Surface Forces: April 18, 2002


Oerlikon has signed a partnership with Lockheed Martin to market its 35mm revolver cannon as the Millennium Naval Gun. Lockheed will provide the "navalized" mount and systems to support the powerful fast-firing cannon. Most modern warships mount an anti-missile cannon, but most of them are 20mm and unable to physically stop an oncoming anti-ship missile with the energy of their impact. Against modern missiles, the 20mm shells will "destroy" the missile only to see its flaming wreckage (including the warhead) slam into the ship through momentum. Larger weapons can hit and stop missiles at longer ranges; the 35mm Millennium Naval Gun can hit a missile as far as 2,000 meters away. The problem with larger and larger weapons is the rate of fire; bigger guns fire more slowly. The Millennium Naval Gun fires 1,000 rounds per minute, fast enough to put a destructive hail of shells into the area of the missile. Larger caliber guns have more options; it is hard to put a proximity shell into a 20mm casing. The larger 35mm gun can fire several types of shell, allowing it to engage different targets (small craft, vehicles on the shore, surfaced submarines, other warships of frigate or destroyer size, etc.). Oerlikon wants to use its AHEAD round in this naval weapon. The AHEAD round releases dozens of small flechettes and was designed to disable a tank it could not penetrate by a hail of these "nails" that could strike optics or other systems and wreck them. While such submuntions could not physically stop an incoming missile by energy alone, they could disable a missile, perhaps allowing the ship to out-maneuver it.--Stephen V Cole


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