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The French Navy future logistic vessels (FLOTLOG program) are likely to be fitted with both naval gun and missile systems. Several companies are showcasing their solutions at this week's Euronaval show, hoping to be selected and to get aboard the future FLOTLOG ships.


By Xavier Vavasseur - Editor in Chief
The French Navy future logistic vessels (FLOTLOG program) are likely to be fitted with both naval gun and missile systems. Several companies are showcasing their solutions at this week's Euronaval show, hoping to be selected and to get aboard the future FLOTLOG ships.


Euronaval 2018 Which Naval Guns and Missiles for FLOTLOG 1 LSS "Vulcano" for the Italian Navy was launched by Fincantieri in June this year. Fincantieri picture.


The first concrete symbol a cooperation between France's Naval Group and Italy's Fincantieri is set to be the procurement by France of four Vulcano class LSS Logistic Support Ships as part of the FLOTLOG programme. An official announcement on FLOTLOG is expected to be made by French minister of the Armed Forces, Florence Parly, on Tuesday morning for the opening of the Euronaval 2018 naval defense show.

The three remaining Durance-class replenishment oilers (Var, Marne and Somme) of the French Navy (Marine Nationale) are set to be replaced with four Vulcano-class LSS, a Fincantieri design already selected by the Italian Navy. French President Macron announced earlier this year that the "replenishment oilers would be replaced and their number increased". Construction of the first French LSS could start around 2020 at Chantiers de l'Atlantique in St Nazaire (formerly known as STX shipyard). The first two units could be delivered in 2023 and 2025. The third LSS is set to be delivered in 2027 and the last and fourth one in 2029.

Known as LSS (Logistic Support Ship) in Italy, the sole vessel for the Italian Navy, "Vulcano" was launched by Fincantieri in June this year. The vessel measures 193 meters in length for a displacement of about 27,200 tons and a crew complement of 200 sailors. The French Navy variant will be slightly larger and will feature a number of modifications including French sensors and larger fuels tanks (to store more aviation fuel).

In terms of weapons systems, it has come to our attention that several companies are looking to provide their solutions to the French Navy. We identified five of them: Nexter/Thales, Leonardo, Rheinmetall, BAE Systems and MBDA. FLOTLOG is likely highly strategic for these companies because beyond the logistic vessels, looms the PHM NG program: A fairly large number of future Offshore Patrol Vessels that will likely be fitted with the same weapon systems as the ones selected for FLOTLOG.

Below are the answers provided by these five defense companies following a Q&A we conducted with each one of them. The answers were provided to us "as is" (have not been edited).


Euronaval 2018 Which Naval Guns and Missiles for FLOTLOG 2 Nexter and Thales are offering the Naval RAPIDFire system


Nexter / Thales Naval RapidFire:

Nexter and Thales are offering the Naval RAPIDFire system, a new naval gun which uses the same 40CTA canon (by Nexter & BAE Systems: CTA International) as the one already selected for a number of land systems (French Army Jaguar and British Army Ajax among others).

Navy Recognition: What are the advantages of the Naval Rapid Fire ?
Nexter / Thales: Navy and Army forces have to face more and more new threats, especially LS4 (Low, Small, Slow, Stealth, Swarm) ones like drones (UAV, USV ...) as well as common threats.

Forces require new defense means which match to these new threats, including cost and number of engagement concerns.

Thales and Nexter develop the new RAPIDFire system which fulfil this defence need, thanks to the 2 companies know-how and expertise (Thales in the field of anti-air firing control and system integrator, Nexter in the field of turreted gun). One of the RAPIDFire assets is the new 40 CTA gun base, which is the new medium caliber reference.

RAPIDFire is the ultimate fence (range from less than 50 m to 4 000 m) against missiles but also drones (UAV, USV...), light aircraft, small ships, partly RAM (Rockets, Artillery, Mortar), helicopters, light armored vehicles... It can deal with many targets in a very short time.

Navy Recognition: Why do you think it is the right gun for a vessel like FLOTLOG ?
Nexter / Thales: The DGA [ed. note: French defense procurement agency] didn’t communicate the armament specification of the FLOTLOG program, however, the main assets of the RAPIDFire are :
· Multi purpose: ground & naval, anti-air and anti-surface capabilities
· Very Short Range (up to 4000m) Defense in front of today and tomorrow threats
· Integrated mode (via CMS/C2) or autonomous mode (thanks to the integrated optronic sight)
· Compatible with almost all ground and naval platforms

Finally, RAPIDFire has a low engagement cost, adequate to emerging threats thanks to :
- Low dispersion cannon
- A brand new co-localized sight dedicated to anti-air threat and anti-surface as well,
- An up-to-date firing control system
- A digital turret

These advantages reduce the ammunition number fired per engagement so that enables a larger number of engagements from the same number of ammunition. The compactness of this canon leads to a small, light, non-penetrating Turret, which will be easy to integrate on all platforms or vessels.

