Oto Melara's Euronaval display outside Paris features a full-scale mockup of its 127 mm gun, along with Vulcano extended-range munitions. (Christopher P. Cavas)
PARIS — The desire to bring extended-range, guided rounds to standard naval weapons has been around for decades, and a number of companies have expended great sums trying to make the concept work. Oto Melara, which developed successful 155mm extended-range and guided munitions for the Italian Army, now is on the verge of putting a 127mm round into production and is developing a similar round for 76mm guns.
The results could have far-reaching effects for a majority of the world’s navies. While the Oto Melara 127mm has a handful of operators, the company’s 76mm gun is the world’s most popular medium-caliber weapon, arming the warships of 56 navies.
The Vulcano technology employs a sub-caliber shell fitted with fins and canards for stabilization and terminal guidance. The munitions come in different versions, including an unguided, extended-range, multirole ammunition with a multifunctional, programmable proximity fuse; and guided, long-range ammunition with an infrared seeker for anti-ship actions.
The extended-range rounds bring new shore-support capability to hundreds of ships, Andrea Montobbio, a regional manager for Oto Melara, said here at the Euronaval naval exposition. The Vulcano 127mm, he said, has a maximum range of 100 kilometers.
The smaller 76mm round is not as effective as the 127mm but will also have a far greater reach.
“Yes, the 76mm round is small, but the weapon has a very high rate of fire,” Montobbio said, noting that the 76mm gun has a maximum rate of fire of 120 rounds per minute and can maintain 60 rounds per minute for a long period of time.
The 76mm extended-range round gives small ships a reach far beyond the 16 kilometers of existing shells. In its unguided, ballistic extended range configuration — suitable for anti-air, anti-surface and naval gunfire support missions — the Vulcano round can reach 30 kilometers.
The guided long-range (GLR) version, fitted with global positioning satellite technology, can hit a target at 40 kilometers.
Montobbio noted the ballistic munition can be fired from any Oto 76mm gun now in service, although new firing tables would be needed to handle the extended range.
The GLR round requires a software upgrade for existing mounts, plus addition of a multi-ammo selection system.
Full-scale production of the extended-range 127mm round, Montobbio said, will start in 2013 for the Italian Navy, while full production of the guided round will begin a year later.
Development of the 76mm round already has begun and is expected to proceed rapidly.
“We foresee a quick development of this round,” Montobbio said. “It reuses many of the components already proven in the 127mm round.”
The company said the Vulcano 76mm will be ready for full-scale production in 2015.