As new information comes from the battlefields in Ukraine, BATTLESPACE is using this debate to look at the history and development of the CT-40 canon and ammunition. One of the key facts emanating from Ukraine is about ammunition numbers and logistic supply in particular. The other issue facing potential CT-40 customers is the concern of re-supply on the battlefield. One only has to remember that poignant piece in ‘Patton’ where he tours the battlefield after his tanks have been wiped out after they ran out of fuel and ammunition. Logistic re-supply issues were in the forefront of planners minds in Afghanistan and Iraq. If NATO forces could have a limited range of calibres and makes, then resupply becomes an easier and thus quicker task. That puts a big question mark as to whether the UK will want a ‘one vehicle, one ammunition nature, non-NATO standard,’ ammunition on the battlefield.
Despite the decision by the US to drop CT40 as the preferred armament for the Bradley, due in part, as BATTLESPACE understands, to the 20,000lb recoil issues, now becoming apparent on the UK’s Ajax vehicle, the French and British government decided that 40mm was the future calibre and a Joint Programme was formed with millions of Pounds/Euros being committed to CT40’s development. After millions were spent the only two customers remain, the UK and France, with little hope of new users in sight. This has created four key problems:
- The lack of new customers means that the ammunition cost is prohibitively expensive.
- CT40 is yet to become NATO standard.
- The lack of new customers and variants means that any enhancements and developments are lacking in a wider customer experience in different weather conditions and climates.
- Logistic support on the battlefield is thus expensive and large stocks of ammunition and spares are required to deliver in theatre.
History of the CT40 Development
Case telescoped ammunition was conceived by the USAF in the mid-fifties for use as an aircraft weapon. USAF laboratory personnel originally conceived the cased telescoped ammunition concept in 1954. The cased telescoped concept places the ammunition projectile completely within the cartridge, instead of protruding from the top of the cartridge as in conventional ammunition. Further, the cased telescoped ammunition cartridge is formed into a right-circular cylinder, instead of a tapered cylinder as in conventional ammunition.
Despite US research activity, it would be the UK and France that would go on to bring into service a cased telescoped automatic cannon.
Years later the US Combat Vehicle Armament Technology (COMVAT) programme was intended to produce an improved M2 Bradley with a 30mm-50mm version of the cased telescoped weapon developed by Armament Research and Development center (ARDEC) with Alliant Techsystems as prime contractor, building on an earlier programme called Combat Vehicle Armament System Technology (CVAST). ARES was also involved with the ARES 45mm XM295 cannon. ARES would go on to develop the 45mm ammunition for their Rarefaction Wave Gun Programme project.
GAO Report on CT40
The GAO evaluation of CT40 did not substantiate the allegation that funds were wasted, in the sense of program mismanagement. The goal of cased telescoped ammunition and gun programs was to increase weapon system lethality and the technology long held reasonable promise. However, the DoD expenditure of $213 million over 41 years did not result in a viable weapon system because several major problems were not resolved. Despite the ultimate disappointing failure to move the technology to the battlefield, we did not identify any information to suggest that the pursuit of weapon system lethality using cased telescoped ammunition technology was not a worthwhile research and development endeavor for the DoD.
As a result of the DoD investment, the state-of-the-art of cased telescoped ammunition and gun technology was improved. The initial cased telescoped ammunition concept was refined and advanced and now has such features as compacted, consolidated propellant; a control tube; a compartmented propellant charge; sequential combustion; and an erosion inhibitor. Research efforts also partially demonstrated automatic cased telescoped guns and yielded computer simulation programs that allow for the analytical study of the combustion process and interior ballistics of the cased telescoped ammunition.
The complainant identified inherent technical problems associated with the cased telescoped concept. The evaluation substantiated the inherent technical problems that prevent the successful development and fielding of a cased telescoped ammunition and gun system. Cased telescoped ammunition is ballistically inefficient with inherent performance, weight, volume, and cost problems. Cased telescoped guns have not been fully demonstrated and process inherent operational and barrel-life problems.
