Among the main threats to the naval units missiles, increasingly efficient both in terms of lethality of the warheads and of maneuver capacity in the terminal phase, are in first place.
Hence the need to have a system capable of engaging missiles at a distance greater than that allowed by traditional short-range self-defense systems (CIWS).
In the 2000, the Italian Navy, has expressed a requirement for a medium-range self-defense system based on the 76 / 62 mm cannon.
The use of traditional fragmentation munition with proximity spout did not ensure sufficient kill probability (Kp) and therefore the idea was to develop an ammo able to get as close as possible to the missile, using as little time as possible, so as to optimize the Kp with the use of a limited number of strokes, thus allowing the immediate re-use of the piece against any other approaching targets, thus raising the level of saturation to which the naval unit is able to respond.
The system consists of two elements: the ammunition and the guide system. The ammunition named DART (Driven Ammunition Reduced Time of flight) is of the sub-calibrated type, which allows to obtain an optimal aerodynamic profile thus reducing the resistance and therefore the reduction of the speed during the flight of the project, a solution adopted by Oto Melara also in the VULCANO program . In fact, the project DART, to travel 5 km takes only about five seconds.
The configuration is similar to that of the VULCANO, with the fins in the tail where there is also the driving electronics and the antennas designed to receive the signal transmitted in radiofrequency by the guide system present on the gun.
The head of war is at the center, since the shot is not required but a passage at a reduced distance from the approaching enemy. In front of the headboard there are the cross-shaped fins that assure the driving on the basis of the received signals, while in the bow there is the proximity quill as for the conventional ammunition. This quill, entirely digital, miniaturized for integration with the particular geometry of the guided ammunition, is programmable for its operation in the initial phase of flight of the project and able to see the target well in advance, up to several tens of meters, succeeding in optimizing the deflagration point ensuring the maximum possible damage, even at very low altitude, thus discriminating the trace of the target from the disturbances generated by the sea surface.
This makes DART ammunition very effective even against small and very fast naval targets, a situation typical of current asymmetric conflicts, in which small vessels loaded with explosives can jeopardize the safety of naval units of considerable size and economic value.
(photo: Marina Militare / Leonardo)