More Precision for Navy Guns

U.S. Navy combat ships equipped with 5-inch guns are about to get more lethal. Next fall, ATK will begin delivering the new Multi-Option Fuze, Navy, or MOFN, for ammunition fired from MK 45 weapon systems.

Army Contracting Command just awarded ATK a five-year contract worth $84 million to produce the MK 437 MOFN for the Navy. The Army’s Joint Products Office manages the program for the Navy.

These specialized fuzes provide proximity, precision time, delay and point detonating impact options in a single fuze, ATK officials maintain. The inductive fuze setting feature also optimizes MOFN for use with automated ammunition handling equipment.  MOFN will be used on projectiles fired in the MK 45 Single Lightweight Gun Mount on Navy cruisers and destroyers.

“ATK is pleased to add MOFN to our portfolio of fuze production programs.  MOFN leverages ATK’s design, development and production experience, providing the U.S. Navy with an affordable, reliable fuze for its 5/54 caliber ammunition,” said Dave Fine, ATK’s Director of Fuzing and Warhead programs, in a recent ATK press release.

The first order on this contract is for approximately $13 million; deliveries are scheduled to begin in November 2013.

Production of this fuze will occur at the Allegany Ballistics Laboratory facility in Rocket Center, W. Va.  The lab is a U.S. Navy-owned, ATK-operated facility specializing in advanced manufacturing technologies for a variety of programs supporting current and future U.S. industrial base needs in advanced fuzing and integration, conventional munitions assemblies, solid rocket motor propulsion, and advanced material structures.

About the Author

Matt Cox
Matthew Cox is a reporter at He can be reached at
  • Lance

    Good for having new high tech aiming system. But why stick with such small 5 inch guns?? If we must invest into guns how about a bit larger 10 or 14 inch gun??

    • Mastro

      I doubt you could engineer a 10-16 inch gun for anywhere near $13 million. Then you need a huge ship to carry them.

      Plus- an accurate 5 inch shell is more important than a missed 10 inch.

      Big guns had a really specific use- bashing through the 1-2 foot armor of another battleship- they actually weren’t designed for shore bombardment- that’s basically what we used them for late WWII+.

      I wouldn’t mind a good 8 Inch shore support gun- we will just have to be happy with the 155 mm (6 in?) gun of the Zumwalts.

      • BBwarrior

        Right. Our BB’s were designed to engage other BBs in surface combat. But we did find out that they were useful as fire support ships. Thats why they were retained in mothballs for all those years. Even with the increased range of DDG 1000, they will not have the high volume sustainability of the BBs. And lets pray a DDG 1000 never gets hit! BB’s as a type are grossly obsolescent, though modern ships today tend to lack appropriate armor piercing weapons.

        During Desert Storm, only the BBs were allowed to close with the coast for fire support missions. Mines that could sink a Tico or DDG were considered a manageable threat for the Whiskey and my great USS Missouri.

      • Dewey Stevens

        Can you imagine a DD with a 16″ turret on board. Fire the thing over the side…probably spin it over in the water.
        From the experience of an older GM….the larger the projectile the slower the rate of fire. Five inch guns are used for rapid fire. Even back in the days of the old
        5″ 38 you could kick out 15 or more rounds/min with an experienced gun crew.
        That’s not many rounds under today’s standards. But when you pass a six inch you are going to be using machinery to move the rounds which will slow the rate of fire. Haven’t been on a DD for many years and I know modern weapon systems have changed a lot but putting 10″ guns on a DD is overkill. And that’s the way I see it !!

    • FormerDirtDart

      Why should the Navy invest in improving performance of weapon systems they do not field, or plan to field?

      Way to go being irrelevant as ever Lance.

    • tmb2

      Size of the ship=size of the gun.

    • tiger

      Everytime I see BB-62 wasting away in Camden, I wish she could be put to better use. I want my big guns back at sea……

      • Lance

        Guys get all mad about maybe a bigger gun. maybe no guns then if your so into missile tech guns should be dropped completely then.

    • vahram terzikyan

      if a Destroyer has to use its 5″ guns it means somebody messed up really bad. Deck gun is just like beyonet if you have to use it, it means all the same somebody messed up, its a last resort weapon or specific mission weapon.

  • Rob

    Will make the Navy’s new Zumwalt gunships even more powerful………

    • William_C1

      The Zumwalt class have two 155mm (6.1in) guns for naval gunfire support. For better or worse the 155mm AGS is something of a hybrid gun/missile launcher. The standard 155mm LRLAP is precision guided with a max range somewhere between 130 and 180 kilometers.

