Mk38 mod2, 25 mm, more than just a gun

Yes, it is a gun but it is also a day/night electro-optic sensor system that can help with SAR, law enforcement, navigation, man-overboard. When the Webber Class Cutters are delivered they will have a new gun system, but it is really much more.

The new system includes the familiar 25 mm chain gun that currently arms 378s, 210s, and 110s but it is mounted on a stabilized system with an on board electro-optic system that appears to have many uses beyond directing the gun.

The Mod2 is a product of BAE Systems Minneapolis, MN, but it is designed by Rafael, Haifa, Israel and it incorporates Rafael’s Toplite electro-optic system that includes 4-axis gimbal stabilization, forward looking infra-red radar with three fields-of-view, a low contrast, low light level color television camera and an eye-safe laser range finder.

Navigating at night, you can pick out a point that would be invisible to the naked eye and get a bearing and range. Looking for a man in the water, the IR will help you find him. See what is happening on suspected smuggler as you approach at night, or document illegal fishing activities. The electro-optic sensors can be slewed separately from the weapon, so we don’t have to point the weapon to use the sensors.

Israel calls the mount the Typhoon and uses the mount on boats as small as the Super Dvora and Shaldag class patrol boats which are slightly smaller than our own 87 ft WPBs. The Israelis also mount small missiles like the Spike-ER on the Typhoon in addition to the gun which extends the range of the system from 2,000 meters for the gun out to 8,000 for the missile. Here is a video of the system in operation: ( You’ll have to copy and paste, I could not get it to link properly.)

26 thoughts on “Mk38 mod2, 25 mm, more than just a gun

  1. It looks just fine. However, the FRC could carry something larger. Stabilized gun mounts have been around for a long time. The begin in aircraft in WWII.

    I went to a dog and pony show during 1983 in Crystal City to see a stabilized gun mount for the 110. We knew it would not be purchased because of the NIH rule. The Brit firm made a good show but they used the 20mm 20mm Oerlikon which we had in WWII. The fun part was speaking the Mauser Rep who had been in the German Army on the Eastern Front in an AA Battery. He was very proud of the Soviet aircraft he shoot down with the 20mm.

    The Coast Guard always under arms its new cutters. This is one of the traditional things it does abide. The 57mm Bofors would have been just fine for this class–at first.

  2. Bill Welles said, “The Coast Guard always under arms its new cutters. This is one of the traditional things it does abide. The 57mm Bofors would have been just fine for this class–at first.”

    Certainly the US is not the only country that sends it’s ships with Coast Guard type missions on patrol with less armament than they can carry. This makes perfect sence if the risk is low and the systems required to provide more armament are expensive, and manpower and maintenance intensive. (Keeping four 5″/38s on a 327s, 255s, or Wind class breakers instead of one would have substantially raised their operating costs.)

    Still, this why I question our ability stop the “maritime suicide truck bomb”/St. Nazaire ( ( scenario.

    I think the situation is changing. For one thing, the risks that we will need to employ weapons on short notice, with no chance to upgrade, have increased, but perhaps more importantly, increasingly armaments are available that can be treated as “wooden rounds,” requiring little or no maintenance or additional personnel.

    If the policy has not changed since I was on active duty, the Navy supplies weapons at no cost to Coast Guard. If that is still the case, we ought to be aggressive about identifying our needs and possible solutions. Otherwise it seems possible someday, someone from Congress may be asking, why we never asked.

  3. Probably the closest situation to the current era was Prohibition enforcement. There was some mean muthas running booze as the Coast Guard found out early on.

    The Coast Guard patrols were not only under armed for the situation they did not have enough ammunition even if they did have the correct weaponry. There are newspaper accounts of the Coast Guard patrols having to turn away because they were outgunned.

    When they finally got to speed and produced the 75-footer work horse of Prohibition, they found it was over armed for the work. Yep, the one-pounder was doing some serious damage to homes ashore and the rum runners knew it. This is why they ran where they did. They had a protective backdrop.

    Re-arm redux. Not only was the one-pounder too heavy for the work close to shore it was relatively expensive per round for the cash strapped Depression Era government. The Coast Guard came up with an alternative that sent smaller projectiles into the coastal homes and saved money that the same time. They developed the 30.06 Lewis Machine Gun/1-Pounder piggy back. Sound familiar. I do not know how wide spread its use was, nor have I ever seen a photo of it, but the adapters were built at the Coast Guard Yard and field tested in New London.

    I once asked CWO Elmer Hicks, USCG (ret) the “inventor” of the .50 cal./81mm adapter if he ever heard of or saw the 1930s version and he said no. They did look. However, the Navy may have something because they used the same idea on merchant ships in WWII for the 6-pounder.

