Intended to equip the Ajax reconnaissance and Warrior infantry fighting vehicles, the Cased Telescoped Armament System (CTAS) comprises the CT Cannon, Ammunition Handling System, Controller, Gun Control Equipment, Gun Mount and a range of ammunition natures.
It will also equip a number of French Army vehicles, the system as a whole being the result of a joint development programme and joint BAE/NEXTER venture called CTA International.
Cases telescoped ammunition was conceived by the USAF in the mid-fifties for use as an aircraft weapon;
Despite US research activity, it would be the UK and France that would go on to bring into service a cased telescoped automatic cannon.
The Combat Vehicle Armament Technology (COMVAT) programme was intended to produce an improved M2 Bradley with a 30mm-50mm version of the cased telescoped weapon developed by ARES. Ultimately this was the 45mm version. ARES would go on to develop the 45mm ammunition for their Rarefaction Wave Gun Programme project.
Recognising the approaching obsolescence of the 30mm RARDEN cannon, the MoD started a series of trade studies in order to develop the concept for a medium calibre weapon to replace it, one suitable to deal with the emerging Russian combat vehicles.
These trade studies prompted GIAT and Royal Ordnance to explore options for a collaborative development programme, building on work completed by GIAT in the late eighties and early nineties in 0.5″ and 35mm calibres.
A Royal Ordnance and GIAT 45mm Cased Telescoped Weapon System (CTWS) demonstrator was completed in 1991 with the prototype the following year. This demonstrator had some input from the ARES 45mm weapon that had been in development in the USA.
The CTWS was intended for TRACER, a mid-life Warrior upgrade and the French VAD.
1992, Staff Target (Land) 4061, more commonly known as TRACER, Tactical Reconnaissance Armoured Combat Equipment Requirement was to be the new CVR(T) replacement. TRACER was now to utilise the 45mm CTWS.
1994, the joint development concept was formalised by the creation of a 50/50 Joint Venture between GIAT and Royal Ordnance called Cased Telescoped Ammunition International or CTAI for short.
The US Department of Defense Inspector General released a technical evaluation in 1996 on cased telescoped ammunition, it was less than fulsome in its praise.
In the same period, the US Army started looking at a replacement for its Bradley M3 in Cavalry squadrons, and the M1114 HMMWV ‘Humvee’ in scout platoons, in a programme called the Future Scout Cavalry System (FSCS). The TRACER and FSCS programmes were subsequently harmonised and a joint project created. Both nations requirements would be met by a single vehicle, the Armoured Scout and Reconnaissance Vehicle (ASRV). It is important to note, for the avoidance of confusion, that both programmes continued to be referred to, in their home nations, by their original titles: TRACER and FSCS. The intended end product of both programmes was the ASRV which, if successful, would be produced in both nations.
The Armoured Scout and Reconnaissance Vehicle was specified in a Memorandum of Understanding signed by the US and the UK in July 1998, the original Operational Requirements Document having being agreed in December 1997. Although a common vehicle was envisaged, the British Army had an additional requirement for their variant to be equipped with a long-range anti-tank missile. This was intended to provide overwatch for vehicles deployed forward without protection from main battle tanks.
France and Germany both requested observer status on TRACER although neither had a comparable requirement.
Contracts for an initial study phase were signed with two consortia, each composed of a mix of UK and US companies, in January 1999. The mix of UK and US companies was intended to facilitate an equal work share between the native industries of the two nations.
In 1997 the decision was made to move the calibre to 40mm and rename it the CT2000 (rather optimistically, as it would turn out to be).
Two years later, in 1999, further interest from the USA resulted in a representative turret containing the 40mm CTAS integrated onto a US Army Bradley infantry fighting vehicle.
Firing trials were conducted soon after.
In April 2001, a statement to the House of Parliament revealed that the future of the US FSCS was in doubt, describing how the new Future Combat System (FCS) vision as envisioned by General Shinseki in 1999 would need funding and some programmes would be cut to make room for it, one of these was the follow-on engineering development phase of FSCS/TRACER.
At the DSEi show in London in September 2001, a SIKA representative said;
In October 2001, a statement was made to Parliament that in a joint US/UK decision, TRACER would come to a close at the end of the assessment phase in July 2002. The information gained would be used to inform FCS and FRES respectively, both programmes were to effectively absorb TRACER and FSCS.
TRACER and FSCS were no more although that the development programme would see out its contracted funding and allow the consortia show the fruits of their considerable labours.
