TechNATO ships counter Huthi drones with cost-effective gunfire in Red Sea

NATO ships counter Huthi drones with cost-effective gunfire in Red Sea

View from the deck of the French frigate FREMM, which shot down a Hutich drone using the Leonardo 76 mm Super Rapido cannon.
View from the deck of the French frigate FREMM, which shot down a Hutich drone using the Leonardo 76 mm Super Rapido cannon.
Images source: © X (formerly Twitter) | Armée française - Opérations militaires

5:29 PM EDT, March 11, 2024

The drones employed by the Huthis primarily belong to the Qasef or Samad series. The Qasef drone measures about 8.2 feet in length and has a wingspan of roughly 9.8 feet, boasting a range of 93 miles and a capacity to carry about 66 pounds of payload. On the other hand, the Samad is a larger model, with a range spanning from 310 to 932 miles and capable of carrying up to 88 pounds.

These drones are quite rudimentary, equipped with GPS and/or INS for navigation along a preset path, which limits their targets to stationary or very slowly moving objects.

Utilizing costly CAMM or Aster-15/30 missiles to shoot down such simplistic targets is viewed as unjustifiably extravagant. Consequently, French and Italian naval crews have, when feasible, transitioned to engaging drones with the 76/62 Super Rapido (SR) naval guns.
Remarkably, rather than employing precision DART ammunition, these operations use the more standard fragmentation-explosive rounds. Achieving hits with these rounds necessitates near-sniper precision, a challenge that the fire control systems and the proficiency of the crews have met successfully. The cost of such an engagement is significantly lower, amounting to just a few thousand euros.

Leonardo OTO 76/62 mm Super Rapido — a multi-purpose essential for NATO ships

The Leonardo OTO 76/62 mm Super Rapido naval gun has effectively become the go-to choice for NATO ships. This seawater-cooled design weighs 17,416 pounds (excluding ammunition) and is capable of discharging up to 120 rounds per minute.
It's versatile enough to tackle surface, land, or airborne targets, depending on the ammunition. For surface or land targets, standard fragmentation-explosive rounds can reach up to 9.9 miles. The effective range against airborne targets hasn't been specified, but it's presumed to be under the 5 miles designated for the anti-aircraft DART rounds.
These guided rounds, similar to Starstreak missiles, deploy tungsten darts that obliterate targets through kinetic energy, proving highly effective even against rapidly moving objectives.
Furthermore, the system can also launch Vulcano 76 rounds, reaching distances of up to 25 miles. These sub-caliber projectiles bear a resemblance to those used in Vulcano GLR 155 artillery rounds.
This diverse ammunition capability endows the Leonardo OTO 76/62 mm Super Rapido gun with substantial versatility, a quality that has been particularly beneficial during operations off the coast of Yemen in the Red Sea.
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