RAPIDFire autonomous air defense turret can take down drone swarms
To counter increasingly dangerous low-level, close-quarters surface and aerial threats, Nexter and Thales have unveiled the latest version of the RAPIDFire autonomous gun turret at the Euronaval 2022 naval defense exhibition in Paris.
Ever since the first shield was constructed to ward off the first spear, military technology has been a constant arms race between offensive and defensive systems. Every new way to attack prompts the development of a new way to defend (and vice versa).
Today, the emergence of asymmetric warfare often sees billion-dollar assets like warships facing cheap yet deadly threats like drones, small watercraft, floating mines, loitering munitions, as well as the higher level threats like supersonic missiles and fighter bombers.
Developed as part of a temporary consortium by Nexter and Thales, RAPIDFire is designed to autonomously and automatically seek out, acquire, lock onto, and destroy threats on both land and sea. For rapid engagements, it has 140 rounds in a ready rack, which is enough for around 30 interceptions.
RAPIDFire is built around CTA International's 40-mm gun suite, ammunition, and sighting system housed inside a small armored turret. It can handle CTAI's telescoped munitions and is configured for the future Anti Aerial Airburst (A3B) round that cannot be jammed, decoyed or triggered by clutter as it deals with airborne targets.
In addition, the remotely-operated turret has a high-precision optronic fire control system from Thales with multispectral sight and high-rate laser rangefinder, and can automatically select the appropriate ammunition to counter multiple threats.
According to the partners, this allows RAPIDFire to deal with surface threats or drones, either individually or in swarms, as well as multiple missiles that may be launched in an attempt to overwhelm defense by means of a saturation attack. It can also counter fighter jets, attack helicopters, and missiles at a range of up to 4,000 m (2.4 miles) with minimal collateral damage.
The RAPIDFire is scheduled to be deployed next year for sea qualifications aboard the French Navy's fleet replenishment tanker Jacques Chevallier. For land use, the system can be adapted to the CAESAR MkII truck chassis and other platforms.
The video below shows off the capabilities of RAPIDFire.