In addition to the technical problems, the technology faces cost and Service requirements problems. The life-cycle costs of a cased telescoped ammunition and gun weapon system are significantly greater than those for a conventional weapon system. Further, no known Service requirements provide the impetus to pursue cased telescoped ammunition and gun technology.
The DoD has not approved funding to further investigate cased telescoped technology. Zero funding is appropriate in view of the now clearly understood inherent technical problems, life-cycle cost problems, and lack of requirements.
Obsolescence of the UK 30mm RARDEN cannon
Recognising the approaching obsolescence of the 30mm RARDEN cannon, the UK MoD started a series of trade studies in order to develop the concept for a medium calibre weapon to replace it, one suitable to deal with the emerging Russian combat vehicles.
These trade studies prompted GIAT and Royal Ordnance to explore options for a collaborative development programme. A Royal Ordnance and GIAT 45mm Cased Telescoped Weapon System (CTWS) demonstrator was completed in 1991 with the prototype the following year.
This demonstrator had some input from the ARES 45mm weapon that had been in development in the USA. Differences from the older US system included a change from metallic to plastic for the ammunition case and the use of electrical drive rather than being gas-operated.
Alliant Techsystems and GIAT International signed a cooperation agreement in late 1992 to promote the 45mm weapon system but this did not progress, and the GIAT/RO relationship further developed.
The CTWS was intended for TRACER, a mid-life Warrior upgrade, and the French VAD.
In 1992, Staff Target (Land) 4061, more commonly known as TRACER, Tactical Reconnaissance Armoured Combat Equipment Requirement was issued, to be the new CVR(T) replacement. TRACER was intended to utilise the 45mm CTWS.
In 1994, the joint development concept was formalised by the creation of a 50/50 Joint Venture between GIAT and Royal Ordnance called Cased Telescoped Ammunition International or CTAI for short. 30% of the funding for this joint venture was provided by the UK MoD and French Defence Ministry.
In the same period, the US Army started looking at a replacement for its Bradley M3 in Cavalry squadrons, and the M1114 HMMWV ‘Humvee’ in scout platoons, in a programme called the Future Scout Cavalry System (FSCS). The TRACER and FSCS programmes were subsequently harmonised, and a joint project was created. Both nation’s requirements would be met by a single vehicle, the Armoured Scout and Reconnaissance Vehicle (ASRV). The Armoured Scout and Reconnaissance Vehicle were specified in a Memorandum of Understanding signed by the US and the UK in July 1998, the original Operational Requirements Document having been agreed in December 1997. France and Germany both requested observer status on TRACER although neither had a comparable requirement.
Contracts for an initial study phase were signed with two consortia, each composed of a mix of UK and US companies, in January 1999. The mix of UK and US companies was intended to facilitate an equal work share between the native industries of the two nations.
In 1997 the decision was made to move the calibre to 40mm and rename it the CT2000, rather optimistically, as it would turn out to be. Two years later, in 1999, further interest from the USA resulted in a representative turret containing the 40mm CTAS integrated onto a US Army Bradley infantry fighting vehicle. Firing trials were conducted soon after.
In April 2001, a statement to the House of Parliament revealed that the future of the US FSCS was in doubt, describing how the new Future Combat System (FCS) vision as envisioned by General Shinseki in 1999 would need funding and some programmes would be cut to make room for it, one of these was the follow-on engineering development phase of FSCS/TRACER.
In October 2001, a statement was made to Parliament that in a joint US/UK decision, TRACER would come to a close at the end of the assessment phase in July 2002. The information gained would be used to inform FCS in the USA and FRES in the UK respectively, both programmes were to effectively absorb TRACER and FSCS.
The CTWS 40 was still in development under separate contracts, so it was not impacted by the cancellation of TRACER and would likely form part of the FRES programme. Various testing activities continued; icing, resistance to impact and fire, aircraft carriage and compound angle firing, for example.