Navy Recognition: The system doesn't exist yet. How do you make sure that development costs won't make the Naval Rapid Fire more expensive than the competition ?
Nexter / Thales: First demonstration firings were made in real conditions performed since 2011 to 2014, confirming the maturity of this system, a low risk development of this new architecture (unveiled at Euronaval 2016).

Based on the reuse of subsystems currently in mass production (digital 40CT cannon, processor identical to the one used in the Jaguar-Ajax-Warrior turrets, etc..), a design to cost, and duality between land and naval applications offers synergies of production / optimized maintenance etc.

RAPIDfire will be a reference because of a competitive acquisition cost, a Long term and optimised maintenance (Life Cycle Cost), reliable, robust and easy to use.

Navy Recognition: What is the status of the project today and how long would it take Nexter and Thales to mass produce it ?
Nexter / Thales: First demonstration firings in real conditions were conducted in 2011. The project is self-funded by Thales and Nexter. We expect our first customer by 2019. The new design prototype qualification is set for 2021 and first deliveries by 2022.


Euronaval 2018 Which Naval Guns and Missiles for FLOTLOG 3 Leonardo is proposing the MARLIN 40mm (Formerly, FORTY LIGHT)


Leonardo MARLIN 40mm:

Navy Recognition: Is Leonardo proposing one of its systems and if yes, which one ?
Leonardo: We are proposing the MARLIN 40mm (Formerly, FORTY LIGHT)

Navy Recognition: Why do you think it is the right gun for a vessel like FLOTLOG ?
Leonardo: MARLIN 40 is the lightest and most accurate 40mm in the market and the most modern solution, based upon an unrivalled experience in 40mm and with the implementation of cut of the edge technologies in servosystems, local control, integrability.

Vs. 40CTA Marlin 40 has the advantage to operate projectiles which are already qualified for the use in maritime environment, while CTA is not, MARLIN 40 outstands for a much higher single shot kill probability due to heavier payload, MARLIN 40 ammunition can be procured by various supplier worldwide while CTA ammunition is single source and very expensive, MARLN 40 is much more flexible as being very efficient in both AAW and ASuW while 40CTA is focused on ASuW.

Vs. MILLENIUM MARLIN 40 is much lighter and cheaper, MARLIN 40 ammunition can be procured by various supplier worldwide while MILLENIUM ammunition is single source and very expensive, MARLIN 40 is much more flexible as being very efficient in both AAW and ASuW while MILLENIUM is focused on AAW.

Vs. 40 BAE MARLIN 40 is lighter and probably less expensive, although equivalent in other performances .

Navy Recognition: Has the system been tested at sea yet (if yes, when) has it been selected by a customer yet ? If not, how do you make sure that development costs won't make your solution more expensive than its competition ?
Leonardo: MARLIN 40 is a rearrangement of subassemblies already in service since decades in more than 300 units. No development costs are involved. MARLIN 40 is selected for an international OPV program, following competition, contract under finalization.

Further information on MARLIN 40
According to the Leonardo, the MARLIN 40 plays a leading role as a 40mm naval system, thanks to its extremely low mass, small dimension, easy installation (no deck penetration required) and modern, completely digital technology. The gun mount operates with a high fire rate, 40mm cannon fed through a 72 ready-to-fire round magazine capable of managing a dual feed ammunition system. The system can be set up according to three different configurations based on customer requirements (Remote CMS control, Remote control with local emergency and stand alone with micro fire control system).


Euronaval 2018 Which Naval Guns and Missiles for FLOTLOG 4 Rheinmetall is proposing the Oerlikon Millenium Gun.


Rheinmetall Defence Oerlikon Millenium Gun:

Navy Recognition: What are the advantages of the Rheinmetall Oerlikon Millenium Gun ?
Rheinmetall: The Oerlikon Millennium Naval Gun is a 35mm gun system designed to defeat a wide range of targets both surface and air. It uses a unique air-bursting ammunition called Ahead (Advanced Hit Efficiency and Destruction) which maximizes hit probability by distributing a lethal cone of tungsten sub-projectiles in the path of the oncoming threat. The system has a rate of fire 1000 rounds per minute and is capable to defeat up to 10 anti-ship missiles or 20 surface targets before requiring reloading.

The Oerlikon 35mm Revolver Cannon is the heart of the system and is employed in land-based, mobile and naval systems from Rheinmetall Air Defence (RAD). It can be used to defend against anti-ship and anti-radiation missiles, UAVs, helicopters, artillery rockets and mortars as well as ground and surface targets such as speed boats, jetskis and military vehicles.