      Back when DD21 was expected to produce 32 ships, these destroyers would have been the effective replacement for the fire-support capabilities of the Iowa class battleships. Yet in the end we’re down to three ships of the current DDG-1000 design which only have 600 or so ready rounds between the two guns, with another 300 in some storeroom.

      Something is better than nothing, but I’m not certain what ability (if any) the AGS has to engage other targets like small boats, etc. The 5in (127mm) caliber and its foreign counterparts (Russian 130mm) is generally considered the upper limit for a “dual purpose” design with some ability to engage aircraft. In an age of missiles however, something is terribly wrong if an enemy aircraft gets within gun range.

  • blight_

    Do we expect to do a lot of navy shore fire support missions?

    • Mastro

      Probably not- since the Zumwalt was so cut back.

      Guns are still good for blowing up simple stuff- like Iranian oil platforms or troops within 10 miles of a coastline.

      The $13 million cost is a joke compared to any missile program we have.

      • blight_

        I certainly would be nervous putting ships in gun range without knowing for sure that enemy anti-ship missiles are out of the question, and by then you need long range to strike inland more than you need guns for close-in work.

      • BBwarrior

        Guns used to be good for blowing up stuff within 20+ miles of a coastline! Served on Mighty Mo’ during Op Desert Shield/Storm as GM. Miss those 16in/50’s!

        • Steve T

          Called inshore support in Nam from BB62-That was a BLAST!!

    • Musson

      Accuracy is good. But, I believe the Navy is looking toward rail guns as the future of long range gunnery.

    • PolicyWonk

      Doubtful. Arms manufacturers don’t like guns – they’re way too cheap. Missiles are far more profitable.

    • Ken

      why is every weapon systems in the navy being expected to do extensive damage to the enemies? offshore firing and these bs? What about for the ship’s own safety? Suicidal boats and other suicidal objects anyone? You guys really want the navy to use million dollar tomahawk every time a boat gets near? just a few million dollars for this extra protection is reasonable for a destroyer or cruiser that costs billions of dollars.

      • Mark Varry

        You would not use a Tomahawk against small suicide craft. The CIWS Phalanx and CIWS RIM-116 are designed to handle that sort of task with their recent upgrades.

        • Ken

          Dude do u simply just know the military technical issue and not notice anything else in a piece of writing such as poetical device? The “tomahawk” that I said was meant to be an exaggeration, meaning using something really expensive for inexpensive targets.

      • SJE

        5 inch gun is also useful for boats and slower moving aircraft, especially with precision rounds with fragmentation.

    • DHH

      To all the fools who are wondering why there is a gun when there are missiles, think about it this way: Why do soldiers carry a pistol when they’ve got their rifles and machine guns?

    • Dennis

      Actually the Chinese have put a listening post on Tarawa Island (ring a bell, go Marines) Their strategy is also like the Japanese in WW2 to have a defense perimeter using Pacific Islands. I think Naval gunfire support will be possibly needed.
      To me bring back the Battleships and put the new rail gun on them with rocket/gps assisted shells.

      • blight_

        “On 29 November 2003, China severed diplomatic relations with the Pacific island of Kiribati, following a decision three weeks earlier by President Anote Tong’s government to formally recognized Taiwan as a country. Three days prior, China verbally threatened to break ties with Kiribati, along with physical warnings of its seriousness by quickly dismantling its satellite tracking base, withdrawing its doctors from the medical facility, and halting construction on a sports stadium. China had previously claimed the importance of the tracking station, one of three Chinese stations overseas, that played a big role in its first manned space mission. Media reports indicate that the site may have also been used to monitor the U.S. missile range at Kwajalein atoll in the Marshall Islands. After the diplomatic break, China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp. reported that “the loss of diplomatic relations will not affect the country’s space missions or the launch of the Shenzhou VI” and a new facility could be built in the region.”

        New stations now are Namibia, Kenya and Pakistan.

  • oldtimer

    Still using 5-inch popguns after all these years? Wow. I sure hope they are more reliable than they were when I was on the USS Virginia (CGN-38) back in the 80s. If they were fired more than a handful of times, they seemed to break down pretty often. My recollection is that we didn’t have a lot of confidence in them at all.

    Not only that, but what happened to plans to upgrade to 155mm, something with some real bang? Seems to me that the Navy has always gotten the short end of the fiscal stick when it comes to funding.

    • blight_

      Isn’t the 5″ ~127mm?

      I suppose a 6″ or an 8″ are options, but the higher the charge, the more stress imposed on the hull. Unless you go with rocket-assisted shells, but that cuts into payload.