Total cost to the UK was confirmed at £131 million
TRACER technology demonstrations took place towards the end of the programme in June and July 2002 involving the prototype vehicles from each consortium.
The composite image above show the LANCER TRACER demonstration vehicle, sharp-eyed readers will note two slightly different turrets. The image top left is at United Defense in the US, they produced the chassis and shipped it to the UK for fitting the sensor and turret systems. The others show a dummy turret.
The SIKA demonstrator is shown below.
They were widely regarded as impressive vehicles and included many advanced concepts such as a hybrid electrical drive that provided a limited silent capability, band tracks from Soucy, 5m mast mounted elevating sensors, unmanned turrets, open electronic architectures, single crew pod and of course, the 40mm Cased Telescopic Ammunition (CTA) cannon from CTAI.
TRACER provided a glimpse into the future but although the vehicles were reportedly very impressive, the impression I get from reading what sparse materials are available on the subject is that the massive leaps forward were probably too much for a single programme to sustain. Every aspect was a huge advance; armour, propulsion, weapons, ergonomics and above all, the sensors and sensor fusion. FSCS was also criticised because it sought to reduce the overall personnel numbers in US Cavalry organisations, especially dismounted personnel, and it was feared that technology was driving doctrine, not the other way around, perhaps a fair criticism.
The US withdrew from TRACER in favour of the Future Combat System (FCS).
With the US gone, the UK had a choice, it could well have stayed with the programme and comments about it being unaffordable without US participation are only partly true but before it had chance to complete, the UK was already in love with its own version of FCS, The Future Rapid Effect System (FRES).
And that was the end of TRACER.
The CTWS 40 was still in development under separate contracts, so it was not impacted by the cancellation of TRACER, it was still intended for Warrior and future French vehicles, and no doubt, FRES.
Various testing activities continued, icing, resistance to impact and fire, aircraft carriage and compound angle firing, for example.
Although not specifically aimed at any one vehicle the Manned Turret Integration Programme (MTIP) was a technology demonstrator working on the integration of the 40mm CTWS and a number of different sensors. A demonstration contract was placed with Cased Telescoped Ammunition International (CTAI) to complete risk reduction demonstrations on a manned turret, feed systems and other sub-systems.
CTA was required to demonstrate the CTWS in a manned turret fitted to a Warrior by the end of 2006. The French Délégation Général pour l’Armement (DGA) also placed a contract with CTA for an unmanned turret called TOUTATIS, again, to be trialled on Warrior.
MTIP and TOUTATIS, shown below, left and right.
CTA had been working on turret integration since 2003 and had demonstrated early models of both turrets on Warrior, the manned turret providing Level IV protection at a weight of 3.8 tonnes and the unmanned turret providing Level III protection but at the much lower weight of 1.5 tonnes. The unmanned turret also had all the ammunition within the turret and a simpler feed mechanism, carrying capacity was 68 rounds, compared to 42 for the manned turret.
The Objective Future Cannon Programme (OFCP) was initiated in 2002, a joint programme between the UK MoD and French DGA. This defined the future programme activities and a number of key user requirements and specification;
- Rate of Fire 200 Shots per minute
- Fire two ammunition types selectable <3s
- Remote operation
- Low integration volume <80 litres total swept volume
- Dispersion > <0,35 mil APFSDS > <1 mil GPR
- Minimum Fatigue Safety Life 10,000 rounds
- Operates in safety –46°C to +63°C
- Satisfies prevailing UK MoD and French DGA safety standards
- STANAG 4439 insensitive
- Reliability >98%
- Supports ‘coincidence’ fire control solution
The first firing demonstration of the CTAS on a Warrior was in January 2002, in the ‘Xena’ turret, shown below.
The original intent was that the 40mm CTAS would be central to the Warrior Fightability and Lethality Improvement Programme (WFLIP) but in 2005, the MoD announced a competition, as they do, despite the significant investment in the CTAS since the early nineties. The competition originally specified a minimum calibre of 35mm but this was subsequently changed to 30mm to allow other guns to compete.
Competing bidders included General Dynamics with a version of their Mk46 turret, as fitted to the proposed USMC Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle and now used in naval applications, Selex offered a Mk 44 Bushmaster in the Oto Melara HITFIST turret, Lockheed Martin/Rheinmetall, a modification of the existing Warrior turret and CTAI/BAE, the 40mm CTAS in MTIP-2, obviously.
