Last summer the Navy and BAE Systems conducted a set of tests demonstrating the company’s 5-inch Vulcano precision-guided munition (PGM) fired from the Mk 45 naval gun, the company said.
John Perri, BAE business development director for weapon systems, told Defense Daily on Monday that tests occurred in late August 2018 at the White Sands Missile Range, N.M., demonstrating Vulcano’s compatibility with the Mk 45. He noted that is the most widely deployed large caliber naval gun system internationally.
BAE builds the Mk 45 naval gun currently used on Arleigh Burke-class destroyers and Ticonderoga-class cruisers.
BAE spokeswoman Liz Ryan Sax told Defense Daily the tests “confirmed that the Vulcano can be fired from the 5-inch Mk 45 naval gun and successfully guide to extended ranges.”
Vulcano for the U.S. is a joint offering by BAE and Italy’s Leonardo Defense Systems. They first announced they started collaborating on the system nearly two years ago. At the time they noted it could be an option for the BAE-built Advanced Gun System (AGS) on Zumwalt-class destroyers (Defense Daily, July 3, 2017).
At the time, BAE highlighted the Vulcano was a “low-risk and “cost-effective” advanced munition option.
The Navy currently has no munition for the AGS after the planned option was canceled due to cost with only three ships in the class. Since then, the Navy has repeatedly said it is following industry developments and looking for new ammunition options.
BAE said Vulcano has a maximum range of 90 km or 56 miles, over three times larger than the current munition range of 24 km or 15 miles for ballistic ammunitions and more than two times farther than alternative industry options.
Sax said this demonstration verified the Vulcano can be handled by the MK 45’s “upper hoist, cradle and rammer and can conduct guided flight.” The company and Navy did not reveal what range the Vulcano was fired at in the tests.
Perri explained the Mk 45 system can fire munitions at about 20 rounds per minute using its automated ammunition handling system. The combined length of the Vulcano and the propellant charge “is compatible with the Mk45 handling system; so the gun’s maximum rate-of-fire can be maintained.”
Meanwhile, he said other proposed solutions exceed the Mk45 munition length. That requires “dual ramming,” where the projectile and propelling change have to be handled and loaded in two steps, halving the gun’s rate-of-fire.
Perri said an operator wants to maintain the highest rate-of-fire possible. “It’s critical for delivering effects on your target, for conducting multiple round simultaneous impact – MRSI – missions and for engaging moving targets,” he added.
Perri said the Vulcano’s maneuverability is “quite extensive.” It uses its canards for flight control and to generate lift and thus “can be extensively maneuvered to engage moving targets.”
He added the canards are one of the biggest reasons the munition can reach 56 miles.
Perri said the Vulcano baseline has a GPS/Intertial measurement Unit (IMU) anti-jam guidance and the guidance package has three options: impact-detonation, impact-delay detonation, and variable height-of-burst. Perri said the fuze options and height-of-burst are set as part of the initialization message just before the round is fired.
He noted the Vulcano has “tested terminal seeker options that would be used in addition to the GPS/IMU.”
An infrared seeker for sea targets would have the Vulcano fly to an overhead point via GPS, then switch to an infrared (IR) seeker to find, fix, track, and intercept the target. Perri said this is “a fire-and-forget approach.”
It also has a Semi-Active Laser (SAL) seeker that is “more suitable” for land targets after a UAV or forward observer identifies and illuminates a target using a low-power laser designator, Perri said. After the Vulcano uses its GPS seeker, it then is guided to the laser-designated target.