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Thales RAPIDFire

With the proliferation of unmanned aerial vehicles there is an obvious demand for a system that can shoot them down without using quarter of a million pound missiles.

Recognising this, Thales have developed the RAPIDFire, using the 40mm CTA cannon that will arm the FRES Scout and Warrior.

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Of course, I would prefer to see a demountable system that can use any suitable truck, be moved between them should the vehicle be unserviceable and also used in the C-RAM role in a fixed location.

And why not mounted on a ship?

But that is being greedy!

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27 Responses

  1. Rapid in name but not by nature it seems, the rate of fire I have seen video of this system using seems awfully slow for an anti air or C-RAM weapon, unless of course you only want it to shoot slow UAV’s but that seems an awful waste. I know 40mm is not a small round but is there anything that might edge this out over just plonking a 40mm or 57mm Bofors on the back of a truck? as they have the 3GP smart round already in production, whereas I don’t believe the CTA has any smart rounds yet.

  2. Will FRES Scout and Warrior be able to engage UAV’s with their CTWS effectively?

  3. TOC – they may do, but as I understand it each turret has dual ammo feeds each of single nature, at the moment I would guess in a fighting situation that would be AP and the contact detonating HE? The air-burst is now a third nature (was originally meant to be a combined point contact & air burst fuse in the HE round) so may not be in the feed system. Also not sure the elevation would exceed 55-60 degrees; perhaps for AA work a higher elevation would be helpful.

  4. I’d like to know what this has that isn’t present on already existing platforms with guns that can damage small UAV’s.

    So perhaps rather than having another vehicle rolling around just for shooting down small UAV’s and not being much use at any thing else, would it be possible to install some small radar or optical kit on anything with a turret, eg the warrior/FRES turret or even smaller platforms like .50 remote weapon stations?

  5. @Chris – I know that CTA was touted as having good elevation as it doesn’t extend far into the turret – loading is off to the side. Whether that allows for more than your ~60 degree estimate I don’t know. In the right turret you could probably get up to vertical, assuming the ammo feed could keep up (I’m thinking unmanned naval, rather than AFV).

    I agree that now having three ammo natures (AA Airburst makes 4) when everyone had assumed dual-feed is…interesting… though! And of course discarding sabots aren’t terribly dismount friendly either, so it sounds like we have a ‘proper’ British AFV armament (i.e. a shambles) – can’t be giving those gunners an easy ride now, can we?

    @TD – I think Ashley has a point. Rapidfire is a solution in search of a problem – can’t replace Phalanx for the high-end threats (or is not proven to yet) and you’d need a strong cost/benefit analysis to get the Navy to invest over their current tried, tested & navalised autocannons. Shoeing a bunch of RIBs in a firing test might do it though! And the whole cased ammo thing might be quite suitable for shipboard use, which would make them happy.
    Might be a nice complement for Phalanx too, though if you can get Raytheon & Thales to play nice and integrate on firing control I’ll eat my hat.

    Does raise the potential for a Scout Air Defence (ala Linebacker) variant whacking a radar and some Starstreak on the turret. Would be a nice capability, and doesn’t loose much ‘fightyness’ over SV, assuming you can switch the ammo natures. FLAADS/CAAM is your big stick, Scout AD does your UAV/Heli short range stuff, whilst still being able to put a 40mm APFSDS-T (or HVM hittiles!) into anyone that takes exception.

  6. Wow! I just had a thought! What if one took a modified Goalkeeper system and vehicle mounted it? Since everything seems to be getting heavier anyway, a turret could be mounted on a surplus or retired tank hull or a bigger truck (8X8 or 10X10 HEMTT) than in the video. There wouldn’t be any concerns about a too slow rate of fire!

  7. Slightly – the limiting factor with elevation isn’t the back end of the breech (my assumption*) but the elevation at which the mantlet and its recoil shroud bumps into the turret roofplate armour (and of course the end-stops on the elevation drive system and balance spring). It looks sort of 60 degree capable to me, but that’s from the limited amount of imagery released of the development turrets. Scout’s turret I think will end up much like the latest version that’s been shown, Warrior FLIP turret I hear has some significant changes yet.

    As for Starstreak on vehicles – I have those in my set of vehicles, both wheeled and tracked. Not with radar though; as Starstreak has to ride a beam and the nominal method of tracking the beam is to boresight it on a EO/IR sensor (operator duty to keep the cross-hairs on the target) I’ve made the assumption the EO/IR sight is enough to pick up airborne threats.

    * That being said, the breech still does depress past the ring at high gun elevations; with the long forward overhang of the turret that might still present a limit?

  8. And knowing the irony of the universe, it’ll get creamed by an artillery round instead…

    I can see this as a dual role turret though, mount it on an IFV and you got infantry suppression and air defence in one box. Now lets’ talk about price. :P

  9. I think the ‘hail of 50cal’ from a multiple gun mount would probably be a much cheaper and faster solution. After all there are no end of the guns lying around.

  10. @Slightly Agricultural – That’s the 20mm Vulcan-based system. Goalkeeper uses the GAU-8 30mm gun. :D Longer range and more bang.

  11. Observer,

    Here is the box – the old ones can fire AHEAD, too.

    But each unit having its own radar makes it cumbersome and also expensive per unit. Now, put the one barrelled new thingy on an8x8 and the radar central unit on a third vehicle…maybeonemore for replenishment
    – now we are talking?

  12. “What if one took a modified Goalkeeper system and vehicle mounted it?”

    Been done:

    No, it wasn’t done and likely won’t be – for a reason. Goalkeeper is very different from Vulcan Phalanx by penetrating the deck. You cannot simply bolt it onto a semi-trailer like Vulcan Phalanx (=Centurion).
    Any such thing would require a major redesign.