      • Noha307

        Yes, the 5″ is 127mm. I fail to see the point of stating that though.

        • blight_

          Because semantically requesting a 155mm as if it would give you more pop is silly. Bore size of the gun isn’t the sole indicator of weapon performance.

          • Johnny Ranger

            Supposedly the manufacturer of the Zumwalt’s 155 gun has a “Lite” version compatible (dimensionally) with a standard 5″ gun space, as on a Burke- or Ticonderoga-class ship. 180 RAP round magazine vs. 300 on the Zumwalt, and not in the fully enclosable stealth turret, but a larger, longer-range round nonetheless. I would assume they have figured out a workaround for the fact that these ships can’t take on ballast to fire the way a Zumwalt can.

            As we add Burkes to the fleet and retire Ticonderogas, I wonder if a more cost-effective way to provide NGS would be to replace the 5″ guns on the Tico’s with these 155 Lites and make the missle batteries TLAM-heavy. The helo space could be used for Fire Scouts or other UAVs which would serve as spotter aircraft. I’m sure that space could be found which could be converted to additional ammunition and charge storage, especially if the ships no longer need their Aegis systems and associated equipment and control spaces.

            I’m no naval engineer, so this may just be wishful thinking…

          • blight_

            Might as well do it to the Burkes as well.

            That said, it might be an option for the old Ticos, which had no VLS but were all eventually retired, and I think they might all be scrapped by now.

          • Johnny Ranger

            I’d agree if the 155 rounds had this kind of fusing option, which would enable them to better engage a swarm-type threat, but I’m not sure if that’s the case. Also not sure how the rate of fire compares to the 5″, which would be another consideration against that kind of attack.

            I think you’re right about the old Ticos. But they’re retiring the newer ones with VLS too, and those are the ships that I think would be ideal for the NGS mission. Tomahawks for known fixed targets plus guns for targets of opportunity. They’d actually have a larger missile battery than the Zumwalts. Not as stealthy, but given that we’ll only end up with a couple of Zumwalts anyway, perhaps a tradeoff worth accepting…

          • William_C1

            The Ticonderoga was a design somewhat lacking for space from what I’ve read. They managed to jam all of the AEGIS systems onto a Spruance hull, but replacing the 5″ with the “lite” AGS would probably be far harder than doing so on the Burke class.

            The AGS has a significantly lower maximum rate of fire than the 5″ Mark 45. The 5″ would be the superior weapon when it comes to threats like small boats. The 155mm (6.1″) AGS is primarily designed around hitting targets on land at long range.

          • blight_

            One could swap out the large VLS cells for smaller ones, then use the room if required if the turret and assembly required room.

            The other alternative would be to swap out one of the two VLS launch areas and replace it with a gun and assembly. Having a two gun ship “like the old days” might be a little too crazy…

          • Noha307

            Yea, sorry about that. The comment ended up sounding negative. I thought it might. I was just confused over what you implied. If you would have added something along the lines of the response you gave to my question, I would have understood. My bad. (Wow, this comment sounds the exact same way, I have to work on my wording.)

          • blight_

            It’s all good.

    • SJE

      the 5′ guns of today are more powerful and accurate than those from e.g. WWII, and function of the heaviest guns are now replaced by missiles. Why do we need bigger guns?

      • oldtimer

        Shore bombardment, anyone? Missiles launched from ship do a terrible job of hitting land targets, and they’re a lot more expensive per round than a 155mm shell. And I guarantee you that a 155mm round has a lot more bang than a 127mm round. Of course, I was in the Navy when the Battleships were still in service, and I promise you that those 16 inch guns put the fear of getting blown away in anyone within range of them. Just ask the Iraqis in the first Gulf war, and the Lebanese in 1983. They were far more effective than a 5 inch popgun any old day. And those old battlewagons were a great tool of gunboat diplomacy too.

    • anonymous

      Why did we downvote a post that included actual, in-service observations? Frustration? Military equipment can be unreliable. Ever shot a Mk 48 exercise torpedo?

    • Sidecar

      Strange. During the Korean War we fired thousands of rounds on the bombardment line out of our 5 inch 38’s without breakdowns.

    • anon

      Mk45 has been in the inventory for a while now so a lot of the issues are known and have been rectified. quite reliable but every now and then you get that ship with one that does break a dozen rounds into an exercise.

  • Jim

    could these be put to any use against swarms of small ships/fast boats?

    • SJE

      Airburst rounds

  • davidz

    I always wondered how electrothermal gun would work on ships, without severe size and power restrictions of a tank. For me, this seems like reasonable stop-gap before railguns.