Although not specifically aimed at any one vehicle, the Manned Turret Integration Programme (MTIP) was a technology demonstrator working on the integration of the 40mm CTWS and a number of different sensors.
A demonstration contract was placed with CTAI to complete risk reduction demonstrations on a manned turret, feed systems and other sub-systems.
CTAI was required to demonstrate the CTWS in a manned turret fitted to a Warrior by the end of 2006. The French Delegation General pour l’Armement (DGA) also placed a contract with CTA for an unmanned turret called TOUTATIS, again, to be trialled on Warrior.
CTAI had been working on turret integration since 2003 and had demonstrated early models of both turrets on Warrior, the manned turret providing Level IV protection at a weight of 3.8 tonnes and the unmanned turret providing Level III protection but at the much lower weight of 1.5 tonnes.
The unmanned turret also had all the ammunition within the turret and a simpler feed mechanism, carrying capacity was 68 rounds, compared to 42 for the manned turret.
The Objective Future Cannon Programme (OFCP) was initiated in 2002, a joint programme between the UK MoD and French DGA. This defined the future programme activities and a number of key user requirements and specifications;
* Rate of Fire 200 Shots per minute
* Fire two ammunition types selectable <3s
* Remote operation
* Low integration volume <80 litres total swept volume
* Dispersion > <0,35 mil APFSDS > <1 mil GPR
* Minimum Fatigue Safety Life 10,000 rounds
* Operates in safety –46°C to +63°C
* Satisfies prevailing UK MoD and French DGA safety standards
* STANAG 4439 insensitive
* Reliability >98%
* Supports ‘coincidence’ fire control solution
The first firing demonstration of the CTAS on a Warrior was in January 2002, in the ‘Xena’ turret.
The original intent was that the 40mm CTAS would be central to the Warrior Fightability and Lethality Improvement Programme (WFLIP) but in 2005, the MoD announced a competition, despite the significant investment in the CTAS since the early nineties. The competition originally specified a minimum calibre of 35mm but this was subsequently changed to 30mm to allow other guns to compete.
Competing bidders included General Dynamics with a version of their Mk46 turret, as fitted to the proposed USMC Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle and now used in naval applications, Selex offered a Mk 44 Bushmaster in the Oto Melara HITFIST turret, Lockheed Martin/Rheinmetall, a modification of the existing Warrior turret with Bushmaster 30mm, and CTAI/BAE, the 40mm CTAS in MTIP-2.
CTAI Development Work
Although work has recently concentrated on bringing the system into service CTAI also carried out a number of studies on larger calibre (105mm), guided submunitions and a 12.7mm version. Testing has also confirmed the suitability of the 40mm CTAS for use in remote and unmanned mounts, including dual/triple feed and non-penetrating options.
CTAI has also proposed a number of naval applications for the CTAS, the most recent development is the Thales RAPIDFire system, designed to destroy helicopters, unmanned vehicles and combat aircraft. The RAPIDFire vehicle can be integrated with a number of air defence systems and uses the specialised air defence ammunition that contained 200 tungsten pellets. Rather than using a very high rate of fire, RAPIDFire is designed to fire fewer but more effective air bursting rounds at the target. It can carry 140 rounds in the turret, ready to fire. Effective range is claimed to be 4,000m and up to 6 vehicles can be integrated with a single control module for wide-area coverage, including fire control for Starstreak/HVM missiles. An independent EO/IR sensor can also be used with detection ranges in excess of 18km. A naval version has also been developed by CTAI.
The Argument for 40mm
So how does CTA technology allow the CT40 cannon to perform above its competition?
