Surface Forces: German GPS Guided Shells


October 15, 2012: Five years after Germany ordered OTO/Melara 127mm/64 five inch gun for its new F125 frigates, the weapons have arrived. This 127mm "Lightweight Naval Gun Mount" is an automatic cannon that is operated by remote control. There is, in effect, no gun crew in the conventional sense. The gun system weighs 25 tons, including four magazines, so up to four different types of shells can be used (like high explosive, anti-aircraft rounds, or GPS guided ones). The gun can fire up to 35 rounds a minute. The gun barrel can be elevated 70 degrees. Standard unguided shells have a max range of 30 kilometers, while the Vulcano (GPS guided) version can hit targets over 100 kilometers away within 20 meters of its aiming point. The U.S. Navy spent nearly a decade and over $600 million to develop a similar guided shell and failed. There are doubts that Vulcano will succeed in being affordable and reliable. Tests have been successful so far, although the price is still high.

The four F125 frigates that will mount the "Lightweight Naval Gun Mount" displace 7,200 tons each. This is larger than some destroyers, but it's become unfashionable in Europe to call a warship a "destroyer." The F125s are 149.5 meters (490.6 feet) long and highly automated. They have a crew of 110, although there are accommodations for up to 190. This allows the ship to carry commandos, aid workers, or whatever. Actually, they have two crews, so the F-125s can stay at sea for long periods of time with the crews changing every four months. Armament consists of eight anti-ship missiles, two RAM anti-missile missile systems, one 127mm gun, four 27mm automatic cannon, four remotely controlled 12.7mm machine-guns, two manually controlled 12.7mm machine-guns, and water cannons. There are also two NH90 helicopters.

Germany ordered theF125 class frigates five years ago and the first will not enter service until 2016. These ships are unique in that they are optimized for peacekeeping and counter-terrorism missions. To that end they can stay at sea for up to two years at a time. Each ship will cost over $800 million.



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