HMS Argyll on target testing new gunnery aid

Storyline: HMS Argyll

Gunners have given the thumbs-up to a new gun mounting tested on HMS Argyll to destroy small, fast-moving targets.

The frigate served as the testbed for a week of gunnery trials against small targets – speedboats, jet skis and the like – which are hard to hit, even with the panoply of small arms fitted to RN ships.

Gunnery teams can call upon a range of weapons – Miniguns, machine-guns, heavy-machine guns and SA80 rifles – to fend off what are known as ‘asymmetric threats’.

All rely on the skill of the gunners – and the stability of the ship itself as a gunnery platform – to be effective.

The .50 calibre heavy machine-gun – known colloquially as the ‘50 cal’ – is among the most potent weapons gunners can bring to bear, so when a potential improved mounting was developed for it, the Navy’s tech specialists, NavyX, wanted to test it.

Known as the ASP – Agile, Small-deflection, Precision – mounting, it was tested on the ranges at Aberporth in Cardigan Bay by the Plymouth-based warship with gunners taking aim against both a static target and a moving radio-controlled target boat.

Over a week of trials, the team put down nearly 5,000 .5 calibre rounds – 3,500 fired using the new mounting, 1,450 from a heavy machine-gun on a traditional ‘soft’ mounting to allow for comparisons.

They conducted more than three dozen gunnery shoots in different scenarios and weather conditions to give both mountings a comprehensive workout.

Seven of Argyll’s ship’s company were taught how to fire a .50 cal loaded on to the new mount. They found it easy to use – and their gunnery improved as the trials went on.

“Once I got used to it, the concept is very straight-forward. I found the ability to acquire targets a lot easier and more precise with the joystick on the mount itself,” said HMS Argyll Leading Seaman ‘Smudge’ Smith.

“With the mount stabilising itself it allowed us to give a longer, more accurate burst of fire which enables us to eliminate threats quicker and at greater ranges.

“This would be a great addition in firepower to RN warships and enhances the ship’s force protection capabilities.”

Initial findings from the trials suggest the ASP means gunners can

  • Hit targets at greater distances
  • Aim more accurately in rough sea states/weather
  • Concentrate their fire better rather than disperse shots

The data from the trials, funded by the Defence Innovation Fund, run by the Royal Navy’s innovation experts NavyX and supported by the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory, will be analysed to determine whether the mount would benefit the Fleet.

“Continuously improving the accuracy and firepower of our force protection weapons is an everlasting requirement of the Royal Navy,” said Lieutenant Commander Steve Lovatt from the Navy Develop team, which is looking at ways to bolster force protection among other enhancements to the Fleet.

“We are using the trial analysis to seek future investment as part of our force protection capability.

“We’ve been impressed by the results and it demonstrates the important work of NavyX to rapidly trial new technology with immediate in-service benefit.”

This would be a great addition in firepower to RN warships and enhances the ship’s force protection capabilities.

Leading Seaman Smudge Smith, HMS Argyll