Precision Machine Guns?

DefenseTech is reporting that the Coast Guard is looking for means of making its general purpose machine guns into precision weapons, so that if they have to use the weapons, the possibility of collateral damage can be minimized.

“The Coast Guard wants to make its deck-mounted machine guns accurate enough for crowded American harbors.

“To do that, Coast Guard gunners need a weapon mount that’s stable enough to turn an M240 machine gun – a weapon designed to kill area targets on the battlefield – into a precision tool capable of putting every round on target.”

Gratifying to see that the Coast Guard is thinking though how situations might develop where they will need to use deadly force in situations where there is a danger of collateral damage. Its easy to understand that using a machinegun on an unstabilized mount on a boat that is bouncing around might endanger the local population as well as the intended target.

The Navy may have already selected a stabilized machine gun mount:

More here:

But even that may be too large for some of our smaller boats.

There are smaller alternatives. Thanks to RStoner for bringing this option to my attention:

Looks like this might have trouble accurately firing bursts, but apparently it could accurately fire single shots and give boats some of the disabling fire accuracy of the airborne use of force units without the extensive training.

Still I hope the Coast Guard will look beyond simply making a more accurate machine gun. Any gun is likely to have a percentage of its rounds go astray, possibly endangering the innocent.

Perhaps the Coast Guard should continue this train of thought, applying the same concern on a larger scale. After all, we may need to stop much larger vessels inside US internal waters. Shooting 25mm or even 57mm inside Puget Sound or Chesapeake Bay is a poor option, but given the way cutters are currently equipped, it may be the only option available and ultimately they may be ineffective even for small targets.

Looking at true precision weapons, there are a whole range of options:

Griffin can be used for relatively small targets, here and here.

For larger targets Longbow Hellfire is already in the US Navy inventory or perhaps the largely American made BAE Brimstone/Sea Spear which appears to offer even more target selectivity.

Once the target gets larger than about 1000 tons it is going to be very difficult to stop. As noted earlier I think the answer to this problem is a light weight torpedo that can target a ship’s propellers.

Frankly I doubt we will have a major cutter (WMSL/WHEC/WMSM/WMEC) in the area if the Coast Guard ever suddenly finds itself needing to stop a maritime terrorist threat. They do not hang around US ports when they are underway, and when they are in port, they take too long to go from cold iron to underway. If this ever happens the largest Coast Guard vessel likely to respond is a Webber Class WPC. They are large enough to mount weapons capable of stopping even the largest ship. They really need to be properly equipped for the possibility.


Why Arm Coast Guard Assets?

New Light Weight Launcher

Navy Developing Small Anti-Torpedo Torpedo System, Possible CG Use?

The Navy's experimental Countermeasure Anti-Torpedo launches from the fantail of USS George HW Bush in May. US Navy Photo

The Navy’s experimental Countermeasure Anti-Torpedo launches from the fantail of USS George HW Bush in May. US Navy Photo

In an age where missiles can shoot down ICBMs, the only surprise is that this has not happened sooner.

The US Naval Institute News is reporting that the Navy is developing a small torpedo to intercept Russian/Soviet designed torpedoes that are immune to normal acoustic torpedo countermeasures, because they follow the target’s wake rather than passively homing on the ship’s noise. I would expect it to work against other types of torpedoes as well.

The existence of wake homing torpedoes has been known for decades. Not mentioned in the article, but the Germans were working on these in WWII and the British unsuccessfully attempted to make a wake homer before the first World War.

Initial Operational Capability (IOC) of this hard kill system is expected in 2019 with fleet wide adoption by 2035. What are the implications for the Coast Guard, other than perhaps having the countermeasure on our largest ships?

This anti-torpedo torpedo (ATT) might be adapted to become the “ship stopper” I believe the Coast Guard needs to ensure the ability to stop determined terrorists in control of a medium to large ship. With its relatively small charge it might even be usable in more typical law enforcement situations. The Navy might also find it useful if they are engaged in a blockade operation. I wonder if it might also be useful against swarming small boats.

The ATT is only 6.75 inches in diameter, only slightly more than half the diameter of existing light weight ASW torpedoes. It probably weighs on the order of 100 pounds and the warhead is almost certainly less than 25 pounds, but it would likely suffice to destroy propellers and possibly the rudder of even a large vessel. The fact that it would likely stop a vessel without sinking it, might be seen as an advantage. It is also less likely to create collateral damage, and it would be less dangerous to own ship than the carriage of larger torpedoes. It would have a very small footprint and could be carried on even the smallest cutters.

Slide from a Naval Sea Systems Command presentation on the Surface Ship Torpedo Defense system. NAVSEA Image

Slide from a Naval Sea Systems Command presentation on the Surface Ship Torpedo Defense system. NAVSEA Image