    In reality, all the 1930s version was an adaption of the sub-caliber devise used on larger naval guns for training. In the 1970s, I tried to get the Coast Guard to install the .30 M1 sub-caliber devise the old 3″/50 to give more firing time.

    Even the .50 caliber sniper rifle used today has some it origins in the .50 caliber spotting rifle attached to the 106mm recoilless rifle. Why not add a .50 caliber addition to the MK38? Or a 22mm to the 57mm. This ain’t rocket science. It is old fashioned ordnance thinking.

    The point is smaller attachments can be added but not larger. Just take a look at that monstrosity on the CGC Sea Dog.

    One of the problems with Coast Guard ordnance today is the loss of expertise. There are no trained ordnance engineers. Few receive any sort of training. The enlisted side is growing out of the last generation of sea going gunner’s mates and even here there is little large gun thinking. Maybe a change in the culture is needed before any decisions are made about guns. Don’t forget, it was an FT that got the Coast Guard into the 76mm when there was a better, and cheaper, alternative.

  4. I understand there is an option to mount a 7.62 mm machine gun on the Typhoon.

    Which better, cheaper alternative were you referring to?

    • The option is the machine gun in addition to the autocannon. There is also an option to up-gun from 25mm to 30mm.

  5. Chuck

    76mm not 7.62mm. The cheaper alternative was the lightweight 5″/54 for the 378s. Old history now.

    We had one M60 on board our WPBs, some boats had two. Having the mounted and automated does not make them any more effective. It is still a .308 rifle round that will be affected by wind and gravity like all the rest.

  6. I still like the 5″. It and it’s ammunition have been progressively improved. Looks like soon there will be guided projectiles available.

    The 57 mm may be fine for combatting a swarm of boats, but I don’t think we will see that, even if our ships are sent to the Staits of Hormuz. Helicopters are the way to deal with that threat. For stopping a medium to large ship, particularly one that has taken even minimal steps to insure it’s survivability, the 5 inch has a lot better chance of getting to the vitals.

    Considering a possible war time role. All the 5″ out there now are on a few hugely expensive ships that are going to have other things to do beside shore bombardment, and consequently are unlikely to be where they need to be for that mission. If we put 5″ on the Offshore Patrol Cutters (and there have to be a lot of them in storage) we could specialize in shore bombardment as our primary role.

  7. Chuck is correct; a 7.62mm coaxially mounted gun (e.g. Ares 7.62mm Externally Powered Machine Gun or EPG) can be mounted on the Mk 38 Mod 2 (source: .
    The 5″/54, Mk 45 Mod 2 is not necessarily a “cheaper alternative”. Although a perceived cost reduction could be re-utilized from decommissioned platforms (from SPRUANCE Class DDs or TARAWA Class LHDs), there is still a cost associated with overhaul of the mount and an obsolescence upgrade from Mod 0/1 to the current Mod 2 configuration. Additional cost incurred would be from Gun Weapon System/Gun Computer System (GCS /Fire control ballistics) integration. Below deck equipment (hoist, gun control panel, hydraulic system and projectile / propellant (powder cases) storage should be considered as well. The WMSL does use a variant of the Mk 160 GCS (Mod 12), it was developed specifically for the 57mm Mk 110 Gun Mount and associated sensors (Mk 46 Optical Sight / SPQ-9B Radar).
    As for the “shore bomb” or Naval Gun Fire Support (NGFS) mission, additional crew and training would be necessary to maintain capability proficiency. The current USCG is not focused on this type of mission, let alone the extra personnel & training time needed.

    BTW, the focus should be on a complete Gun Weapon System (GWS: gun, fire control/ballistic computation, sensor package) vice just the gun. Just my $.02 worth…

    • The 5″/54 and system may have had some initial costs, but would have been cheaper in the long run. They would not have had to build an entire new deck to put it on. I am sure the Coast Guard reused any number of 5″/38 gun mounts from the Navy. A factoid. My MK6 Computer, in 1977, went to one of the BBs. The Navy did not have one. Imagine that.

      The link did not work, but I like idea of reinventing sub-caliber packages. Makes sense.

      • Sorry about the link Bill, here it is: . As for the 5″/54, above deck may not seem to be an issue (deck pressure energetics?); but, below deck is definitely a space issue. The 5”/54 caliber projectile is larger, as well as the propelling charge and takes additional space (as well as a better strike down, elevator system like the DDG 51s have). The additional below deck equipment (Electrical Panels EP2 & 3, GMCP, Upper & Lower Hoist and hydraulic system would certainly take up additional space.

        I recall the Mk 6 (IMB) “wind-up” ballistics computer as part of the Mk 56 GFCS. Had 35mm range tables we could change out, depending on the gun mount installed.

