BAE Testing a New, More Agile Pirate Gun

BAE’s Bofors 40 MK4

(Bloomberg) — BAE Systems Plc is testing a naval gun for smaller warships, a market that’s growing amid demand from the Middle East and coast guards hunting pirates.

The Bofors 40 Mk4 system is about 40 percent lighter and cheaper than an earlier model, and the 40 millimeter gun can be used against helicopters and other airborne targets, as well as ships, and can fire as many as 300 rounds a minute, said Ulf Einefors, the company’s integrated systems director. The weapon is built by BAE’s GCS Weapons business in Sweden.

The potential for smaller warships is outpacing that for larger vessels, causing shipbuilders and suppliers to adapt their offerings. Putting a large gun on smaller boats would allow navies and coast guards to more effectively tackle pirates and similar threats without a large warship, Einefors said.

“When you look at what is sold today it is largely patrol vessels,” he said in a briefing at the Euronaval maritime warfare conference in Le Bourget outside Paris.

The company plans a similar size and cost reduction on its 57 millimeter naval gun. The Swedish navy and FMV arms procurement agency are working with BAE to sponsor at-sea trials of the Mk4 gun on the HMS Jagare patrol boat next week. Once trials are completed, the company would be ready to deliver hardware to customers within 16 months, including the needed certification phase, Einefors said.

The company has already begun talks with potential buyers. Although Einefors would not name possible customers beyond Sweden itself, he said a first contract should be in-hand early next year.

“There are a number of markets we have not had traction before such as in the Persian Gulf region,” he said. “This is an interesting option for them.”

-By Robert Wall. Copyright 2012 Bloomberg.
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