Additional firing trials were carried out in 2004 at Ridsdale Ranges.
France and the UK agreed on a common certification process for the 40mm CTWS in March 2006.
In April 2008, the MoD announced that the CTA International 40mm CTWS had been selected for both the Warrior and FRES Scout, although the MoD chose not to select a turret design.
General Dynamics withdrew from the competition, leaving Selex, BAE and Lockheed Martin, all but one now facing the prospect of redesigning their turrets to include the mandated 40mm CTAS. Selex withdrew later in the year, leaving Lockheed Martin and BAE to slug it out.
At the June Eurosatory show, BAE showed their self-funded MTIP 2 turret on a Warrior chassis. The MTIP 2 turret was a brand new design with a fully stabilised 40mm CTWS applique armour package that provided the same protection level as the hull.
As can be seen, the original MTIP and later BAE MTIP-2 turrets are clearly different.
By the end of 2009, after Lockheed Martin had been awarded a study contract to investigate a common Warrior/FRES turret, it became clear that there would, in fact, need two turret variants, one for Warrior, and the other optimised for the recce role.
BAE and General Dynamics promoted their respective entries for FRES SV at the beginning of 2010, BAE emphasised the benefits of a common turret, although with slight differences depending on the role.
General Dynamics offered a modification of the Austrian-Spanish Cooperative Development (ASCOD) vehicle which was in service with Spain and Austria, as the Pizarro and Ulan respectively.
BAe offered a shortened CV90, claimed to be fully developed and available in the flesh, although to what extent readiness extended under the skin was not clear. The basic vehicle was to be constructed at Hagglund in Sweden and shipped to Newcastle for final assembly and integration. This was later proven to be a political miscalculation, although using the existing CV90 production line made perfect financial sense.
Outwardly there was little to distinguish the two, both used already in service infantry fighting vehicles of nineties origin as the base platform and both were equipped with the mandated 40mm CTA cannon, a range of C4ISTAR, protection and various automotive upgrades.
BAE announced their investment a £4.5 million in a Turret Test Rig for both Warrior and FRES programmes in February 2010.
Further development and qualification of the 40mm CTA weapon were agreed by France and the UK in February.
March 2010 saw the announcement that General Dynamics had been selected for FRES SV Recce Block 1, or more specifically, selected as preferred bidder.
General Dynamics said;
It emerged that General Dynamics would use a turret provided by Lockheed Martin, the actual design based on the Rheinmetall LANCE medium calibre turret.
With the election out of the way, the MoD and General Dynamics announced successful negotiations in June 2010 and the award of a £500 million contract for the Demonstration and Manufacture phase of FRES SV Recce Block 1.
In February/March 2010, alongside FRES, the MoD was also considering the future of the Warrior Capability Sustainment Project (WCSP), a competition between BAE and Lockheed Martin. Lockheed Martin proposed an upgrade of the existing Warrior turret and BAE, their MTIP 2 design,
In late March 2010, the MoD Investment Approvals Board recommended a year-long delay to WCSP.
At the September 2011 DSEi show, FRES SV was shown for the first time, at least, a representative prototype. It is about this point at which you stop seeing references to FRES, no longer is it FRES SV, it is just SV. FRES as a concept was dead, there was no wake, no funeral, it was just shuffled out the back door.
Lockheed Martin was awarded the Warrior Capability Sustainment Programme (WCSP) contract in October 2010.
Demonstration was expected to cost £200 million and manufacture £642 million. WCSP was designed to extend the service life of Warrior to beyond 2040 by which time it would have been in service over 50 years, which kind of proves legacy platforms can be upgraded.
The upgrade includes a new turret and 40mm CTA weapon, Warrior Enhanced Electronic Architecture and Warrior Modular Protection System. The demonstration phase, at a cost of £200m, would upgrade eight section vehicles and three other variants ready for trials between 2013 and 2014. A production phase would follow that would upgrade 380 infantry fighting vehicles and other variants. Each Multi Role Brigade was to have 1 Battalion equipped with Warrior.
At this point, Lockheed Martin was still insisting an upgraded Warrior turret would be used for the WCSP vehicles.
A mock-up Scout was shown in 2012 with the new turret but basic ASCOD chassis and soon after, in a completely unrelated development, Japan tested a cased telescoped automatic cannon. Information is very thin on the ground on this and its relationship to the CTAI weapon (or not), but at least a video is available.
