View Full Version : Warships to get remote-controlled deck guns

06-29-2009, 03:02 PM
Nine years after terrorists in a small boat bombed the destroyer Cole, the ship is slated to become the Navy’s latest surface combatant to get an advanced new deck gun that top commanders hope will prevent unwanted small boats from getting that close.

By the beginning of August, Cole will have a pair of Mk 38 Mod 2 chain guns, which can be aimed and fired remotely from inside the bridge, along with new electro-optical sights.

Officials want the remote-controlled guns to be installed on most or all of the Navy’s warships by 2015.

Navy officials say the guns take sailors out of the firing line and give them a new set of eyes for protecting the ship against small threats close aboard, but they also help crews with more mundane tasks, such as finding channel buoys.“They love it,” said Kevin Lapointe, program manager for surface guns at Naval Sea Systems Command. “This is a significant capability — not just the gun. It’s being used for more than it was initially intended. … They’re using it to gather information and do surveillance.”

The new chain gun is a modified version of the 25mm Bushmaster that has been carried on Navy ships for decades, but the unmanned, stabilized version can be much more accurate than a gun fired by a sailor, Lapointe said, and it can follow and fire at a target automatically.

To do that, it uses a Toplite electro-optical/infrared sensor, which can see in day or night, and a laser range finder linked to a computer inside the skin of the ship. Sailors — typically the same gunner’s mates who manned the earlier version of the chain guns — use a joystick to turn and zoom the camera.

“The captain can say, ‘Hey, take a look and see what that is out there, find out how far away he is,’ ” said Ben Nies, program manager for the gun’s manufacturer, BAE Systems.The gun’s optics can turn and zoom independently of the gun barrel, Nies said, so sailors don’t have to aim the cannon on a small boat they want to investigate. If they need to fire, the cannon swings into place to point at its target.

If a warship is taking fire and its chain gun sensors are damaged, gunner’s mates can aim and fire the gun the old-fashioned way. If a ship loses power, a battery in each chain gun gives it enough juice to operate for about two hours.

The Navy plans to spend $330 million on a total of 251 Mod 2 mounts and outfit them on almost all surface ships, although Lapointe said officials are still determining which ships will get them. The plan calls for three Mod 2s aboard amphibious assault ships; two for cruisers, destroyers, frigates and Austin-, Whidbey Island- and Harpers Ferry-class amphibious ships; and one for patrol coastal ships. All the guns are scheduled to be installed by 2015, Nies said. http://www.navytimes.com/news/2009/06/navy_chain_gun_062909w/