Finmeccanica is proposing that the OTO Melara 76mm gun be configured onto the Navy’s Littoral Combat Ship as part of an effort to improve the lethality and survivability of the shallow-water , multi-mission vessel.
The naval artillery piece would replace the existing 57mm weapon now on board the LCS, per the existing proposal, said Eric Lindenbaum, vice president of Navy and Maritime programs for DRS Technologies. OTO Melara and DRS Technologies are both subsidiaries for the Italian defense company, Finmeccanica SpA.
Amidst an ongoing effort to develop alternative proposals for a new small surface combatant, Navy officials are busy exploring ways to make the LCS a more survivable and lethal platform. A task force has been stood up to study requirements and technologies aimed at modifying the LCS or coming up with a new ship design.
Per direction from Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, who decreased the LCS ship contracted buy from 52 down to 32 ships, the Navy is looking to find new solutions to make the LCS more survivable.
The OTO Melara 76mm weapon is currently on many Navy frigates. It is not surprising that a weapon used on a frigate would be proposed for the LCS because Hagel suggested that the alternative proposals for a new or modified LCS be modeled after a frigate.
The weapon would bring much greater range and lethality to the LCS compared to the existing weapons system, Lindenbaum added. In particular, the OTO Melara 76mm weapon, called a three-inch gun, can reach ranges out to 22 nautical miles, whereas the existing 57mm gun has a range of eight to ten miles.
“Fifty-six different navies have a 76mm weapon. The U.S. is one of those 56, however what this means is that 55 other navies can outgun the LCS,” Lindenbaum said.
In addition, the OTO Melara has a water-cooled barrel which allows the weapon to stay cool and keep firing for longer periods of time compared to the 57mm weapon. Without a water cooled barrel, a weapon is likely to overheat after shooting a certain amount of rounds and need to therefore stop firing.
“This is a tactical advantage. The heat is dissipated through the water cooling system. The OTO Melara 76mm gun can shoot thousands of rounds during a sustained engagement,” Lindenbaum said.
The OTO Melara can shoot a variety of different ammunition from point-detonate to delayed fuses and proximity fuses, he added.