Company insight

Warfare at sea is changing radically. To counter an evolving array of threats in increasingly asymmetrical encounters, naval vessels need a new breed of weapons, sensors and countermeasures. Craig McLoughlin, vice-president of naval systems at Rheinmetall Defence, tells us about the next-level capability now available.

Bringing out the big guns N

aval conflict is no longer defined by massed fleets of surface combatants. The nature of the threat has changed and the greater focus on combatting terrorist attacks and piracy, as well as enabling peacekeeping missions, means that vessels must now be ready to face unpredictable and unknown threats anywhere in the world.

Armed forces, whether on land or at sea, need the flexibility to adapt quickly to a rapidly expanding mission spectrum. This process of force transformation will require changes to tactics, organisation and equipment to optimise the ‘kill chain’ of reconnaissance, C4I and fires, and enable more accurate and more effective engagement of enemy targets. “For this, our Millennium Gun is a key element,” says Craig McLoughlin, vice- president of naval systems at Rheinmetall Defence. “A 35mm multi-role, multi-task weapon, it is a powerful anti-aircraft system that can neutralise any target at 4km with airburst ammunition.”

Rheinmetall provides a range of powerful weapon and munition systems in the medium and large-calibre range, including automatic cannons for land, air and sea vehicles, as well as smoothbore technology for battle tank guns, artillery systems, intelligent projectiles, and novel effectors such as high-energy lasers with scalable effect and maximum precision. The Millennium Gun encapsulates the versatility that is required for today’s naval engagements. Primarily an anti- aircraft weapon, it is also a fast and powerful effector in an anti-surface role, and it can easily defeat challenging low, slow and small air threats posed by unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV). “Threats are small, faster and harder to detect,” McLoughlin says. “You need a hit multiplier for those targets, so we developed ammunition and a delivery system. The secret is airburst ammunition, coupled with a high rate of fire.”

Rheinmetall's Millennium Gun provides effective defence against anti-ship missiles, aircraft, helicopters, UAVs and asymmetric threats from fast incoming small crafts.

A powerful statement of intent The Millennium Gun is designed to engage multiple high-speed asymmetric surface targets in swarming attacks, as well as a range of aerial threats ranging from low- radar cross-section anti-ship missiles to fast-attack aircraft and helicopters. Firing 1,000 rounds per minute of programmable Oerlikon Ahead ammunition, each round containing 3g cylindrical tungsten subprojectiles that spiral outwards with high kinetic energy, the Millennium Gun packs a punch.

“The target has no chance to evade the destructive cloud of spin-stabilised projectiles, which spiral in a predictable pattern,” McLoughlin says. “The muzzle velocity measuring device in the barrel allows the flight time of each round to be programmed in real time in the last 10cm of the barrel for maximum accuracy and a real shredding effect.”

The Millennium is a highly effective weapon for any vessel to possess. It is, however, too large for patrol boats. Fortunately, Rheinmetall’s naval expertise, which spans the full range of sensors and effectors, has led the company to develop a range of systems for vessels of all sizes.

Defence & Security Systems International /

“The SeaSnake system is a light, modular mount system with high firepower that can be used on a patrol boat, and it can be upgraded to use airburst ammunition,” McLoughlin notes. “It houses a range of weapons systems, but the SeaSnake 30 is a particularly successful surface effector that is also useful against low and slow air threats.” “Everyone in the world already knows our Multi-Ammunition Softkill System (MASS),” he adds. “It is a naval countermeasures system with built-in sensors for detecting radar, visible light, electro-optical and laser threats. It also has its own programmable and omni-spectral ammunition that provides protection in all relevant wavelengths of the electromagnetic spectrum. There is no need to change rounds for different threats.” No matter what the threat, the Millennium Gun is a powerful statement of defensive intent, as are all of Rheinmetall’s systems. “Whether it is a threat in the air, or swarming surface attacks with potentially kamikaze targets, the Millennium Gun and the SeaSnake can handle it,” McLoughlin says. ● 65

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