By Luca Peruzzi
The article was first published on 13 July and has been updated based on information provided by Leonardo.
Thanks to the continuous developments to cope with evolving threats and multirole weapon systems requirements, Leonardo is today proposing the 76/62 mm Super Rapido as the medium caliber gun systems capable to cope with the full spectrum of naval missions, from multi-role to long-range bombardment and precision striking, passing through anti-missile and asymmetric ship defence. With over 40 customers and 240 gun systems ordered and in service since late nineties, the 76/62 mm Super Rapido will soon be available with the Vulcano long-range guided ammunition family and be able to employ the DART precision guided round without the Strales guidance kit on the gun mount, said Marco Fani, naval and underwater defence systems business development during Leonardo’s webinar on naval capabilities for Middle East maritime security, connected to a virtual showcase. The latest multinational and crisis management operations, such as the 2011 Libyan crisis, where navies were required to provide a rapid response and precise fire support from the sea with reduced collateral damages, highlighted the need for medium caliber ammunition with firing ranges outside littoral environment threats and surgical accuracy.
With a 120 rpm rate of fire and limited on-board footprint and weight (7,900 kg mass without ammunition) allowing the use as primary artillery from fast attack missiles boats to large combatant vessels, the latest baseline version of the 76/62 mm Super Rapido gun system comes with both a Multi-Feed (hence the 76/62 mm SR MF definition) ammunition magazine based on two distinct chutes each capable to accommodate up to 38 rounds each, allowing the employment of specific ammunition for different type of threats. It is also fitted with the new Universal Ammunition Programmer able to set both the 4AP and Vulcano fuse to improve Anti Air Warfare and Anti Surface Warfare capabilities thanks to the four programmable modes, proximity, altimetry, impact/delayed impact, and time. The new baseline gun systems are also equipped with the new AC3v2remote digital console enabling not only to reduce maintenance and life cycle costs requirements but also to cope with latest gunfire requirements with the naval fire control system (NFCS) module as well as digital link with FCS to manage new functionalities. Since 2019, all new-production guns are fitted-for the 76 Vulcano kit, as this ammunition will be soon available in the Guided Long Range (GLR) version.
Based on tests, development and qualification activities conducted with the 127/155 mm Vulcano family of GLR and Ballistic Extended Range (BER) ammunition, Leonardo applied the same technological achievements to develop the 76 mm subcalibre not self-propelled guided and unguided ammunition version of the family, all equipped with the 4AP programmable fuse capability. Impact, delayed impact and altimetry modes are exploited for the guided long-range (GLR) round, in addition to the proximity and time modes which are used in the ballistic extended range (BER) round.
The latter variant of the 76/62 mm ammunition family with a 27 km range (versus 16 km with conventional ammunition and up to 20 km with Leonardo’s SAPOMER ammunition) and a time of flight better than conventional rounds, is already available and is in service with a South Asian customer, EDR On-Line understood, although Leonardo could not comment.
The company is currently working on the Vulcano GLR ammunition (equipped with IMU and GPS for autonomous guidance) with a range of up to 40 km for shore bombardment as well as against naval stationary targets. “The Vulcano 76 GLR ammunition is expected to complete the development, test and qualification process by late 2022 with the delivery of production rounds to customers from 2023-24 onwards,” said a Leonardo representative.
In order to handle and fire the 76 GLR ammunition the 76/62 mm Super Rapido requires the addition of the GPS receiver and antenna, if these information are not provided by the ship command and control system together with the target coordinates, and that of a dedicated software module inside the digital console, whilst all guns currently in production are equipped with the aforementioned Universal Ammunition Programmer, able to set both Vulcano fuse and 4AP fuse.
The limited hardware and software modifications to the baseline 76/62 mm SR MF gun system allow current customers to easily upgrade the in-service latest-baseline gun systems to fire the 76 Vulcano GLR ammunition family, with significant operational and configuration benefits. At the same time older gun systems without multi-feeding and digital console can be upgraded to the latest model including the Vulcano capabilities.
During the webinar, Leonardo also announced that it is facing an increased interest on the Super Rapido capability to cope with advanced missile and asymmetric threats. For the latter, the Super Rapido is offered in the Strales (or Davide as identified by Italian Navy) configuration based on the DART (Driven Ammunition with Reduced Time of Flight) guided ammunition and a Ka-band guidance radar antenna required to generate the ammunition guidance beam installed on the gun mount. The sub-caliber DART projectiles demonstrated an effective range up to 8 km (in comparison with a 4.5 km requirement) and a 1,200 m/s initial velocity allowing to cover 5 km in 5 seconds. These performances together with the high maneuverability of the DART round allowed the system to demonstrate its effectiveness against present and future ASCM targets, at a fraction of the cost of a missile engagement but with equivalent performances, Leonardo claims. According to Leonardo, to allow customers to use the latest baseline Super Rapido MF gun with the DART ammunition and without the need to install the Strales guidance kit on the mount, the Italian group offers the latest generation dual-band (X/Ka) radar/EO NA-30S Mk2 FCS capable to guide the DART ammunition.
The new NA-30S MK 2 is able to control up to three 76/62 SR with a reduced reaction time, being equipped with the dual band radar with stealth antenna and electro-optics in addition to the Continuous Wave Illuminator for semi-active missile guidance. During the webinar Leonardo hasn’t elaborated, but EDR On-Line understood that a solution including Thales Nederland Pharos Ka-band radar-only FCS is also considered to work with the Super Rapido, notably the Single Deck version. Initial renderings released by the Netherlands MoD and Thales Nederland of future multirole frigates for both the Belgian and Dutch navies show both the new gun and the Pharos FCS, highlighting a strong interest for this solution.
Although Leonardo doesn’t comment or elaborate, both the 76 Vulcano family and the DART/FCS suite are attracting the interest of potential Middle East, Asian and European customers. A number of Middle East customers are equipped with the 76/62 mm Super Rapido and among them UAE and Saudi Arabia and in the near future Qatar have a consistent number of Leonardo’s gun mounts. The Qatar Emiri Naval Forces are also expected to equip their new naval platforms provided by Fincantieri with the NA-30S Mk2 FCS, as anticipated by the models and images distributed also by the QENF during last DIMDEX show in Doha and recently seen photos of the corvettes being fitted out.
Photos courtesy Leonardo