Aware the Army wants bigger guns for its combat vehicles, BAE Systems is pitching its CT40 cannon and cased-telescoped ammunition for service officials during a live-fire demonstration this week at Fort Benning, Ga.
BAE hasn’t settled on a turret integrator with which it will offer the cannon to the Army, so Wednesday’s demonstration will be done from a static stand and involve just the cannon and loading and fire control systems. Air burst, point detonation and old-fashioned steel “kinetic energy” rounds will be demonstrated for the Army VIPs.
“The aim of the demo is to put the now-qualified cased telescoped technology in front of the U.S. Army to explain that the maturity is there and we are ready now to start a transfer of technology to the U.S. and start bringing that cannon to the U.S. as an option for their systems,” Rory Chamberlain, CT40 program manager for BAE, told reporters March 16 at BAE offices outside Washington, D.C.
What the Army VIPs will see is a 40mm cannon firing a range of ammunition at several different targets that include a trench and a hardened bunker. The ammunition is cased-telescoped rounds that are self-contained in a shell about the size and shape of two beer cans stacked atop one another.
France and the U.K. already have mounted the cannon on the Ajax tracked fighting vehicle and Jaguar armored recon vehicle, respectively. Those vehicles are employed in much the way Stryker and Bradley are operated by the U.S. Army, Chamberlain said. Aside from Stryker, BAE had demonstrated the CT40 on a Bradley Fighting Vehicle. The company is also eyeing the Army’s Next-Generation Combat Vehicle that will replace either Bradley or the Abrams tank or possibly both.
“So, in an unmanned [configuration] on a Stryker, a manned [configuration] on Bradley and NGCV, but who knows what that’s going to be, but we’re looking at that,” Chamberlain said.
Representatives from the Stryker, Bradley and NGCV program offices will be present at the Fort Benning demonstration. Because the cannon takes up significantly less space than a conventional breech-loading cannon, it can be integrated into either a manned or unmanned turret, Chamberlain said. The company is in talks with turret manufacturers and will make a decision on who it will partner with and where in the United States the cannons will be made after the demonstration and it can gauge Army interest, Chamberlain said.
The CT40 consists of the cannon itself, an ammunition handling-and-loading system, gun-control equipment a fire control computer and the gun mount. The magazine can carry between 70 and 100 rounds, but depends on several factors including the turret volume and whether it is manned or unmanned. Each round is stacked atop one another and houses both the propellant and the projectile in a one-kilogram uniform package.
Unique to the CT40 is its ammunition handling system or loader. It functions as a fixed magazine packed with cased telescoping rounds of several different variants. The cannon stays aimed in any direction while the breech spins clockwise to accept a round that the gunner calls up, then spins back into position. When fired, the cased round creates an airtight seal with the barrel, fires the round and then spins to accept the next round, which pushed the spent case out the side of the turret.
“This gives great space-saving advantages in terms of the cannon itself,” Chamberlain said.
The CT40’s unique breech system also allows the cannon to elevate to 75 degrees, much higher than the 40-or-so degrees that current vehicles can reach. The high-firing capability is ideal for hitting aerial targets like drones and helicopters and higher floors in dense urban terrain where the Army plans to fight future conflicts.
Space is at a premium on both the Bradley and Stryker. The Army already has mounted a 30mm cannon atop a Stryker and sent a few dozen to Europe to test the operational concept of an upgunned infantry fighting vehicle. Those vehicles were fielded on an accelerated timeline to fulfill an urgent need for greater mobility and firepower to counter Russia along NATO’s eastern flank.
Because the initial requirement was for a turret that did not displace any of the soldier space inside the Stryker, the Army went with an unmanned turret. There is no guarantee that the service will stick with the decisions it made for Dragoon.
“From our point of view, Stryker lethality is open. As much as they’ve got the Dragoon … the lethality and the requirements are still to be decided.”
Saving space is even more important on Bradley, which is quickly exhausting its margin of space, weight and power for new weapons and sensors. Bradley currently carries a 25mm cannon in a manned turret.
“To put a conventional 30mm in a space of a 25mm is going to be pretty much impossible,” Chamberlain said. “We know we can up-gun the Bradley without effecting … the ring that the guys sit in. Generally when you put a bigger caliber that ring has to get bigger in a manned turret.”
The mechanism works on the same principal as a drink machine dispensing aluminum cans. The rounds do not need to be loaded in any particular order. Depending on the enemy threat or obstacle, the gunner can call up one of several offensive effects including armor-piercing, airburst, a traditional ballistic round or point detonation round. Point detonation pierces hardened structures like bunkers before detonating inside. The airburst round is dual mode and can detonate above the heads of enemy troops or in the air to defeat helicopters, small drones or low-flying aircraft.
“You can have all those five in the loader if you wanted to and any future ammunition that we develop … all that capability is there to select the round you want,” Chamberlain said. “It all depends on the integrator, but all the capability is there.”