Due to the nature of telescoped ammunition, CTA ammunition has 30 percent more performance for the same volume of ammunition. This can be seen in a comparison of the size of the rounds: forty-millimeter CT ammunition is only the size of conventional thirty-millimeter ammunition while delivering performance on par with conventional forty-millimeter rounds. Talking in numbers, the forty-millimeter CT Armor Piercing round can pierce 150 millimetres of armor at 1.5 kilometers. This is sufficient performance to defeat any current BMP-series IFV and their upgrades. This is superior to the hundred-millimeter-plus RHA at one kilometer offered by the 30×173-millimeter rounds used by the latest versions of the U.S. Army’s thirty-millimeter Stryker. The airburst capability, still under development, of the CT rounds is expected to be superior, more than doubling the affected area versus thirty-millimeter rounds. All of this comes in a package that is around the same size and bulk as the thirty-millimeter cannons. The CT40 cannon can also hold more rounds in the ready position, around a hundred ready rounds compared to the twenty-four to twenty-five ready rounds that are possible with the Swedish 40mm L/70 cannon on the CV9040, as reported by Jane’s. This is due to a novel rotating breech that is deployed on the CT40 cannon, as well as a linkless ammunition-feeding mechanism, made possible by the geometry of the CTA rounds.
Additional UK firing trials were carried out in 2004 at Ridsdale Ranges.
France and the UK agreed on a common certification process for the 40mm CTWS in March 2006.
In April 2008, the MoD announced that the CTAI 40mm CTWS had been selected for both the Warrior and FRES Scout, although the MoD chose not to select a turret design. Selex withdrew later in the year, leaving Lockheed Martin and BAE to compete for the requirement.
By the end of 2009, after Lockheed Martin had been awarded a study contract to investigate a common Warrior/FRES turret, it became clear that there would need two turret variants, one for Warrior and the other optimised for the FRES SV Recce Block 1 reconnaissance role.
BAE and General Dynamics promoted their respective entries for FRES SV at the beginning of 2010, BAE emphasised the benefits of a common turret, although with slight differences depending on the role. Outwardly there was little to distinguish the two, both used already in service infantry fighting vehicles of nineties origin as the base platform and both were equipped with the mandated 40mm CTA cannon, a range of C4ISTAR, protection and various automotive and protection upgrades.
BAE announced their investment of £4.5 million in a Turret Test Rig for both Warrior and FRES programmes in February 2010. The £4.5m Turret Test Rig (TTR) mimicked the field testing of turrets for Future Rapid Effect System (FRES) Scout and Warrior vehicles by subjecting them to tests under extremes of temperatures. The tests were expected to take a turret through a 20-year lifespan in 12-18 months.
Further development and qualification of the 40mm CTA weapon were agreed upon by France and the UK in February.
In March 2010, it was announced that General Dynamics had been selected as the preferred bidder for FRES SV Recce Block 1. General Dynamics proposed a turret provided by Lockheed Martin, the actual design based on the Rheinmetall LANCE medium calibre turret. The selection of Lockheed Martin as the turret supplier was greeted with surprise by many in the industry as they had very little or no experience with the CTA system and the decision ignored both BAE and Nexter designs that were relatively mature.
The MoD and General Dynamics announced successful negotiations in June 2010 and the award of a £500 million contract for the Demonstration and Manufacture phase of FRES SV Recce Block 1.
In February/March 2010, alongside FRES, the MoD was also considering the future of the Warrior Capability Sustainment Project (WCSP), a competition between BAE and Lockheed Martin. Lockheed Martin proposed an upgrade of the existing Warrior turret and BAE, their MTIP 2 design,
In late March 2010, the MoD Investment Approvals Board recommended a year-long delay to WCSP. Lockheed Martin was awarded the WCSP contract in October 2010.
The demonstration phase was expected to cost £200 million and manufacture £642 million. WCSP was designed to extend the service life of Warrior beyond 2040. At this point, Lockheed Martin was still insisting an upgraded Warrior turret would be used for the WCSP vehicles.
By the end of 2011, Lockheed Martin had been selected by General Dynamics to provide the Scout SV turret and by the MoD to provide the WCSP turret, as part of the wider programme.
Both, with different turrets, same main gun.
