Air Defense: King Of The CIWS

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November 10, 2012: The British Royal Navy ordered another five American Phalanx CIWS (Close In Weapons Systems) for their warships. These are mounted on ships to shoot down incoming missiles or hit small surface craft. Each of the new Phalanx systems will cost about $12 million. Over the last two decades Phalanx has replaced Goalkeeper, a similar but heavier system the Royal Navy adopted in the 1980s. The navy has been receiving the new 1B version of Phalanx, which has a number of improvements, including an infrared (heat) sensor to complement the existing radar. This enables Phalanx to detect and hit boats and slow moving missiles. For the last six years Britain has been upgrading its older Phalanx systems to the 1B standard.

Meanwhile, the Royal Navy is selling the fifteen 30mm Goalkeeper autocannon systems it bought 25 years ago. The sale is necessary because the weapons are on ships that were recently, or are about to be, retired. Goalkeeper was purchased after the 1982 war in the Falklands, where several British ships were lost because they lacked anti-missile defenses. While Goalkeeper proved satisfactory, no more were purchased. Instead, the American Phalanx was used and is still being bought for new ships. Phalanx weighs a third less (at 6.2 tons) and has a longer range (4 kilometers). But the main reason for favoring Phalanx is because there are many more Phalanx in service. This means more frequent updates and upgrades. Phalanx also has a better record of effectiveness and reliability. Some 800 Phalanx systems have been built and are in use by 25 nations.

Goalkeeper is a 9.9 ton system (including 1,190 rounds of ammo). The system actually uses seven 30mm barrels that, together, can fire up to 70 rounds a second. The Dutch designed and built Goalkeeper uses the American GAU-8 autocannon, the same one used in the U.S. Air Force A-10 ground attack aircraft. Goalkeeper is very similar to the U.S. Phalanx system. Both systems entered service in 1980. Both use built in radar that has software that enables the system to be turned on and automatically fire on any fast (as an anti-ship missile) approaching object. Goalkeeper can hit targets out to 2,000 meters away and its radar has a range of 30 kilometers.

There is a market for second-hand weapons of this type, especially for navies that do not have anti-missile weapons on some of their ships and want to obtain that kind of protection inexpensively. There are nine other of these CIWS on the market, but Phalanx is the most popular. The next most common are Russian CIWS (and Chinese copies).

 

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