Saturday, April 15, 2017

New 57 mm Anti-Swarm Munition

ComNavOps has noted that the Navy’s LCS gun defense against small craft in the swarm scenario is ineffective.  It appears that the Navy has also recognized this because they deleted the LCS’ Mk110 57 mm gun from the Zumwalt class in favor of a smaller 30 mm gun which they claimed was more effective and more lethal.  Further proof of the gun’s ineffectiveness can be seen in early gun test videos intended to promote the gun but which actually show its ineffectiveness.

The main problem with the gun is the lightweight, airburst munition for the gun.  The round generates a lot of shrapnel which can kill unprotected crew but has little actual stopping power on a boat.  If a small craft is not stopped, the ship/gun cannot shift fire to the next target and while the ship/gun try to pound the target into stopping, all the remaining swarm boats continue their approach.  To be fair, guns, in general, are ineffective in such a scenario.  What is needed is a one-shot, one-kill weapon like a small, guided, fire-and-forget missile.

BAE Systems seems to have recognized the shortcoming of the Mk110 57 mm gun and has developed a new munition intended, specifically, for the small boat, anti-swarm scenario.  The new munition is the ORKA (Ordnance for Rapid Kill of Attack Craft) Mk295 Mod 1 57 mm guided projectile.

The projectile has a semi-active imaging seeker that can be laser guided or can seek its target autonomously by downloading an image of the target prior to firing (1).  The data sheet suggests that the target image is cued from a designating laser (2).  Guidance motive capability is accomplished via a system of four folding canards.

The round contains a bit over 200 g of PBX high explosive that delivers 1.4 kg of steel fragments (2).  Fuzing modes are timed, proximity, or point detonation (1, 2).

Maximum range is cited as 10 km (2) versus the claimed 17 km range using the current Mk295 Mod 0 projectile.

BAE Systems claims that the projectile will accomplish a one-shot, one-kill efficiency.  Note, however, that the burst mode is still the original weakness.  Presumably, the claimed increase in lethality is attributed to the guided nature of the round with the hope being that the round will burst in closer proximity to the target and thus prove more lethal.  Alternatively, the point detonation fuze mode might provide disabling hits but I don’t think the odds of hitting a small, high speed, maneuvering target are very great, even with a degree of guidance/seeking.

Without seeing a demonstration or some other proof, I conclude that the new, guided projectile will have only a marginally better performance and will still be totally ineffective in the anti-swarm scenario.  Still it’s small step in the right direction, I suppose.


(1)Navy Recognition website,

(2)BAE Systems website, data sheet,


  1. I don't embrace the current navy mentality of every weapon should be a "smart" weapon. High volume "dumb" firepower has a very effective suppression quality. Sure, army and MC artillery has 155mm guided Excalibur shells, but for most part "dumb" 155mm high explosive rounds are used. Area saturation of firepower can flush the enemy out of an area or prevent him from moving into the area he wants to be in. The M-240 machine gun and the sniper rifle both fire the 7.62x51mm round; one does it in volume, the other with precision. Used together, along other weapons, they provide tremendous effect in infantry tactics. I think the navy's trend to favor all "smart" weapons is more about money than combat effectiveness.

    Just my $0.02,

    1. That's $0.02 that's on the money! When high volume, high explosive, high intensity combat comes around (and it always does) we're going to quickly realize that don't have enough smart weapons and can't product replacements quickly enough.

      Plus, "guided", assumes that you can identify every target on the battlefield. No sensor is that good. High volume, semi-accurate firepower is still needed for area bombardment, as you point out.

  2. With a maximum range of 10 km, that allows a swarm to get uncomfortable close to launch their own weapons.

    1. And, you just know that's not the effective range. Effective range will be significantly less especially against high speed, small boats.

    2. That range is probably under ideal conditions (i.e., weather, sea state, etc.) too. Now they have to figure out a spot for the laser designator. But, that ammo becomes less effective should the laser designator go offline for some reason.

      And, I'm not so sure about the one-shot, one-kill claim. One round should take out a RHIB or small speed boat, but with a small target like that, you might have to expend more than a few rounds to get one to find the target.

  3. I like the idea but what I'm afraid would happen is the USN would figure that since the round is more precise (and also more expensive!!) that would justify reducing the load out of 57mm shells...I couldn't find what a LCS normally carries but less won't be more in this case.....

  4. A costly improvement.

    Though a profit to BAE: taking what might have cost hundreds of $$$ as an unguided round, and making it tens of thousands at least. Per round. Or maybe less. Maybe this is like the guidance kit they're fitting to the 2.75" rockets.

    Let's not forget LRLAP, costing near a million a pop. True there is a rocket motor in those but the big challenge was hardening the innards to survive the launch impulse.

    We just seem to be piling sup-optimal solution on sub-optimal solution, trying to dig our way out but just ending up deeper in the hole with a lighter wallet.

    LCS was the original problem; and the 57mm popgun compounded it. Now a bespoke munition to counter the resulting problem? At what point do we cut our losses here and build a frigate (by whatever name) with a decent gun and sensors, and weapons? The Italians somehow mastered the Vulcano rounds for 3" and 5" guns. It is ready on the shelf.

    Now we're re-inventing the wheel, but smaller, yet the payoff is essentially a hand grenade's worth of blast and shrapnel. Cost: benefit - is getting further skewed.

    All the enemy needs to do is weld a few thin metal sheets on their boat (a la ISIS with its land vehicles but a little lighter for the maritime environment) and they will shrug off the shrapnel showers with ease.