Procurement of Cased Telescoped Cannons (CTC) Ammunition
‘The Specialist Vehicle Cannon Project Team, part of the UK Ministry of Defence, intends to place a further buy of ammunition, with CTA International through an Amendment to Contract No FRES/0075, to support the demonstration phases of the Cased Telescopic Cannon which will be provided to Prime Contractors for integration into the Scout Specialist Vehicle (SV) and the Warrior Capability Sustainment Programme (WCSP). Total final value of contract(s): 25 629 034 EUR Including VAT @20%.’
Towards the end of 2013, news emerged of problems with the Scout turret. Defense News reported that General Dynamics had agreed to pay Lockheed Martin several million pounds in compensation for failing to keep to a timetable on requirement delivery. It also reported problems with weight growth and a delayed ISD. After a series of successful design reviews and 40mm CTA qualification in early 2014, the WCSP achieved Initial Design Approval in January 2014. Qualification firings included the APFSDS-T and practice rounds. News emerged in 2014 that confirmed a decision by Lockheed Martin to abandon the Warrior turret conversion and proceed with a new turret design, this was no doubt cold comfort to BAE, who had insisted from the start that a new turret would be needed. The whole programme was ‘re-baselined.’
In 2015, the MoD finally placed a production order for the CTWS. The deal with the joint BAE/NEXTER company CTAI was for £150m to provide 515 weapons for the SV Scout and Warrior vehicles. The contract also included initial spares, test equipment, specialist tools and some training, all canons have now been delivered. As only 245 Ajax platforms will have the cannon, this leaves 270 spares from the 515 ordered.
In France, there was some talk of a CT40 equipped Leclerc a few years ago, called the Leclerc T40, also proposed for the Engin Blindé de Reconnaissance à Chenille (EBRC) programme. The Nexter Jaguar (VBMR) will join the Griffon (EBRC) in the €5 billion Euro Scorpion programme, announced in December 2014, equipped with CT40.
Developmental Problems Identified
Although the trials and tribulations of TRACER, FRES and Warrior have not significantly impacted the CTAS 40, there is no doubt that it has not been a smooth development, clearly, something that takes nearly 30 years to bring into service is not without problems, but by late 2015, qualification tests passed, and a production contract awarded.
Despite its adoption, CTA technology has not been without its detractors. A 1996 Department of Defense Inspector General report into CTA systems found many flaws. CTA guns demonstrated higher levels of barrel wear and increased recoil, as well as problems clearing malfunctions such as hangfires. While the barrel-life problem has appeared to be addressed in the CT40 cannon (ten thousand rounds cited in one report), how the other factors are handled have yet to be seen in reports. However, the last criticism of the DoD IG report rings true: CTA guns and ammunition cost significantly more than conventional guns. Some inside the UK defense community have described the cost of ammunition for the CT40 gun as “eye-watering,” and begun to wonder if similar performance could not be achieved with a conventional autocannon design similar to the Russian 57mm autocannons currently under development.
Problems identified include:
*Limitations of power input – Another problem identified in the development of CT40 for the Warrior AFV, in particular, was the limitations of power input through the Slipring. By its very nature, the canon overhangs the front of the vehicle, therefore considerable power is required to keep the canon straight and level whilst travelling. Initial testing showed that the existing Slipring could not accommodate the power requirement. This issue was limited to the UK turrets as the French chose a Moog stabilisation system which overcame these issues.
*Recoil – One of the key reasons for the rejection of CT-40 by the USA was its 20,000lb recoil on firing. This is believed to have caused problems in the development of the Ajax turret and its inability to get the second round on target whilst firing on the move. The recoil is believed to be so great that it causes vibration in the turret which then causes the fire control computer to shut down. A great deal of development time and money was spent installing a muzzle break to limit the recoil issues.
*Obturation – The problems associated with obturation on firing were not immediately recognised in the initial developments of the CT40 system as the FCS/TRACER turret was unmanned, thus gas was egress was not a problem and the system was cleared. The clearance issue was one of the biggest issues in the development of the manned turret by Lockheed Martin for Warrior. BAE Systems foresaw such issues and offered the MTIP-2 turret which not only allowed for the obturation issues which were corroding the germanium of the sights, but also allowed for the ‘95 percentile man,’ to allow for fast egress in the event of a strike or misfire. Lockheed initially offered a reworked old Warrior turret original developed by Vickers Defence Systems. This had to be scrapped as one of the ‘quick fixes’ for the obturation issues was to weld the entrance to the breech shut. Lockheed then developed a new turret at its own expense.