By the end of 2011, Lockheed Martin had been selected by General Dynamics to provide the Scout SV turret and by the MoD to provide the WCSP turret, as part of the wider programme.
Both, with different turrets, same main gun, though.
In summer 2013 a number of Warrior announcements were made;
A representative Scout prototype was shown soon after.
The Warrior Capability Sustainment Programme was also being shown off in the middle of 2013, after completing the initial design review.
Towards the end of 2013, news emerged of problems with the Scout turret. Defense News reported that General Dynamics had agreed to pay Lockheed Martin several million pounds in compensation for failing to keep to a timetable on requirement delivery. It also reported problems with weight growth and a delayed ISD. Defense Industry Daily has a concise summary of the Warrior upgrade programmes, click here to read.
After a series of successful design reviews and 40mm CTA qualification in early 2014, the WCSP achieved Initial Design Approval in January 2014. Qualification firings included the APFSDS-T and practice rounds.
General Dynamics and the MoD also released a new image of the Scout variant.
News emerged in 2014 that confirmed a decision by Lockheed Martin to abandon the Warrior turret conversion and proceed with a new turret design, this was no doubt cold comfort to BAE, who had insisted from the start that a new turret would be needed. The whole programme was ‘re-baselined’.
In 2015, the MoD finally placed a production order, although there was an announcement in 2015 for a £75m order
The deal with the joint BAE/NEXTER company CTA International was for £150m and will provide 515 weapons for the SV Scout and Warrior vehicles. The contract also included initial spares, test equipment, specialist tools and some training.
There will be 245 for the Scout and 245 for Warrior, the balance being used for training, trials and ammunition qualification.
Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said;
France has also selected the CTAS 40 for use on their EBRC (Engin Blindé de Reconnaissance et de Combat) vehicles that will replace the AMX-10RC and Sagaie vehicles, using a common 2 man turret, the T40. There was also some talk of a CT40 equipped Leclerc a few years ago, called the Leclerc T40, also proposed for the Engin Blindé de Reconnaissance à Chenille (EBRC) programme.
Nexter was in competition with Panhard with their Sphinx vehicle, fitted with yet another turret for the CT40 that has drawn on expertise from Lockheed Martin UK and Cockerill. Panhard no longer lists the Sphinx on their website.
The Nexter Jaguar (VBMR) will join the Griffon (EBRC) in the 5 Billion Euro Scorpion programme, announced in December 2014.
The 24 tonne Griffon will be obtained in personnel carrier, ambulance, command and control and artillery observation, to a maximum of 1,722 vehicles, delivery starting in 2018. A lighter 4×4 VBMR variant is also planned for delivery after 2021, replacing the PVP and VBL vehicles. The 25 tonne Jaguar will be obtained in a quantity of 248. The Scorpion programme also includes modernisation of the LeClerc Main Battle Tank that will extend it’s out of service date to 2040.
Nexter has also shown a VBCI-2 equipped with a T40 turret, the same turret that is used on their Engin Blindé de Reconnaissance et de Combat (EBRC) vehicles. If the UK does select the VBCI to satisfy the future Mechanised Infantry Vehicle (MIV) and chose the T40 equipped turret version, it will have three different turret designs, each equipped with the same weapon system.
Although the trials and tribulations of TRACER, FRES and Warrior have not significantly impacted the CTAS 40, there is no doubt that it has not been a smooth development, clearly, something that takes nearly 30 years to bring into service is not without problems, but by late 2015, qualification tests passed and a production contract awarded.
In early April 2016, AJAX completed it’s first instrumented static live firing at Radnor Ranges in Powys, Wales.
Commenting on the test, Senior Requirements manager for the AJAX Program, Lt. Col. David Cathro said;
Testing and qualification continued and in June 2016, the MoD issued a £12.9 million contract extension to CTAI for additional qualification.
In July 2016, Nexter announced the private development of a new turret family built around the CT40.
The MoD issued a contract amendment to CTAI for further qualification of the Target Practice Reduced Range round
The cost of this was 16.5 million Euros.
Capabilities and System Description
The CTAS is described by several components; 40mm CT Cannon (CTC), Ammunition Handling System (AHS), CTAS Controller (CTAS-C), Gun Control Equipment (GCE), Gun Mount and a range of ammunition.
The gun is designed to be compact.
As can be seen from the images below, the payload is fully contained within the case, this is what is meant by ‘case telescoped’, the main reason to do this is space efficiency.
CTAI are marketing six ammunition natures.