Navy Recognition: Why do you think it is the right gun for a vessel like FLOTLOG ?
Rheinmetall: The Millennium Gun is an ideal candidate for the FLOTLOG vessel because it is a multi-role and multi-mission system. It will provide the possibility for the vessel to have not only a highly capable self-protection system against surface targets, but also a state of the art anti-air capability. This is due to the accuracy and firepower of the system. None of the systems you have mentioned have a similar firepower (up to 1000 rds / min) and this is critical in dealing with high velocity targets both in the air and on the water.

Navy Recognition: Has the system been tested at sea yet (if yes, when) has it been selected by a customer yet ? If not, how do you make sure that development costs won't make your solution more expensive than its competition ?
Rheinmetall: Rheinmetall solutions based on the Millennium Gun are in use with the Royal Danish Navy, another customer and will shortly be in service in additional regions. The ship classes in which Millennium are installed range from OPVs, through Corvettes up to Frigates. The system can be deployed on a wide variety of ships, either as the main armament thus offering an air defence capability previously unknown to these ships, or as a secondary armament / CIWS on larger vessels right up to and including helicopter an aircraft carriers.

Navy Recognition: Has the system been tested at sea yet (if yes, when) has it been selected by a customer yet ? If not, how do you make sure that development costs won't make your solution more expensive than its competition ?
Rheinmetall: Rheinmetall solutions based on the Millennium Gun are in use with the Royal Danish Navy, another customer and will shortly be in service in additional regions. The ship classes in which Millennium are installed range from OPVs, through Corvettes up to Frigates. The system can be deployed on a wide variety of ships, either as the main armament thus offering an air defence capability previously unknown to these ships, or as a secondary armament / CIWS on larger vessels right up to and including helicopter and aircraft carriers.

Navy Recognition: Is the ammunition made and supplied by Rheinmetall as well, if yes, how is this an advantage ?
Rheinmetall: The 35mm ammunition is made by Rheinmetall in Switzerland. We have the air-bursting AHEAD ammunition as well as HEI-T, TP and TP-T. There are companies around the world who have entered into licencing agreements for 35mm production but AHEAD ammunition (which is the key to Millennium’s effectiveness) is currently only produced by Rheinmetall.

Rheinmetall already has an excellent partnership and cooperation on international programs with Naval Group and we are keen to expand this cooperation into French national programs.

Our intention is to work together with local French partners to make Millennium a part of the French naval community. This could be achieved through a number of means which we are open to explore including co-production and localization of manufacturing with French industry.


Euronaval 2018 Which Naval Guns and Missiles for FLOTLOG 5 BAE Systems is proposing the Bofors 40Mk4.


BAE Systems Bofors 40Mk4:

Navy Recognition: What are the advantages of the 40Mk4 ? Are you pitching the 57mm Mk3 as well?
BAE Systems: First of all the logistic fleet of French Navy operate today with 40mm guns of Bofors design, the Navy is very pleased with those and it would only make sense to continue with the latest generation of Bofors 40mm guns.

The 40Mk4 gun will due to its high rate of fire, high firing precision (hit probability), long effective range (air Targets: 2000 to 4000 m, surface target & shore targets 6000 to 10000 m), and 6-mode programmable ammunition provide a high level of self-defense capability against various types of threats including for example FIAC's, missiles and aircrafts. The maximum range is 12500 m.

When operating close to the coastline the system will provide the ship with a capability to protect itself from attacks from air, land and sea by its own. When firing 40 mm 3P ammunition in the time function mode, the system provides a devastating effect against targets like fast maneuvering small boats, helicopters hovering behind the tree line, concealed troops onshore, and other targets that cannot be engaged with direct fire.

No, we have not presented the 57Mk3 as an option for the FLOTLOG program at this point.

Navy Recognition: Why do you think it is the right gun for a vessel like FLOTLOG?
BAE Systems:
The main reason for having guns on board Logistic Support vessels is normally to give the ship some level of self-protection within certain ranges. The performance of Bofors 40 Mk4 match that requirement. The compact design and low weight of the gun makes it easy to install also on limited deck areas. The gun can be installed without any deck penetration.

Compared to the other gun systems mentioned we have a big advantage with our 3P munition. They all have their pros and cons also;

Leonardo Forty Light doesn't exist on the market yet so its performance and maturity is unknown
Rheinmetall (Millenium) is more of a CIWS and does not offer the range or flexibility of Bofors 40Mk4
Thales / Nexter (with a naval variant of RapidFire 40mm with 40CTA gun): This system is far from ready and will likely require a huge NRE and five more years before its ready for the market. Also the range is poor compared to 40Mk4.

