The Philippine Navy Fleet's 76mm Oto Melara Main Primary Guns

In the early days of World War 2-era vessels, the Philippine Navy's ships rely on manual guns to provide firepower that is needed in conducting its operations in which the naval personnel onboard man it up is a usual thing in that old time. At the current pace of modern technology being introduced in both military and civilian areas, it will be nice to discuss this very important main gun that the primary combatants of the Philippine Navy has currently.

Here is the Image of the 76mm Oto Melara Main Gun onboard the BRP Ramon Alcaraz (PS-16) in action.
Image Source.

There have been discussions regarding individual military assets such as for the Combat Utility Helicopter Projects, Del Pilar-class Offshore Patrol Vessels, and even the Army's M-113 Armored Personnel Carriers.

Speaking of the Philippine Navy, the discussion matter primarily focuses on capital ships which aside from the mentioned Del Pilar-class Offshore Patrol Vessel also includes the Tarlac-class Landing Platform Docks, the recently arrived BRP Conrado Yap which is a Pohang-class Corvette, and the Jose Rizal-class Frigates which are considered the most capable warship that is about to enter Philippine Navy service. 

However, there are few discussions made on familiar subsystems that are in itself fundamental to the fleet's overall firepower capability, which is usually to the Philippine Navy's primary combat ships. One of which deals on this topic as it delves primarily on the primary combat ships' primary gun which in itself is similar across the western-oriented navies such as those within the Philippine Navy. 

Such a weapons system that is commonplace, though it provides a significant indicator of how this service branch handles its logistics chain along with the sharing of technical expertise in between the personnel who have assigned on board the ships that maintain such a primary gun.

It goes so much that an idea for a GUNNEX has raised on a Philippine Defense Forum webpage wherein being an archipelagic nation that still relies too much on guns (until the entry of the Jose Rizal-class Frigates which introduces real anti-ship missile capabilities), the Navy fleet will showcase its guns as part of a commemorative event that took place on the Second World War which in itself was also fought with guns.

Hence, for the knowledge of everyone, having such a main gun like the 76mm Oto Melara Gun provides a primer on the Philippine Navy's capability of handling mid-sophisticated weaponry which in itself is a departure from the primarily manual-based guns that is fitted on most of the fleets' Second World War-era vessels. Operating and maintaining it has come a long way for such a capability to be perfected.

Jacinto-class Patrol Vessels, Philippine Navy, Peacock-class Patrol Vessels, Oto Melara 76mm Gun
The Jacinto-class Patrol Vessels is the first Philippine Navy ship in service that comes with the 76mm Oto MelaraGun, which was considered as a sophisticated weapons platform within the fleet in its time.
Image retrieved through Wikimedia Commons.

Way back 1997, the once-British Overseas Territory of Hong Kong was returned to the helm of the People's Republic of China as part of the deal which involves the expiration of the 99-year lease forged a century ago where the British gain it as part of its gains after the First Opium War with Imperialist China.

Along with that comes the disbandment of the British Royal Navy's Hong Kong squadron, which they were selling three Peacock-class Patrol Vessels that the Philippine Navy eventually obtains on a friendship price. Such vessels are now known within the fleet as the Jacinto-class Patrol Vessels (see image above).

The rest of the details are provided in this Joint Staff Command College Paper which was published almost two decades ago, in 2001. The details were provided as follows:

Although the Philippine Navy initiated the deal, it was not included in the PN Operating Program and Budget. Hence, its British crew haphazardly conducted the necessary training of both PN officers and enlisted men assigned to man the three ships. These three former British ships became the most modern ships in the Philippine Fleet although they are relatively obsolete compared to the standards of the most modern navies around the world.

The ships are not yet equipped with the missile system and an airborne CIC that would extend the effective ranges of its sensors and weapons beyond the horizon. Its main armament is 76-millimeter Oto-Melara gun equipped with a fire-control radar and an auto-reloading system. One man stationed at the console of the fire control radar is enough to operate and control the gun. All he had to do is just lock the fire-control radar on the target and push the button to fire the gun; then the gun will always point to the target wherever it goes, even if the ship is rolling or pitching due to big waves.