    • William_C1

      I think the Navy tested some ETC designs but they were looking at them more as an option for a CIWS rather than a replacement for a destroyer or cruisers 5 inch gun.

  • Matt

    The real use for a fused round like this would probably be anti small boat swarm work. The HEAT and KEET rounds were specifically for that. If I can set it for timed fused (burst over a group) or prox fused so I just need to get close to a small boat that really improves my odds when fighting a 100+ of IRGN suicide boats. Plus the time delay means I might be able to drop a 5″ shell in the water by a midget sub periscope and really ruin their day.

    • anon

      you mean HE-ET and KE-ET, HEAT is a shaped charge for anti- armor purposes

  • Big-Dean

    there’s a need for both
    -ships can carry lots and lots of shells if they wish
    -gun are much better for close in action <12 miles
    -guns and shells are much cheaper than missiles
    -shells cannot be spoofed, once they are fire there's nothing that can stop them
    -you don't waste missiles on smaller or less value targets
    -shells can be reloaded at sea
    -guns systems are still more common than missile systems on the world's navies

    -are best for over the horizon/long range attacks
    -are best for high value targets
    -missiles can be used to disable an enemy ship beyond their range to strike you, then you can move in close and finish them off with cheaper shells
    -but numbers are limited on board and you can't reload at ship

    • Thomas L. Nielsen

      “shells cannot be spoofed”

      If the shell uses a (radar or IR based) proximity fuze, it will be susceptible to jamming (although it can of course be designed to be resistant to it).

      Regards & all,

      Thomas L. Nielsen

    • Rob

      I feel there needs to be 3.

      Multiple water cannons on all seacraft.
      – Last resort, short range, missle & surface torpedo/mine deflection
      – Maybe even some protection from incoming bullets or shrapnel
      – Fire suppessors for the entire fleet & it’s bases even.
      – Civilian vessel deterrent

      I know Some ships have them but due to the fact most of our navy is in a defensive posture and the simplicity of motion sensors activating the blast of sea water. Amp it up now.

    • Marc

      Back in the 60s we UNREPed SM-1 missiles.

  • George Gauthier

    Why complain now about five inch guns when the story is about how this standard naval rifle has become even more effective with a triple threat fuze that can be set by automatic loading equipment.
    Groan, if you must, about the lack of 8 inch cruisers or battleships with larger calibers,
    but not in the context of what seems to this old (Army) artilleryman a significant improvement in naval gunfire for the ships we now have at sea.

    • BBwarrior

      We shall see if its really an improvement or not. Remember the navy sometimes lacks resolve in risking these 5in ships close to shore. During Desert Storm, my ship risked mine and SSM strikes to provide NSFS to ground pounders and to service other targets. Zummy’s may be the game changer, as they dont have to close with the shore with those AGS 155’s

      • blight_

        I thought the Stark was a good lesson on what happens to ships close to in-shore. The threat isn’t just what can shoot back, it’s naval mines too.

        • tiger

          The whole Gulf is shooting gallery. Not a fun place for unarmored FFG’s vs a Iowa class.

          • blight_

            Praying Mantis demonstrated the Navy can have reasonable operating freedom, even with unarmored craft.

  • joe

    16″ guns were needed because targets were protected by a foot of class B armour plate. Now they aren’t.

    As a tactical artillery piece, a modern 5″ gun is still a bloody good weapon.

    • William_C1

      Dual purpose too if any aircraft were to get close enough.

    • blight_

      Without the radar guidance and fire control that a CIWS has?

    • tiger

      My basic gripe is These ships don’t have enough of them. 1 mount vs 2 on a Spruance & 3 on a Sherman class.

      • blight_

        If you have to choose between VLS cells and a 5″ gun mount, chances are a mix favoring VLS will do more damage; especially during the Cold War when you might need to CM Hanoi or deliver nuclear TLAM into the Soviet Union, or be able to dump lots of Standards or Harpoons at the drop of a hat.

        • Tiger
  • Robert

    I think it’s funny how proud they are over a modified M739A.

    • SJE

      “Modified” has a lot of wiggle room, and can be the difference between effectiveness and not effective.

      In any case, this site covers all tech.

  • T. W. Martin

    This is nothing new artillery has had a MOFA fuse in the works for years. Go 155mm with the vast array of different artillery projectiles and now we are talking. Add liquid propellant or just the new MACS charge and you wood have a system that is DOD wide. How about naval MRLS. Cut costs and standerdise. There won’t be any ships left soon too put them on.

