction of the aircraft carrier Vikramaditya, the Kolkata Class stealth destroyers, the follow-on frigates of the Talwar Class, the indigenous ASW Corvettes and an impressive number of submarines and aircraft.” Smt Pratibha Patil, President of India, 2011.

The Indian Navy is set to acquire over 80 new warships, including two aircraft-carriers and nuclear submarines each, scheduled to join its fleet in the coming decade, with about 5 major combatants being commissioned every year. Major warship program of the IN include:-

Project 15 A and 15 B Guided Missile Destroyers: Being built by Mazagaon Docks Ltd., at a cost of USD 622 mn each. The follow-on project 15B gives the Navy the option of placing orders for 4 more vessels in the same class.

Project 17 and 17A:Under this project, 3 Shivalik-class multi-role frigates with stealth features are planned for construction by Mazagaon Docks Ltd. of which one has been commissioned. The successor of these frigates is planned under project 17A involving a total of seven vessels at a cost of USD 578 mn each. The modular construction method will be employed by Mazagaon Docks Ltd. and Garden Reach Ship-builders and Engineers who will deliver 3 and 4 vessels respectively.

Project 28 Anti Submarine Warfare Corvette:The corvette being built under Project 28 was envisaged as the Indian Navy’s Anti-submarine Warfare vessel for the 21st century as well as being aimed at encouraging private participation in ship-building. 2 corvettes are now being built by Garden Reach Ship-builders and Engineers at USD 1,555 mn. Delivery to the Indian Navy is scheduled one vessel each for June 2012 and March 2013.

Project 1135.6 Russian Krivak III Class Frigates: India and Russia signed a $1.6 billion contract for the construction of three Project 1135.6 Krivak III-class guided missile frigates for the Indian Navy in July, 2006 at the Yantar shipyard of Kaliningrad.

The Indian Naval ships have the following main guns; A-190(E) 100mm,100mm AK-100 naval gun,AK-176-M 76mm gun,AK-76/62 76mm gun, Twin mount gun (76mm), OTO Melara Otobreda 76 mm gun. The auxiliary guns include; AK-630 six-barrelled 30 mm Gatling gun, AK-230 twin 30 mm gun.

Future Outlook

The type of gun and fire control systems described above cover the entire range of gun operations required for combating in littorals further they can be retrofitted on existing platforms. The US Navy is planning to acquire agile ships with modular design specifically for the warfare in the littorals to minimise attrition to major combatants. In view of the foregoing, it is anticipated that for the surface warfare role, highly accurate, very quick firing, and potent gun systems would be available in a couple of years.

The navies have to outfit themselves to tackle the threats emanating from the littorals since littoral skirmishes would increase in future as more and more nations join the globalisation band wagon and explore near shore natural resources while impinging upon the real or perceived sovereignty claims of rivals. In this regard the Indian Navy’s warship acquisition has a littoral shift and it has only to ensure that the gun systems on existing as well as new major and minor ships cater to littoral warfare in terms of accuracy, agility and fire power required.

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