Unlike a similar armament aboard a World War II vintage ship, guns are manually loaded with ammunition, then manually point, train, and fire the gun to the target by a seven-man gun crew. The Oto Melara gun could fire about 30 times (or more) faster than a manually loaded gun, depending on the speed and teamwork of the gun crew. The real advantage here is the speed and accuracy of the Oto-Melara guns.

When one of the Oto-Melara guns encountered derangement one year after its acquisition, not a single person in the Philippine Navy knows how to put the gun back into operating condition. The Philippine Navy requested Australia to train PN personnel in conducting (a) repair on such types of guns.

When Australia acceded, the PN sent personnel with a rating of gunner’s mate to undergo the training. However, these gunner’s mates were sent back to the Philippines because they don’t know anything about electronics on which Oto Melara guns operate. So, the PN sent another batch of personnel with a rating of electronic technicians instead. The training lasted for two years then that will be the only time that the guns have (sic) been repaired.

Due to this incident, the PN was awakened and made aware [regarding] the state of readiness of our personnel towards modernization. The problem was only about the repair of a gun commonly used around the world yet, it gave an enormous headache to the PN. How much more if the problem was about (the) missile system and electronic countermeasure equipment?

Sad to say for the fleet, the issue persists by the dawn of the 21st Century where there are still struggles on the operations and maintenance made onboard the Jacinto-class PVs up to the purchase of the BRP Gregorio del Pilar (PS-15) almost two decades after the JCPVs were commissioned to service. It was then until the delivery of BRP Ramon Alcaraz (PS-16) as demonstrated in this video here and a GUNNEX exercise between the BRP Emilio Jacinto (PS-35) and BRP Gregorio Del Pilar in Bataan that the importance and capability of the Oto Melara were showcased.

Hence, it is good to understand regarding the usefulness of the Oto Melara 76mm guns where it serves as a primary weapon currently by most combatant warships of the Philippine Navy. To discuss this further, let us tackle the development and other details about the gun, its manufacturer, its specifications, and the ships within the Navy that utilize it.

Dimensions of the 76mm/62 Gun developed by Oto Melara.
Image Courtesy.
As provided by several sources, the first production for the Compact Version of the 76mm/62 Oto Melara Guns started in 1963 which is still utilized up to the present day. The advanced version meanwhile, which is the faster-firing Super Rapid Gun was first produced in 1988, more than two decades later.

In the United States Navy and Coast Guard, its designation is more known as the Mark 75 - 76mm/62 Caliber Main Gun. The Oto Melara guns fitted in key US-made ships such as the Oliver Hazard Perry-class Frigates and the Hamilton-class High Endurance Cutters were produced by BAE Systems and General Electric Co with the design under license from Oto Melara itself. 

Such a composition provides Coast Guard ships such as the Hamilton-class WHECs to be modernized more under SLEP or Shelf Life Extension Program which benefits future owners such as the Philippine Navy eventually on considering such a ship that will form the Del Pilar-class Offshore Patrol Vessels. 

Other than the ones provided in the United States, the Compact version of the Oto Melara Main Gun is currently in use by various navies and coast guards, spanning at around 50 nations while the Super Rapid gun is about to introduce itself in several countries like the Philippines in the form of the Jose Rizal-class Frigates.

To the knowledge of everyone, here are some descriptive details regarding the 76mm/62 Oto Melara - both Compact and Super Rapid versions (source):

Technical data:
Caliber: 3 inches / 76,2 mm
Barrel length: 186 inches / 4,72 meters (= 62 caliber)
Weight: 7900kg, empty (Super Rapid)
Shell: 76 x 900 mm / 12,34 kilograms
Elevation: - 15° to + 85°
Traverse: 360°
Rate of fire: Compact: 85 rpm / Super Rapid: selectable from single shot up to 120 rpm
Muzzle Velocity: 925 m/s (1100 m/s - DART)
Magazine: Compact: 80 rounds / SR: 85 rounds

16 kilometers with standard ammunition
20 km with extended range ammunition
up to 40 km with VULCANO ammunition

- Compact
- Super Rapid
- Stealth casing
- DAVIDE/STRALES radiofrequency guidance system for DART guided ammunition

