June 21, 2007 The role of the Navy has changed with the U.S. "War on Terror" - it is seldom involved in direct naval battles and much more often relegated to support of invading (liberating?) land and air forces. Thus, munitions are being designed to suit. BAE Systems' Advanced Gun Systems (AGS) are currently under construction and will redefine the state of the art for naval firepower. The vertically loaded, pivoting gun towers will launch 155mm standard and guided munitions to a range of approximately 100 miles, with accuracy between 20 and 50 metres and at a rate of up to 12 rounds per minute.
BAE systems have won a US$275 million, 7-year contract to build the AGS units, which will be fitted to the U.S. Navy's futuristic DDG 1000 Zumwalt Class destroyers which will run two AGS units each.
The Zumwalt destroyers are a marvel in themselves - conceived as a technological showpiece and testing unit as much as a functional destroyer. Despite its large size, the ship's tumblehome inward sloping hull allows it the radar profile of a small fishing boat. Its electric Permanent Magnet Motor and Integrated Power System gives it ten times the available power of current destroyers and contribute to a stealthy thermal and sound signature. In addition to the twin AGS units it will carry a Peripheral Vertical Launch System capable of firing a range of devastating missiles at air, land, sea or submarine targets.
The twin AGS units, firing at maximal rates, will offer a similar level of firepower to a battery of 12 155mm howitzers. A water-cooled barrel will help extend the life of the barrel under high-intensity usage, as the gun is expected to be able to fire an entire magazine of 350 or more rounds without recovery time through a completely automated, self-loading magazine. The rotating turret is designed to be stealthy as well - it allows the entire barrel to be retracted and enclosed within the turret housing when not in use.
While the AGS will use the same 155mm caliber as most U.S. field artillery, it will not be built to support the existing ammunition. Instead, a new range of specialized ammunition is in development, including both standard 200lb ballistic projectiles and advanced 225lb Long Range Land Attack Projectiles, which are guided during flight for maximal long-range accuracy and body angle-controlled for above-ground explosions and maximal local lethality.
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