TechItalian navy's cost-effective strategy against Houthi drones

Italian navy's cost-effective strategy against Houthi drones

The view from the deck of the Italian frigate FREMM ITS Virginio Fasan, which shot down the Hutich drones using the Leonardo 76 mm Super Rapido cannon.
The view from the deck of the Italian frigate FREMM ITS Virginio Fasan, which shot down the Hutich drones using the Leonardo 76 mm Super Rapido cannon.
Images source: © X (formerly Twitter) | EUNAVFOR ASPIDES
12:04 PM EDT, May 1, 2024

Numerous warships, including those from the US Navy and European countries, protect Yemen's coasts. One notable example is the Italian frigate ITS Virginio Fasan, which has been successfully neutralizing Houthi drones at a surprisingly low cost. Here's an explanation of how this is achieved.

For several months, the Houthis have targeted vessels in the Red Sea with ballistic missiles, anti-ship missiles, and simple drones. The drones, primarily from the Qasef or Samad series, are inexpensive yet effective. The smaller Qasef drone, at 8.2 feet long and with a wingspan of 9.8 feet, can carry a payload of 66 pounds for up to 93 miles. The larger Samad model extends its range significantly, from 310 to an impressive 932 miles, accommodating payloads up to 88 pounds.

The challenge lies in intercepting these drones. Using missiles that cost millions of euros to shoot down low-cost drones that move slowly and predictably is far from cost-effective.

To address this, French and Italian naval forces have turned to the Leonardo OTO 76/62 mm Super Rapido (SR) naval guns, a more economical solution for drone defense. When armed with either standard fragmentation shells or precision DART (Driven Ammunition Reduced Time of flight) projectiles for distant targets, these guns have proven effective against drones without the hefty expense.

Naval cannon vs. drones: The Italian approach

The Leonardo OTO 76/62 mm Super Rapido naval guns are versatile weapons for many NATO vessels. Equipped with a fire control radar and a ballistic computer, these guns can eliminate ground and surface threats and aerial targets, including incoming anti-ship missiles, using DART ammunition.

These guided projectiles work similarly to those in the Starstreak system, releasing tungsten darts that obliterate a target through kinetic energy. With an effective range of about 5 miles, their cost, although in the tens of thousands of euros, is markedly less than that of CAMM or Aster-15/30 missiles.

Nevertheless, against simpler targets, the Italian frigate's crew could resort to conventional fragmentation shells, which are significantly cheaper at just a few thousand euros each. Despite a potentially lower range than DART projectiles, a few well-aimed shots can take down a predictably moving target.

The Leonardo OTO 76/62 mm Super Rapido gun boasts a lightweight, water-cooled design and weighs 17,416 pounds without ammunition. It can fire up to 120 rounds per minute and can hit targets up to 10 miles away with standard ammunition. The sub-caliber Vulcano 76 ammunition extends its range to 25 miles, making it a formidable part of the arsenal.

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