- HE (high explosive) - 6,296kg / Range 16km / effective range 8km (4km vs. air targets at elev. 85°)
- MOM (multi-role OTO munition)
- PFF (pre-formed fragmentation) - anti-missile ammunition
- SAPOM (semi-armored piercing OTO munition) - 6,35kg / Range 16km
- SAPOMER (semi-armored piercing OTO munition, extended range) - Range 20km
- DART (driven ammunition reduced time of flight) - sub-calibre guided ammunition against multiple targets
               (missiles and maneuvering targets at sea) 4,2kg in barrel / 3,5kg in flight / 660mm lenght / effective range >8km

- VULCANO (76mm unguided and guided extended range ammunition) - under development

With the details provided, the future is even brighter for Leonardo (who now produces the Oto Melara Guns) and for the end-users of such a military weapon wherein developments are in place to improve the performance of the warships. Things such as the rate of fire are something that will be delivered by the newer Super Rapid gun which will help improve the overall firepower that will pack by a warship equipped by this gun under a shorter amount of time as compared to its older compact variants.

While such firepower is something that the 76mm/62 Oto Melara Guns provides that eliminates the threat posing against the warship, it will not be possible without the Fire Control System that will help improve its accuracy and effectiveness of each gunfire provided against the enemy.

The BRP Jose Rizal is fitted with an advanced version of the
76mm Oto Melara which is the Super Rapid Gun. Add to that,
the SELEX EX NA-25X Fire Control Radar serves as the
sensors of the main gun.
Image pulled from Imgur.

Several Philippine Navy ships, especially the recently-purchased ones, obtain a 76mm/62 Oto Melara Gun on its bow or two units of it as in the case of the BRP Conrado Yap which is a Pohang-class Corvette from South Korea. Each of these has its own setup in terms of having fire control systems in which it varies from the origin of the ship as well as on the terms of the contract like in the case of the Jose Rizal-class Frigates.

Jose Rizal-class Frigates (2 units)
FCS: SELEX EX NA-25x Fire Control Radar

The Jose Rizal-class Frigates consist of two ships belonging to this class - BRP Jose Rizal (FF-150) and the BRP Antonio Luna (FF-151). It will be the most advanced Philippine Navy ships in service once entered into service from its delivery from South Korea that it will obtain both a more sophisticated 76mm Main Gun (Oto Melara Super Rapid Gun) and an NA-25X Fire Control Radar made by Leonardo who is also the one behind the production of the main gun.

Both the main gun and the fire control radar is integrated into the ships' onboard Combat Management System which is the Hanwha Systems Naval Shield ICMS Baseline 2. By having so, the weapons management on board will be much manageable on an operation standpoint which increases the effectiveness and efficiency in terms of operating such guns onboard that helps improve the capability of these warships.

It is worth taking note that while the ships have a Fitted For, But Not With (FFBNW) item in terms of having the Vertical Launch System, it will require another set of Fire Control Radar given that a system such as the SELEX NA-25X is limited only to the primary gun control radar as intended.

Being in service with 20 Navies including the home country of Italy, serves with the highest reliability in which it serves primary naval ships including the incoming Jose Rizal-class Frigates with the best capability in terms of enabling the 76mm Super Rapid Gun to perform on its best ability.

Technical specifications can be provided here.

Del Pilar-class Offshore Patrol Vessels (3 units)
BRP Conrado Yap - Pohang-class Corvette (1 unit plus 2 more proposed)
FCS: Mark 92 Fire Control System / WM-28 Fire Control System

This is virtually a US-utilized version that is in itself derived from the WM-25 Fire Control System produced by Signaal (Now Thales) in the Netherlands. It is utilized as a standard in all of the Hamilton-class WHECs of the United States Coast Guard which eventually benefited future owners like the Philippine Navy, Nigerian Navy, Bangladeshi Navy, and Vietnamese Navy, among others.

