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BAE Systems Developing Next Generation Mk 38 Gun Mount

Even as it continues to improve its successful Mk 38 (Typhoon) gun system with features such as a tactical laser system (under development by Boeing) and a high powered microwave emitter to disrupt enemy electronics, BAE Systems is working on the next generation Mk 38 gun system, the Mk 38 Mod 3, in partnership with the gun’s designer, Rafael,  in Israel.  Mk 38 is the American designation for Rafael’s Typhoon gun system.

BAE Systems, which unveiled the Mod 3 gun earlier this year at the Navy League Sea Air Space (SAS) Expo 2012 in April, is using customer feedback taken from the show to refine the concept design and detail design. The company expects to complete an engineering development model and start qualification as early as the end of 2013 at Rafael’s facilities in Israel. Series production of the gun mount would take place at BAE System’s Louisville, Ky., facility.

The Mk 38 Mod 3 gun system is very different in appearance from the existing Mod 1 and Mod 2 gun mounts, of which more than 220 guns are in service with the U.S. sea services alone, and close to 100 more with a number of international navies.

For one, the Mod 3 is an enclosed gun mount in a stealthy housing that protects the gun system from weather effects. It also features easier access to internal components, thanks to large access panels.

Mk-38 gunner station

Gunner’s station mock-up on display at Sea Air Space. The view on the screen is through the Toplite EO sensor  ball mounted at the top of the Mk 38’s stealthy turret. Photo by Mrityunjoy Mazumdar

The Mod 3 uses a 30 mm ATK cannon with a coaxial .50-caliber M2 heavy machine gun in place of the 25mm M242 cannon that is typically fitted on the Mod 1 & 2 mounts. The 30mm cannon permits a 500-meter greater effective range over the M242.

The Mod 3 has a greater range of elevation: -20 degrees to +75 degrees to engage air targets such as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) and helicopters. Legacy mounts have a much more limited elevation: -20 degrees to +40 degrees.

More importantly, the Mod 3 mount carries about three times the ammunition load of the existing gun mounts, which is 165 25mm rounds or 120 30mm rounds. The Mod 3 loadout is 420 rounds of 30mm ammunition or 500+ rounds of 25mm ammunition. The dual feed ammunition chutes, which can be loaded with HE, AP and training rounds, are revised items.

The Mod 3 also features a much improved fire control panel and the ability to track multiple targets – in this case at least three – as well.

The manual fire control panel features a 17-inch diagonal panel, improving on the 15-inch panel on legacy systems, as well as increased functionality. Key improvements include backlighted switch panels and improved symbology to better orient the gunner with respect to his or her own platform direction and heading.

Mk 38 30 mm

Another view of the Mk 38’s 30 mm cannon with coaxial machine gun. The stealth faceting of the mount is obvious in this shot. Photo by Mrityunjoy Mazumdar

Additional modes have been incorporated as well. The gun features an offset mode for the express purpose of firing warning shots, say 10 meters ahead of or above a target. It also has a surveillance mode wherein the gun can be pointed away from a target but with the Toplite electro-optical (EO) sensor remaining pointed in the target direction. In the engage mode, the gun is operated locally by the gunner or remotely from another location such as the CIC or by the commander of the platform who, in any case, has manual override switches for arming the gun as well as the gun drives. The system also has a safe mode and a training mode in addition to having built in test equipment for fault diagnosis.

The Toplite EO system has three fields of view: 1, 5 and 20 degrees. Unlike legacy systems, a crucial improvement is the sweeping search mode, with automated threat alerts when the EO sensor detects moving targets, as well as the ability to track multiple targets once they are designated by the gunner.

While it shares the same footprint and a degree of commonality with the existing guns, it will be around 20 percent heavier – largely due to the greater ammunition loadout. Common items include control boxes, drives and electrical cabling, the Toplite sensor and decoupler mount.

BAE is looking to incorporate additional weapons on to the Mod 3, such as a 7.62mm chain gun, 2.75-inch rockets such as the newly fielded APKWS II, and the tactical laser system.