Royal Navy prepares to roll out the big guns
28 Aug 08
The Royal Navy has enlisted the help of industry to design and produce a powerful 155mm heavy gun to beef up its existing warships and the fleet's sleek and stealthy new Type 45 destroyers.
The MOD's Defence Technology & Innovation Centre (DTIC) is working with BAE Systems and QinetiQ to look at increasing the Royal Navy's firepower in support of land forces and construction of a prototype heavy gun is already underway. Once completed, the gun will undergo trials to assess its suitability for use on Royal Navy warships.
A new £4m contract will see BAE Systems and QinetiQ work together to build a trials gun mount and firing trials are scheduled to take place on an MOD range next year.
The prototype is based on the 155mm Howitzers now deployed by the British Army but with a much longer barrel and which fires shells that are twice as heavy as those fired by the Navy's current 1960s vintage 114mm calibre guns.
The new 155mm shells could deliver a 50 per cent improvement on the range of the Navy's existing 114mm shells with the increase in explosive power rendering the new shells four times as effective on targets.
The Navy's Type 45 Daring-class destroyers were designed to be able to carry a 155mm gun as a possible upgrade to their firepower.
MOD project leader Nick Overfield, Maritime Integrated Technology Team Leader at DTIC, said:
"We're looking at the possibility of going from the existing naval 114mm gun to a 155mm because there are potentially many advantages. They include much greater range, hugely increased effects on the target and our ability to use the same ammunition as the Army.
"There are many advanced types of 155mm shell in production or in development to which the Navy would have access were we to go down this route.
"We're also looking at doing it through a very cost-effective route. We believe – and these trials will tell us for sure – that the Navy's existing 114mm gun mount, as used on our frigates and destroyers, is strongly-built enough to deal with increased firing stresses of a 155mm gun.
"Our initial investigations have told us this appears to be the case. Now we plan to test our theory on the firing ranges.
"The study is still just that - a study - but we've made some exciting steps forward and will get to see the gun fire next year. If successful it gives us the option to proceed further towards manufacture and fit."
The new gun is one of eight projects in a three-year Maritime Surface Effects research programme, which examines a number of modern naval issues, including offensive and defensive surface warfare, coastal suppression and naval fire support as well as the role of unmanned surface vehicles.