*Final round issues – The revolver ammunition feed for CT40 allows for the next round to be fed in by a rotating system. However, problems with the final round were encountered on a misfire at Shoeburyness. Reports suggested that the operators could only remove the jammed round with a stick, but the breech could not be accessed internally due to it being welded shut.
*Bustle balance problems – The ammunition bustle for the CT-40 turret is in the turret on a feed system to the breech system. The Ajax turret has encountered problems with weight and balance issues. The C4ISR system on Ajax weighs approximately 3 tonnes, so as the ammunition is fed to the canon from the bustle located on the left of the turret the turret encounters weight distribution problems which causes vibration and sighting problems for the fire control system as the gyros fight to keep the turret stabilized; it is not known how this problem can be remedied.
*Barrel wear. CTA guns demonstrated higher levels of barrel wear and increased recoil, as well as problems clearing malfunctions such as hangfires. While the barrel-life problem has appeared to be addressed in the CT40 cannon (ten thousand rounds cited in one report), how the other factors are handled have yet to be seen in reports.
AJAX Static Live Firing
In early April 2016, AJAX completed its first instrumented static live firing at Radnor Ranges in Powys, Wales. Testing and qualification continued and in June 2016, the MoD issued a £12.9 million contract extension to CTAI for additional qualification.
The MoD issued a contract amendment to CTAI for further qualification of the Target Practice Reduced Range round – Amendment to contract MATT/CCAP/003 with CTA International (CTAI) to provide services required to conduct the qualification of a Target Practice Reduced Range (TPRR) type of ammunition on behalf of the United Kingdom and French Authorities.
The cost of this was 16.5 million Euros.
Ajax manned live firing trials commenced in September 2017
In March 2018, CTA International demonstrated the 40mm CTWS to US Army personnel at Fort Benning, Georgia. 80 rounds were fired, including a number of the A3B air bursting nature. One of the scenarios demonstrated a typical wall breaching operation, two rounds of point detonating to create a hole that was followed by an air bursting type fire through the hole.
In evidence sessions to the House of Commons Parliamentary Select Committee on Defence, both Lockheed Martin and General Dynamics laid the blame for delays with Ajax and Warrior CSP on the 40mm CTAS, however, this was countered by the MoD. Warrior CSP was cancelled in 2021
Technical, Cost, and Requirements Issues and Evaluation
The initial concept has been refined and improved and has such features as compacted, consolidated propellant; a control tube; a compartmented propellant charge; sequential combustion; and an erosion inhibitor. Research efforts have partially demonstrated automatic cased telescoped guns systems and have yielded computer simulation programs that allow for the analytical study and understanding of the combustion process and interior ballistics of the cased telescoped ammunition.
Although a greater understanding exists and improvements have been made to the cased telescoped ammunition and gun concept, several major problems remain. Without a resolution of these major problems, the cased telescoped ammunition and gun concept cannot be successfully developed and fielded. Cased telescoped ammunition is ballistically inefficient with inherent performance, weight, volume, and cost problems.
The high cost of CT40 is due to the novel nature of the ammunition being produced, which requires the establishment new ammunition manufacturing processes. For this to truly be addressed, Britain and France must adopt the CT40 in large numbers or make it a success in the export market, so that economies of scale can be established.
Time will tell whether the millions spent on CT40 will ever be recouped and whether 40mm and CT40 in particular becomes the weapon and calibre of choice. With little sign of any new customers in sight and 30mm coming back into fashion and 50mm being mandated by the US, the likelihood looks less and less by the day.
(Sources: National Interest, Wikipedia, CTAI, Think Defence, BATTLESPACE, News Now, Shephard)