The reorganization of ' British munitions factories, facilitated by the Munitions Acquisition Supply Solution (MASS) contract with the U.K. Defense Ministry, is nearly complete.
The Radway Green plant, which produces small-arms munitions, has been transformed, and new lines have been built. Savings are being realized from automation and other production efficiencies that the agreement mandates.
MASS, signed in 2008, is a 15-year contract. It assures the ministry of general munitions supplies and a price ceiling for 10 years. BAE agreed to upgrade factories and, in turn, is assured of sales and growth.
Against this backdrop, the timing of the maturation of one long-term development project is propitious. The Anglo-French cased telescoped armament system (CTAS) was announced in 1994, when the partners were GIAT and Royal Ordnance. Today, CTA International is a 50/50 partnership between successors BAE and Nexter, and its innovative cannon and shell designs have completed a qualification milestone.
“Qualification is split into three phases,” says David Coughtrie, CTAI's business director. “We've done all the trials and supplied the trial reports to the Defense Ministry and to DGA (the French procurement agency).
“After they come out with their view, we will issue a certificate of design, saying we are qualified for the cannon and armor-piercing and target-practice rounds. The second phase is the point-detonating general-purpose round, and we are delivering rounds into trials for that. The third phase will qualify the airburst round.”
The CTA design limits the footprint of the cannon inside a vehicle, minimizes recoil and allows for different-purpose rounds to be fed as needed into the gun. This means a 40-mm gun can be fielded on platforms that would otherwise be limited to smaller calibers and—without the case telescoped design—fewer rounds of ammunition.
CTA has long interested a range of potential customers, but has been integrated in just three programs: the French EBRC armored combat reconnaissance vehicle and the British Warrior upgrade and Scout projects. The French program is not scheduled to produce a vehicle until 2018, while the British procurements have suffered delays and other difficulties.
It has been a challenge for CTAI, which has to fire-wall development efforts with the different consortia, with each using separate solutions for the ammunition carousel, system electronics, gun drives and turret mounts. Test-firing programs have slipped. But the delays may be to CTAI's advantage.
“Now is probably right for us,” Coughtrie says. “We're in advance of the programs. If we'd been behind them in qualification, they may have booted us off and kept the old guns.”
Cost reduction is among CTAI's objectives. “We're developing a TPRR-T (target-practice reduced-range tracer) round,” says Coughtrie, “because it is low-cost. And since it is fired in training so much, it wears out the barrel less. Now that we are through qualification with the cannon, we are looking at the system to see where we can drive down cost.”
The demonstration programs are generating significant business—the U.K. programs alone have seen 11 guns and 20,000 rounds supplied, with a further three cannons, 48 barrels and 50,000 rounds under contract. Additionally, an anti-air round is in development, using a remote chassis built by, on which the cannon reaches 75 deg. of elevation.
“That's been tested against a drone, using the TP round,” Coughtrie says. “It hit the drone, so that trial cost a fortune. The anti-air round is programmed the same way as the airburst round, but the fire control is more important if you are going to go against drones or helicopters.”
The airburst shell generated interest in the early 2000s in mounting a CTA gun on a Bradley Fighting Vehicle. “Lately, the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command has come back to ask where we are [in development],” says Coughtrie. “Airburst is a capability they don't have.”
Inquiries are also coming from beyond the land domain.
“Someone was looking at putting the gun on agunship,” he says, declining to identify the individual. “It was a U.S. company that got our data somewhere, and maybe it will give them an advantage over other bids. I was surprised when I got it. But the cannon is 300 kg (660 lb.) and has very short recoil. Of course, you have to control the pulse, but why not [put it on an aircraft]? We'll see what happens next.”