Navy Recognition: Has the system been tested at sea yet ? Has it been selected by a customer yet?
BAE Systems: 
Yes we have performed sea trials on a Swedish Navy Patrol ship already in 2012. During the development phase of the gun we used real recorded data from ships sailing in different sea state conditions in a MOOG Motion System in order to simulate the real environment on board a ship. Furthermore the gun has been installed on a Brazilian Navy vessel for live firing demonstrations.

The 40 Mk4 Gun System has been selected by Brazilian Navy, Finnish Navy and an East Asian country which we cannot disclose, and the production is ongoing for all of them. The Swedish Navy is expected to order their first guns late this year.

Navy Recognition: Is the ammunition made and supplied by Bofors as well, if yes, how is this an advantage?
BAE Systems: 
Bofors is the original design authority for all approved 40 mm ammunition like HE and TPT, including the 3P ammunition. They are designed and developed by Bofors in symbiosis with the gun mount in order to get the best possible function of the total weapon system. The production of the ammunition is mainly done by Nammo A/S but there is also production on license in some other countries.

About the Bofors 40Mk4
According to BAE Systems, the 40Mk4 is an agile, flexible weapon systems that enables a lightning-quick response. Its low weight and compact dimensions combine with a long range and a high rate of fire. It has the capability to rapidly switch between optimized ammunition types, including programmable 40mm 3P all-target ammo. This delivers high tactical and operational flexibility alongside outstanding survivability, giving ships the advantage in conflicts of any kind.


Euronaval 2018 Which Naval Guns and Missiles for FLOTLOG 6MBDA is proposing the SIMBAD RC short-range, anti-air self defence system.


MBDA Simbad RC:

Navy Recognition: What are the benefits of fitting SIMBAD RC on a supply vessel like FLOTLOG ?
MBDATo deal with an anti-ship missile threat, the latest variant of the Mistral surface-to-air missile (as deployed by SIMBAD RC) has a far greater probability of kill (Pk) compared to gun systems, especially against supersonic anti-ship missiles.

While the FLOTLOG vessels won't be as exposed as first line surface combatants, they could still face a number of threats. Logistics vessels can find themselves on their own, without escort, during transit or in coastal areas while approaching commercial ports for resupply: They need self-protection systems onbard. The French carrier strike group (CSG) is set to sail to South East Asia next year. To do so, it will have to sail throught the Suez canal and the Bab-el-Mandeb strait [ed. note off Syria] a zone known to represent an anti-ship missile threat today.  Even as part of a naval task forces, FLOTLOG would benefit from a self-protection system like SIMBAD RC. Especially against "leakers" (missiles not intercepted by the air defense frigates).

SIMBAD-RC provides an extremely effective defence capability against all threats including anti-ship missiles, combat aircraft, UAVs, helicopters, as well as small surface threats such as those presented by FIACs.

Navy Recognition: Do you believe the vessel should be fitted with SIMBAD RC exclusively or is your solution designed to be complementary to gun systems ?
MBDA: We believe the right configuration for FLOTLOG would be 2x SIMBAD RC and 2x naval gun system per vessel, in order to provide a 360° coverage of the ship. Depending on the threat, the gun or the missile system can be engaged. In such a configuration, the Mistral missile would be mainly used in anti-air and anti-missile roles while the gun would be mainly used for anti-surface warfare. The two are complementary.

Navy Recognition: Is SIMBAD RC fully developed today ? Has it been selected by some customers already ?
MBDA: SIMBAD RC is in production today, it is already in service and has been selected by three customers, including the Royal Saudi Navy who selected the system for the mid-life upgrade of its four Al Madinah-class (Sawari I) frigates and its two Boraida-class vessels as part of the LEX programme. It has to be noted that the Boraida-class are replenishment vessels. Regarding the Al Madinah-class frigates, the Crotale launcher is being replaced by SIMBAD RC. In a similar fashion, the French Navy will replaced the Crotale launchers aboard its Lafayette-class frigate by Mistral missiles (with SADRAL launchers).

In France, the manned SIMBAD is fitted aboard the three Durance-class replenishment oilers and the three Mistral-class LHD. The Mistral-class has just been upgraded with 20mm Narwhal remote weapon stations and new electro-optic systems as part of the 1st phase of the "Autoprotection protection" program. A 2nd phase of this program (yet to be decided) will see the replacement of the manned SIMBAD launched with the remotly operated SIMBAD RC ones.

About the SIMBAD RC
SIMBAD-RC (Système Integré de Mistral Bitube d'Auto-Défense - Remotely-Controlled) is a short-range, anti-air self defence system deploying two fire-and-forget MISTRAL missiles. It has been designed to provide a primary self defence capability on all warships or to complement the main air defenses of first rank warships. Featuring an automatic launcher remotely controlled from an interior terminal, SIMBAD-RC is ideally suited for ships with low crew numbers and for modern ship design requirements, particularly those relating to stealth and very fast craft concepts.