    Resorting to a gunfight with FAC/FIAC swarms that will be armed with light SSMs with ranges exceeding 10Km isn't a formula for success.

    Instead, let's use our advantages. VLS cells and situational awareness. Put a clutch of LOCAAS-type micro-missiles on the top of a VLA booster. Fire off a couple and seed an area the swarm is about to pass through, like a mobile intelligent minefield.

    Alternatively, something like NIMROD could be used OTH to at least kill off the SSM shooters. Before they shoot.

    Then the LCS can have a gunfight with the leakers.

    LCS really needs to die. The only people benefiting from its continued existence are in the MICC, for it surely isn't the poor crew members.

  5. Did I read correctly that the guided round has a lower range? Long range is where guided munitions become useful. If it's new and high tech, the navy really wants it. With the control instrumentation so small, how robust will it be? Guidance for munition would seem to favor larger projectiles. For the smaller stuff, just fire as many "dumb" rounds as quick as possible.


    1. You read that correctly. Whether it's true or not, I don't know. What I do know is that the effective range will be half of the max range. I'll let you do the arithmetic on what that does to the combat effective range of the ORKA shell.

  6. I looked at the info for the this weapon on the naval weapons site as I was not familiar with it. 5 to 6 pound projectiles fired at 200 round per minute cyclic rate; that's 3 rounds per second. I'd consider this weapon to be the cross breed between small artillery and machine gun. It could be the ideal weapon for use against small boat attack; with lots of high volume fire. That means to make the munitions as low cost as possible, NOT expensive guided rounds. ComNavOps mentioned a small missile system for this purpose. Imagine laying down high volume fire at an attacking boat with the 57mm while launching your small guided missile? Kinda like infantry laying down automatic fire while the man with the TOW launcher gets into position to fire, or call in artillery fire.


  7. I assume the recent announcement and video of 57mm effectiveness brought this post on.

    Anyone know if the new round was used in the boat test? Also it looked like no one was moving, either the LCS nor the target. This had been the big fault with the 57mm before, it was not stabilized and the pitching and rolling made it ineffective.

    At some point it has to dawn on the geniuses running the Navy that killing a $5,000 boat (probably much lower) with a $100,000 missile (probably much higher) is NOT a good long term solution.

    Phyrrus was onto something back in 280 BC, we MIGHT want to listen to him.

  8. The solution to the swarm issue has been starring us in the face for 30 years: take a Mk 49 GMLS (RAM) launcher and modify it to launch 5" ZUNI or 70mm (2.75") rockets in either guided or unguided versions and call it a day.

    Everything is in current procurement, the training is in place, the logistics are in place, and the system is already installed throughout the fleet.

    Installed in the launcher, the 5" rocket is roughly a 1:1 replacement for RIM 116, and the 70mm should be either a 3 or 4:1 replacement. That allows 22 5" rounds or 88 70mm rounds per launcher. Installed weight for the Mk 49 is ~5,800 KG or 5 tons. Few automatic cannons will weigh less.

    A 5" Zuni rocket can deliver immense amount of fragmentation or HE (~23 kg+ or ~58 lbs) for about $1,000.00 per round.

    A 70mm rocket can deliver immense amount of fragmentation or HE (~10 kg+ or ~23 lbs) for about $1,000.00 per round.

    A guided version of the either the 5" or 70mm rockets is available for ~$20-30,000.00 per round, and delivers ~10 kg+ of explosive.

    Current 57mm rounds are on the order of $1,000.00 per round to deliver 1.4 kg or about 3lbs of HE- I cannot imagine the cost per round with guidance added.

    It isn't hard to see why the small boat menace should be easy to address.


  9. If you're going to spend the money, why not a warhead with top down attack. Punch a hole through the bottom of the boat.

  10. I wonder what the lead time in building such ammo is.

    It probably is not a sustainable solution fighting a nation state war. The US ran out of bombs fighting ISIS. Precision weapons generally have a lead time of several years.

    1. Yup.

      To me a "littoral combat ship" is one that looks like a mini dreadnought. Lots of guns for massed fire of dumb projectiles; enough armor to protect against the weapons a swarm might have.

      Littoral combat always struck me as more of a bar fight than a boxing match. Close in, fast, and nasty

    2. The US military seems to always go first for the wizz bang, hyper technology solution.
      A smaller navy with a tighter budget if asked to build a 'littoral combat ship', would build something approaching a large patrol boat (as opposed to a small, unarmored, lightly armed frigate/corvette which is what the LCS is).
      It would have multiple crew served weapons - autocannons, machine guns, rockets and perhaps some small AAW missiles.
      The thing about those weapons is they are cheap, effective at short range in sufficient quantity and a patrol boat of large enough size could house quite a few of these weapons.

  11. The VLS version of AGM-114L is the only missile being discussed capable of "vertical attack" costs about $110K.

    You could argue it is a sunk cost since the Navy *might* get them from the Army, but long term - AGM-114L is an expensive solution.


  12. I believe L3's ALaMO won the competition. It seems to use an internal stabilization system and doesn't use fins like ORCA. Looks to be lighter and faster.

  13. Updated

    Looks certain on L3

    Although it would be cool if instead of one boat with a target the ship was firing at a dozen (or more or whatever number is in that graphic) small approaching targets from different vectors and compared to a 'dumb' round armed gun doing the same. Or better sill a dumb round gun and hell fire missiles as well and then tally the cost of a successful engagement.

  14. What about MAD-FIRES? It is a guided AA round for antimissile work.


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