    • CaptDJ

      I assume you mean MLRS. The problem is that the rockets are built to an entirely different set of requirements and are not suitable for shipboard use. The first requirement for shipboard munitions is that you can suffer a restrained rocket launch in the magazine and not lose the ship. With MLRS, if you have a restrained rocket launch you run away , you can’t do that at sea. The MLRS design criteria for vibration, temperature and storage are also not suitable for maritime use. They are built to be dragged over dirt roads, not to take the pitch, roll and yaw of sea state 5 and above. The mismatch goes on and on. As for 5 inch, sure they don’t work if you never exercise them. i used to shoot my guns at every opportunity, and they worked fine. Practice and training makes them a very effective weapon. They laughed when I asked for permission to shoot at the target hulk, they stopped laughing when it started to sink…..

  • Stan
  • Hunter76

    I don’t get all this starry-eyed nostalgia for shore bombardment. In WW2– sure it created enemy casualties– but huge US fleets pounded the s*** out of small Pacific islands for days, but in every case, when the Marines finally landed, the Japanese sprang up and offered tough, organized defense. Digging in is a cheap, effective defense against bombardment.

  • Rich

    Any next land battle requiring fire support will be in Korea. We’ll be facing either the North Koreans OR the North Koreans and Chinese.
    Any surprise attack launched by China against Kadena, Guam and assorted carrier groups would likely be preceded by a North Korean invasion of the South.
    After a few months, when the U.S. and allies have depleted ammo stocks and equipment, then the Chinese will attack on all fronts: land-sea-air-space.
    Bet on it within 15 years. That’s why we need REAL guns for REAL shore support.

    • blight_

      I think the South Koreans will have enough tube artillery to go ’round. The moment they don’t, it won’t matter what we bring, short of stripping Europe and the Middle East bare.

      • SJE

        If we are facing NK or China, I don’t think the issue will be 5″ vs 16″ guns

        • blight_

          True, but Rich seems to think “REAL guns” are vital to defending the DMZ. If the DMZ doesn’t have enough organic artillery to hold the KPA back, then we have problems…

  • Hunter76

    So, your dream is US and China fighting a full scale conventional war in 15 yrs?

  • Mark Varry

    There are some scenarios that show China’s economy having grown to the point where China is in direct conflict with the USA for resources. That is the point where predictions of hostilities arise from.

  • doningram

    the concept of war with china within 15 years is interesting. do you think china will let the banks have enough money to participate in a confrontation with them or does a confrontation with china make the USA have to borrow more money from them (with a higher interest rate) ? i do not see a confrontation with china in the future, it could happen, anything is possible. the 5″ gun does some great work and needs to be kept around especially the 5/54, hope all the 5/38 are gone.

    • SJE

      I see proxy wars more likely. You are already seeing that, to some extent, in Africa and Middle East.

  • TJJ

    I still say the Navy should bring back the USS Iowa and USS Wisconsin battleships with there big 16 inch guns!!!

  • Tulsa Mike

    I would want 16″ guns cause they don’t make 17’s! :-)

  • GMGCChapman

    I worked on the Mk45 Mod 0 Gun System the last half of my Naval career. The system was pretty reliable.The Mod 1 was being set up for trainning when I transfered from Naval Gunnery School,Great Lakes,Il. in 1984.The 5″ was ok, but I believe the 8″/55 Light Weight system should have been kept and further developed.The Spruance class ships were set up for the 8″ forward and the 5″ aft.would have been a much better platform,but had to play nice,and not build any Cruisers at the time.
    The Iowa class battleships are a no brainner on bringing them back.With the current

    • Cecil

      If you really want to talk good guns, then the 7/55 is one of the best. It originated in the US but fired too fast and meltrf thr barrels. It was sold to Canada, where they slowed the rate of fire and now it is their mainstay weapon for smaller ships (DDS).

    • blight_“/55_caliber_M…

      “At-sea technical evaluation occurred aboard Hull in 1975, and operational testing followed through 1976. The Operational Test and Evaluation Force determined inaccuracy made the gun operationally unsuitable, and concluded the lightweight 8″/55 was no more effective than the 5″/54 (with Rocket Assisted Projectiles). The report recommended against production or installation of the lightweight 8″/55, and program funding was terminated in 1978. SAL GP development continued.”

      Probably had the same CEP at range, but if you’re using RAP your explosive payload drops.

  • Roland

    The mystery question behind it is will it sink the enemy ship by one bullet?

  • wpnexp

    The title is mis-leading. These fuzes will do nothing for precision fires, but will allow for better effects on target, if it manages to hit the target.

    • anon

      also helps to consolidate fuze types and make the best use of magazine size.

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