The first of these is the Armour Piercing Fin Stabilised Discarding Sabot – Tracer (APFSDS-T) that is designed to defeat armoured vehicles such as infantry fighting vehicles and legacy tanks (although thinking that it can defeat modern tanks would be incorrect, and possibly dangerous), able to penetrate 140 mm of RHA (Rolled Homogeneous Armour) at 1500 m.
The Target Practice Reduced Round – Tracer (TPRR-T), is used for training, is cheaper, and results in much less barrel wear. A normal range Target Practice – Tracer (TP-T) is also available.
There are two general purpose rounds, one point detonating (General Purpose Round – Point Detonating – Tracer (GPR-PD-T)) and the other providing an airburst capability (General Purpose Round – Point Detonating – Tracer (GPR-ab-T)) which can be used against troops on a reverse slope or behind light cover for example, it can also be used in point detonating mode.
The image below shows a fragmentation comparison between a 30mm airburst round (left) and the 40mm GPR-AB
The lethal area for the airburst nature at 1,500m is 125m2.
The point detonating nature can penetrate 210mm of reinforced concrete at 1,500m.
The Anti-Aerial Air Burst (A3B) has a longer range and a payload of tungsten pellets designed to defeat airborne targets.
Not all have these have yet been qualified but work continues to build on the initial qualification of the find and practice rounds.
The round is inserted into the breech block through the trunion and the rotating breech block then aligns it with the barrel, thus eliminating the need for flexible feed guides. There are a couple of variation but the UK version will have a dual feed system, most likely loaded with the APFDS and GPR, although other mixes may be used depending upon requirements. The system can swap from one to the in less than 3 seconds.
A fire control system designed and manufactured by Ultra is the final component of the system,
Anecdotally, the cost of the new ammunition is said to be ‘eye watering’, reliability and supportability have also yet to be determined in service.
Although work has recently concentrated on bringing the system into service CTAI have also carried out a number of studies on larger calibre (105mm), guided submunitions and a 12.7mm version.
Testing has also confirmed the suitability of the 40mm CTAS for use in remote and unmanned mounts, including dual/triple feed and non-penetrating options.
The image below shows a non-penetrating remote mount fitted to a French VAB combat vehicle.
CTAI have also proposed a number of naval applications for the CTAS but the most recent development is the Thales RAPIDFire system, designed to destroy helicopters, unmanned vehicles and combat aircraft.
The RAPIDFire vehicle can be integrated with a number of air defence systems and uses the specialised air defence ammunition that contained 200 tungsten pellets. Rather than using a very high rate of fire, RAPIDFire is designed to fire fewer but more effective air bursting rounds at the target. It can carry 140 rounds in the turret, ready to fire. Effective range is claimed to be 4,000m and up to 6 vehicles can be integrated with a single control module for wide area coverage, including fire control for Starstreak/HVM missiles. An independent EO/IR sensor can also be used with detection ranges in excess of 18km.
In 2013, Aviation Week reported interest in an aircraft version;
With Airbus recently reported to be interested in developing ISTAR/combat payload enhancements for the A400M and the recent success of the C-295 Gunship conversions for Jordan, this may be one to watch.
A Few Thoughts
Why has the UK and France persisted with this approach when there are many conventional options like Super 40, for example?
Quite simply, it is one of space, although additional armour piercing performance is always a good thing.
Modern vehicles need modern electronics, and contrary to popular belief, modern electronics, at least in combat vehicles, are not getting any smaller. Modern vehicles also need modern people, and modern people are larger and wear combat body armour, we also can no longer insist armoured vehicle crew are small in stature. All this places a premium on internal turret volume, so anything that reduces the volume of one of the main turret components simply means more room for ammunition, electronics and ergonomics i.e., a good thing.
This comes at a cost however, the CTAS is expensive (regardless of arguments about cost per stored kill) and unless others purchase it, only in service in relatively small numbers. The burden of ongoing qualification and development will fall disproportionately on France and the UK. There are wider arguments about the concept of operation for armoured infantry and reconnaissance forces and their need for such a high performance, and expensive, weapon, but they are outside the scope of this document.
Regardless of whether anyone thinks the CTAS is a good idea or not is irrelevant, to coin a phrase, we are where we are.
The question the UK faces is whether to double down, or carry on with the CTAS in service on just two vehicle types. In order to maximise commonality, realise economies of scale and provide confidence and impetus to an export campaign.
Export customers mean shared development costs and lower ammunition costs.