  8. In order to make your link work, you have to delete the close parenthesis.

    Purchase price shouldn’t be an issue for the CG since I believe the Navy still pays for our weapons. Manning and maintenance requirements are certainly a consideration. That is why I mentioned the “wooden rounds.”

    Currently the major Coast Guard don’t really have a wartime specialty. I think they should have one. Going with shore bombardment is likely to get the Marine Corp on our side.

  9. Still the cost to arm Coast Guard ships is pocket change to the Navy. If they could actually see some return on investment, including showing the Marines they are doing something about their problem, I think they would welcome it.

  10. Just my opinion, but I think the CG’s “National Defense” mission should, for the most part, be contained to protecting CONUS, Alaska, and Hawaii. There are a few specific mission areas where the CG could deploy and be of great use, such as Boarding Teams, Port Security, and small boat operations, but for the most part, I feel the CG Natl. Def. mission should be to secure the home territory so the Navy can feel comfortable to send it’s assets overseas to fight…

    In that vein, the real “national defense” capability the CG needs (other than the surface-vessel interdiction it does in peace time as well) is ASW. If the CG is concentrating on securing the homeland and operating within 500 miles of US shore, there will be little to no air or surface threat that the Air Force would not handle. That really only leaves subs as a potential enemy that can get close enough to hurt the homeland. (Not to mention if you combined the air power and carriers of all the foreign nations (including our allies) in the world today, that power wouldn’t amount to much against our homeland.)

    Yes, I know the Navy invests in P-3 (and the follow-on 737 version) for ASW, but the Cutters would have vastly more endurance and potentially, weaponry to prosecute an attack than those aircraft. In addition, you cover more area with 30 cutters plus 100 planes, than with just 100 planes alone. In addition, if they’re built right, there’s no “bad weather=no flying” for the cutters…

  11. Sorry, got into the conversation going on and broke netiquette by not sticking to the topic at hand… The new Mod2 upgrade is most welcome, and I’m sure it will help in several mission areas for the CG. This mod really gets the small-caliber (compared to a 76mm or 5″) gun up to par with larger weapons as far as technology. This mount (Mk.38 Mod2) is really ideal for the CG’s interdiction mission. It’s big enough to take out the motor of typical medium to large boats and certain very small ships.

    Although it’s relatively uncommon, the CG does interdict larger merchants at times, and I wonder how the “delay” fuze setting on the 57mm will handle trying to get into the steering gear or motor of one of those ships? Overall, I really like the 57mm as a weapon. It has application to all the possibly-needed mission areas, including point defense, so it is a one-size-fits-all weapon for 99% of uses the CG puts a gun to.

    • Bill Smith writes, “Although it’s relatively uncommon, the CG does interdict larger merchants at times, and I wonder how the “delay” fuze setting on the 57mm will handle trying to get into the steering gear or motor of one of those ships?”

      Why would a 57mm be necessary at all. We could send some Coasties to Somalia and let a group of teenagers there teach them how to take a merchant vessel from a small boat with a RPG and an AK-47 (or 74). Why worry about where the steering motor is? Heck, fire in front of the bridge. That works.

      In 1941, CWO Earl Jones commanding a six-bitter stopped a French tanker in the Gulf of Mexico with his single-shot one-pounder. He fired around in front of the bridge and told them the next would be on the bridge.

      During WWI, cutters fired into merchant vessels inside New York Harbor. Sometimes it is not about the use of weapons. It is the temerity of the CO.

      • LOL @ Bill!

        Well, I guess the smugglers in the Carribean and Gulf of Mexico have a different type of CEO to report to than the Merchant Captains of the civilian ships that run the coast of Somalia.

        You’re joke brings up an interesting point, though. There was an attack on a cruise liner by Somali pirates in the last year or so, and they had one of those non-lethal sound projectors they used to disuade the pirates. I wonder if that has an application in immigrant denial and counter-narcotics missions?? 😉

  12. “non-lethal sound projectors they used to disuade the pirates. I wonder if that has an application in immigrant denial and counter-narcotics missions??”

    I would think the people and narcotics smugglers would have more money to buy better sound systems.

  13. There is a considerable difference in what it takes to dissuade a person who is in it for profit and one who is determined to give his life for god or country.

    —and how long can it be before Somali pirates start wearing Bose noise canceling headphones?

  14. At the risk of really starting to drag this discussion off the topic, why can’t/doesn’t America and the Brits do what we did during WWII and put some armed guards (Navy) on those merchant ships with a sufficient gun to start blowing up the pirates? THAT would really do some dissuading….

  15. There is no reason. Other countries have already done it and there are private contractors who will also provide armed guards. The US has very few US flag ships in the area and they are virtually all on government contract. I’m sure the DOG (deployable Operations Group) could do it if asked, or a squad of Marines would do nicely. The excuse is that the ports won’t let them come in armed, but we know that is BS since it has been done in the past.

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