Like the Jose Rizal-class Frigates, the Del Pilar-class Offshore Patrol Vessels may soon receive its own Combat Management System as part of its upgrade which comes with a hull-mounted sonar that enables its antisubmarine capability as well as a Radar Electronic Support Measure which is basically radar detection and intelligence. It will be of no surprise if both the Mark 92 Fire Control System and the Compact 76mm/62 Oto Melara Guns will be integrated to the Combat Management which is also being provided by Hanwha Systems, given that by having it means improving the overall capabilities onboard the vessels in terms of efficiency and effectiveness in operations.

It is also worth taking note that almost similar system is utilized onboard the Pohang class Corvettes in South Korea which includes the newly-commissioned BRP Conrado Yap wherein the WM-28 Fire Control System is also produced by Signaal (Now Thales) which this has seen as an improvement over the earlier WM-25 Fire Control Radar in which the Mark 92 was derived upon. 

Jacinto-class Patrol Vessel (3 units)
FCS: Saab EOS-500 Electro-Optical Tracking/Fire Control System (on PS-35);
Ultra Electronics Fire Control System (on PS-36 & PS-37)

Before the Peacock-class Patrol Vessels were turned over to the Philippine Navy from the Hong Kong squadron of the British Royal Navy, the fleet relied too much on its existing assets, mostly originated back to the Second World War with most of its guns being handled manually.

It was then that the then British warships, now Jacinto-class Patrol Vessels that the Navy was being introduced to the most sophisticated weapons system of its time which was the Compact 76mm Oto Melara Gun with the Rademec 2500 as its primary Fire Control System at the time of the turnover. 

Currently, the Patrol Vessels received upgrades on its systems which comes at no surprise on the replacement of Rademec 2500 FCS with a newer SAAB EOS-500 Fire Control Systems on the main warship of its class (with the only one having the SAAB 9LV as its Combat Management System) while the two other warships of the class have its own Fire Control System from Ultra Electronics.

With the upgrades taking place for both the Del Pilar-class Offshore Patrol Vessels and the Jacinto-class Patrol Vessel, it is as ascertained that there may be some time in the future that the key Philippine Navy warships may once again participate in a GUNNEX or Gun Exercise which showcase what the 76mm/62 Oto Melara guns are capable of in combat, in complement with newly-introducing platforms such as the antisubmarine warfare torpedoes and anti-ship missiles.

The BRP Conrado Yap obtains two 76mm Oto Melara Main Guns
where, if retained, makes it the ship with the most firepower
in terms of gunfire output.
Obtained from Source.
In the age of modern warfare, it may be said that naval battles are now being fought with anti-ship missiles and torpedoes which in itself is more effective in sinking out ships and submarines that are found to be threatening to the country and its national interest. All of which is part of systems warfare where it takes a quick second to react from an attack originated from air or underwater as well as a quick second to conduct an attack against an enemy ship at the highest opportunistic period.

But despite these things, most navies still retain the value of the gun wherein the 76mm/62 caliber Oto Melara Gun is still the preferred main primary gun choice of 50 countries with its respective navy fleets which makes it the most common primary gun on the western-oriented navies in which the Philippine Navy is included. It is fitted with various Fire Control System which comes different across ships where the same fundamental applies to track out targets that are provided to the main primary gun to eliminate for. 

Within the fleet, it is integrated into the key combat warships like the Jose Rizal-class Frigates on the recent warship produced to the first warships that entered the fleet with such a system such as the Jacinto-class Patrol Vessels that provides hard lessons for the service branch to understand the operation, maintenance and troubleshoot of the weapons system until more ships have come to play.

The Philippine Navy in its entirety continues to grow as part of its greater Sail Plan initiative, and it will add more upon the production of new Offshore Patrol Vessels such as the ones to be built by Austal and the Corvette Acquisition Project which will be built by Hyundai Heavy Industries as a virtual Jose Rizal-class Frigates Flight II which will probably be fitted with the better, Super Rapid variant of the Oto Melara Gun. 

So, there will be more to come in terms of honing the gun firing capability more, as it will go hand in hand with other capabilities that involve missiles and torpedoes, both of which are coming to the Philippine Navy.

(c) 2019 PDA, first edition 2024.

1 comment:

Nicky said...

IMO, I think the Philippines should go with the Guided Ammo such as STRALES, DART, VULCANO or even the M982 Excalibur round. It would make the a viable Naval Gunfire support round.

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