    But here’s some food for thought: Today’s SPGs (L/52) are the ballistic equivalents of WW2 super-heavy AAA projects.
    Their maximum elevation is approx. 70°.
    German 155 mm L/52 was tested in the C-RAM role and apparently successful enough that there’s an AGM brochure boasting C-RAM potential (they would likely not do this if they had had embarrassing results).

  13. ACC, I know that individual radar units per vehicle drives up the cost in a really crazy way, but interlinking the units like that simply turns it into a SAM site with guns instead of SAMs. I was hoping for a more independent design that can deploy with the units in the front without losing any of their anti-armour/infantry flexibility.

    Yeomanry, 0.5 cal used to be used for AA, but that sort of died off, too inefficient. You need heaps of 0.5 for the effect of a single one of those AHEAD shells. Besides, the fire control unit (aka the radar) is already so big that trying to save on the size and weight of the gun is a bit redundant. TBH, up till today, I’ve never known if what they taught us then (“aim 2 planes length ahead”) was actually any good. I have my suspicions that the answer would have been “no”.

  14. Slightly Agricultural

    Vulcan Phalanx is NOT high end of anything in the naval air defense realm it was pretty obsolescencent against big supersonic cold war era Soviet missiles. It’s round is pretty anemic and is now more of an anti-swarm weapon for use against small boats. A 40 mm CUP air bursting round with much longer range would be a much better option; especially on ships carrying CAMM.

  15. In naval circles, most gun based defences are already less than optimal in the anti-missile role due to their range limits and missile improvements, the buggers are going way too fast for guns to stop any more. There have been tests with target drones that had the destroyed drone skip off the water surface and slam into the vessel causing damage and a fatality, think it was the Antrim.

  16. Phalanx, I agree is far less effective against the current generation of AShMs but seems to have gained a new role against small agile boats that stray to near a platform. Sea Ram is often touted as a cost effective alternative but it must require more careful placement due to the back blast from the missile launch I would think. The location of the Phalanx on the T-45s for example put them possibly too close to the super structure. Speaking of the T-45, the Airfix kit is of the vessels fully kitted out with Phalanx and Harpoon and looks alot meaner than the real thing!

    Regarding dealing with UAVs etc, that was one of the roles designed into Starstreak and it is more than capable of dealing with them except those that are too high and the 35mm is even more restricted. Bring on CAAM and A2A UCAVs or fit two ASRAAM to a Reaper loitering over the battlefield!

  17. I think guns can still be a last line of defence against missiles, but if you look at the US Navy, they are quietly sidelining the 20mm Gatling in favour of the 57mm Bofors. In other words, bigger gun, greater reach.

  18. @ S O:
    “No, it wasn’t done and likely won’t be – for a reason. Goalkeeper is very different from Vulcan Phalanx by penetrating the deck. You cannot simply bolt it onto a semi-trailer like Vulcan Phalanx (=Centurion).”

    Actually, it pretty much has been done, look at the Chinese LD-2000, which is the land based version of their Type 730 CIWS. This is effectively a Chinese near-copy of Goalkeeper, with not too much difference… The LD-2000 took this, and did bolt it onto a semi-trailer!

    Personally, I like the idea of giving as many of the vehicles as possible a basic self defence capability with their RWS. This need only be a basic ability with an IR sensor, and a .50cal. This would be a very basic austere anti-UAV capability, though potentially useful for a lot of other roles. If you can elevate your .50cal up to 80°, then you can hit back at urban rooftop targets. This is something that is arguably necessary for fighting in urban areas.

    I do like the Rapidfire, but I would really much rather have the Skyshield/Millennium gun, ideally to replace Phalanx on ships too. The one thing that does make me wonder about getting the RapidFire is the potentially low(ish) weight.

    If we could replace both Phalanx and the DS-30s with them, and prove them properly for CIWS, then that would be great. It would mean that we would be talking about four RapidFire mounts per Type 45 (replacing two Phalanx and two DS-30s), and giving the minehunters a basic CIWS capability.

    The key here would be cost, since they would need to be reasonably cheap if we are to adopt them wholesale. If the price were reasonable, and they could be stuck on Piranha for use on the frontline, then we’d be getting an excellent capability boost.

    I think it’s a little worrying that air defence does seem to have been so low on the priority list for many years. We deployed in 1982 against an enemy that had a good air defence system, i.e. Skyguard. We, on the other hand, had Rapier, with suitably mixed results, and arguably paid the price for it. Even after that experience, we didn’t adopt Skyguard ourselves, or equivalent. Other nations had advanced systems, tying together 35mm guns and short range SAMs (Aspide), and many also fielded HAWK, and later Patriot. Not without flaws, of course, but better to have a moderately good SAM system than none at all.
    We could easily solve this, by adopting the already designed SAMP-T Aster 30, or equally the completely off the shelf NASAMS II, either of which would use an in service missile. It should be possible to tie together RapidFire, StarStreak, CAMM and Aster 30.

  19. @Kent & SO –
    I know Goalkeeper is a different beast, it was more to say the concept has been tried. Centurion was apparently successful, though I heard it rained shrapnel on the local populus!

    @Jed – always though Phalanx was supposed to be pretty hot, and the new block upgrade helps, but I wouldn’t be surprised if you’re right. Hence the Sea Wolf upgrade and Sea Ceptor.

    The problem with CTA as an air defence weapon is money. You’d need spades of it to qualify the ammunition against threats, design a naval turret and work up some kind of fire control. Can’t see the Navy finding any soon, and getting them to agree how much the Army or JFC should chip in for any development would be…fun. Which would be a pity, because it could have a lot of potential and ticks the political box for UK/French collaboration.

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