The British Army has taken delivery of its first completely new cannon system in 50 years – and it loads sideways. This loading system on the new 40mm Cased Telescoped Cannon System, which was handed over to the British Ministry of Defence (MoD) in Bourges, France by CTA International (CTAI), is claimed to provide more firepower while saving space.

According to BAE Systems, which is a 50/50 partner in CTAI along with Nexter Systems, the delivery is the first of 515 40mm cannons for the British Army's Warrior and Ajax armored fighting vehicles. The new system has been in development since the 1990s and has undergone extensive testing.

The key to the new 40 mm gun is its Cased Telescoped ammunition. Instead of using traditional bullet-shaped rounds with the projectile upfront and a cannister of propellant behind, Cased Telescoped ammunition consists of a straight tube with the projectile inside the tube completely surrounded by propellant and a plug in front that provides a gas-tight seal to drag the shell along. BAE says that this gives the shell four times the power of the previous 30 mm round.

Currently, the Cased Telescoped rounds are available in armor piercing and training forms, but a practice tracer round, general purpose round-point penetrating, programmable airburst, and anti-aircraft rounds are under development.

As to the cannon itself, it uses a new rotating breech system, where the rounds are loaded at a 90-degree angle to the barrel, then rotated into firing position. Loading a new round ejects the spent tube outside the vehicle and the rotating breech allows for significant savings in space. The new 40 mm cannon takes up about the same space as the 30 mm it replaces, and allows more storage space for additional ammunition and more cabin space for the crew.

"This next-generation cannon has been developed through close Anglo-French collaboration and adds significantly to the capability of the UK and our NATO allies," says Minister of State for Defence Procurement Philip Dunne. "The delivery of the first cannon on our Ajax vehicles is another example of how our £178 billion investment in UK Defence is ensuring our Armed Forces have the equipment they need."

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