5 inch Naval Gun Ammunition

Since 1992, when it retired the last of its battleships, the Navy's surface fire support capabilities have been limited to 5-inch/54 caliber guns and munitions that lack adequate range, accuracy, and lethality. Targeting and fire control are still done manually, and the Navy acknowledges that the communications links between fire support ships and their customers are inadequate. A growing threat from sea-skimming antiship missiles is forcing fire support ships to operate at ever increasing ranges from shore, further limiting the utility of existing guns.

The Land Attack Technology program element supports the Naval Surface Fire Support (NSFS) mission. In order to meet the United States Marine Corp (USMC) requirements for NSFS in support of Operational Maneuver from the Sea (OMFTS), the Navy is developing a variety of weapons systems including both gun and missile systems that can provide the required range, lethality, accuracy, and responsiveness. The NSFS program (Project 32156/32624) develops gun systems including the 5"/62 gun (a modification of the existing 5"/54 gun); a 5" Extended Range Guided Munition (ERGM) with a coupled internal Global Positioning System (GPS) and Inertial Navigation System (INS) capable of delivering a payload to a range in excess of current capability; demonstration of a Low Cost Guidance and Electronic Unit (LCGEU); and associated propelling charge improvements. The funding profile also supports the development of an Extended Range Munition (ERM) for use in existing 5"/54 MK45 Mod 2 guns. The Autonomous Naval Support Round (ANSR) (Project 39052) is a rolling airframe platform to be used to demonstrate/advance gunlaunched guided projectile technologies.

As of late 2004 the expected fielding of the ERGM system for use in upgraded 5-inch guns on current destroyers and cruisers had been delayed from 2001 to possibly as late as 2011. Problems on the ERGM, which has been under development since 1996, led to test failures and delays. The Navy has awarded a contract to a different company for developing an alternative technology.

Navy funds in FY2006 provide for the development of two separate 5" guided projectiles; the Extended Range Guided Munition (ERGM) and the Ballistic Trajectory Extended Range Munition (BTERM) as part of the ERM demonstration. ERGM is being executed as a formal ACAT program while ERM is a demonstration project via a Broad Agency Announcement. Both were executed through the end of FY05. In FY06, a full and open competition will be held to select a single 5" guided projectile for System Development and Demonstration leading to an Initial Operational Capability in FY11.

Land-, air-, and sea-based components form the "fires triad" that is used to support Marine Corps amphibious assault operations. The sea-based part of the fires triad is referred to as Naval Surface Fire Support (NSFS). From World War II until the Persian Gulf War in 1991, NSFS resided mainly in the capability of the 16-inch guns on the Navy's Iowa class battleships. The thick armor of these battleships and the 24-nautical-mile range of their 16-inch guns gave the battleships increased survivability in high-threat scenarios. The last Iowa class battleship was decommissioned in 1992.

Their retirement left a void in the NSFS part of the fires triad. To field a replacement NSFS capability, the Navy developed a two-phased plan in 1994. In the near-term to midterm, it would modify the capability of 5-inch guns on existing destroyers and cruisers, and develop extended-range guided munitions for the modified 5-inch gun. In the far term, it would field a sufficient number of new destroyers fitted with an even-longer range advanced gun system and ultimately a very-long-range electromagnetic gun or "Rail Gun."

In 1996, congressional authorizers became concerned that the Navy would not be able to produce a replacement NSFS capability comparable to the battleships until well into the twenty-first century. In that year's Defense Authorization Act,1 the Congress directed the Secretary of the Navy to restore at least two Iowa class battleships to the naval vessel registry until a capability was developed equal to or greater than that provided by the battleships. By 1999 the Navy had placed the Iowa and Wisconsin battleships back on the naval vessel registry and has been maintaining them in an inactive state since then.

The Navy's fielding of a replacement NSFS capability has been delayed. The near-term and midterm efforts to extend the range of munitions fired from the 5-inch guns on its cruisers and destroyers have been delayed from 2001 to possibly as late as 2011, but other program options have been discussed including the option of canceling or reducing the extended-range munitions program to fund development of another gun system. Far-term plans to help fill the NSFS gap by 2015 using a new destroyer with advanced gun systems were revised in 2001 to employ a different destroyer concept - the DD(X). As of 2005 the Navy currently expected sufficient numbers of DD (X) destroyers to be ready to help fill the NSFS gap by 2018 at the earliest.

The role of naval surface fire support has been evolving in tandem with the Navy's amphibious assault doctrine, and for well over a decade, since the decommissioning of the last of the Iowa class battleships, both the Navy and Marine Corps have strived to address the specifics of how to fulfill NSFS requirements. Until recently, these services have had difficulty with reconciling their respective positions. Operational requirements documents for several systems, such as the new destroyer, that will contribute to the NSFS mission have been developed.

On several occasions, the Marine Corps has specified to the Navy what they believe the replacement NSFS capability should be and the timing of the capability. However, no single document has ever addressed the overall capabilities and the balance between different systems that will be required to provide effective, continuous, and sustainable supporting fire for increasingly capable expeditionary forces operating ashore.

Although no formal NSFS requirement currently exists, in August 2004, the Navy and Marine Corps agreed on an approach to correct the problem by formally agreeing to develop an Initial Capabilities Document (ICD) that would address the overall capabilities needed for naval fire support. The goal of this ICD is to document and address the overall capabilities required of naval fire support. This will assist in determining the most effective and efficient balance of capabilities and in determining the cumulative offensive power that naval forces must be capable of generating.

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