Close-in weapon system

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A close-in weapon system (CIWS), often pronounced "sea-whiz," is a point-defense weapon for detecting and destroying short-range incoming missiles and enemy aircraft which have penetrated the outer defenses, typically mounted shipboard in a naval capacity. Nearly all classes of modern warships are equipped with some kind of CIWS device.

There are two types of CIWS systems. A gun-based CIWS usually consists of a combination of radars, computers, and multiple-barrel, rotary rapid-fire cannons placed on a rotating gun mount. Missile systems use infra-red, passive radar/ESM or semi-active radar terminal guidance to guide missiles to the targeted enemy aircraft or other threats. In some cases, CIWS are used on land to protect military bases.

Gun systems

A gun-based CIWS usually consists of a combination of radars, computers, and multiple-barrel, rotary rapid-fire cannons placed on a rotating, automatically-aimed gun mount. Examples of gun-based CIWS products in operation are:

Limitations of gun systems

  • Short range: the maximum effective range of 20 mm (0.79 in) gun systems is about 4,500 metres (14,800 ft); systems with lighter projectiles have even shorter range. The expected real-world kill-distance of an incoming anti-ship missile is about 500 m (1,600 ft) or less,[3] still close enough to cause damage to the ship’s sensor or communication arrays, or to wound or kill exposed personnel. This also makes the timeframe for interception relatively short; for supersonic missiles moving at 1,500 metres per second (4,900 ft/s) it is approximately one-third of a second.
  • Limited kill probability: even if the missile is hit and damaged, this may not be enough to destroy it entirely or to alter its course enough to prevent the missile, or fragments from it, from hitting its intended target, particularly as the interception distance is short. This is especially true if the gun fires kinetic-energy-only projectiles.
  • Guns can only fire at one target at a time; switching targets may take up to one second to re-train the gun.
  • A gun must predict the target's course and aim at the predicted position. Modern anti-ship missiles make intentional erratic moves before impact, reducing the probability of being hit by unguided projectiles.

Comparison of some current CIWS

Comparison of some modern CIWS
Russia AK-630[4] United States Phalanx CIWS[5] Netherlands Goalkeeper CIWS Italy DARDO[6] Switzerland Millennium[7]
Weight 9,114 kg (20,093 lb) 6,200 kg (13,700 lb) 9,902 kg (21,830 lb) 5,500 kg (12,100 lb) 3,300 kg (7,300 lb)
Armament 30 mm (1.2 in) 6 barreled GSh-6-30 Gatling Gun 20 mm (0.79 in) 6 barreled M61 Vulcan Gatling Gun 30 mm (1.2 in) 7 barreled GAU-8 Gatling Gun 40 mm (1.6 in) 2 barreled Bofors 40 mm 35 mm (1.4 in) 1 barreled Oerlikon Millennium 35 mm Naval Revolver Gun System
Rate of Fire 5,000 rounds per minute 4,500 rounds per minute 4,200 rounds per minute 600/900 rounds per minute 200/1000 rounds per minute
(effective/ flat-trajectory) Range 4,000 m (13,000 ft) 2,000 m (6,600 ft) 3,600 m (11,800 ft) 4,000 m (13,000 ft) 3,500 m (11,500 ft)
Ammunition storage 2,000 rounds 1,550 rounds 1,190 rounds 736 rounds 252 rounds
Muzzle velocity 900 m (3,000 ft) per second 1,100 m (3,600 ft) per second 1,109 m (3,638 ft) per second 1,000 m (3,300 ft) per second 1,050 m (3,440 ft) per second / 1,175 m (3,855 ft) per second
Elevation -12 to +88 degrees -25 to +85 degrees -25 to +85 degrees -13 to +85 degrees -15 to +85 degrees
Speed in Elevation 50 degrees per second 115 degrees per second 100 degrees per second 60 degrees per second 70 degrees per second
Traverse 360 degrees 360 degrees 360 degrees 360 degrees 360 degrees
Speed in Traverse 70 degrees per second 115 degrees per second 100 degrees per second 90 degrees per second 120 degrees per second
In service 1976 1980 1980  ? 2003

Missile systems

Missile systems do not have the same limitations as gun systems. Because of their greater range, a missile-CIWS can also be dual-used as a short-ranged area-defense anti-air weapon, eliminating the need for a second mount for this role.

After an inertial guidance phase, a CIWS missile relies on infra-red, passive radar/ESM or semi-active radar terminal guidance, or a combination of these. The ESM-mode is particularly useful since most long-range anti-ship missiles use radar to home in on their targets. Some systems allow the launch platform to send course-correction commands to the missile in the inertial guidance phase.

A drawback of the missile system is (in combat) the low number of immediately available projectiles and longer reload cycles and higher costs per shot in training. A further advantage of the gun systems the fact that a fired projectile cannot be jammed or lured away from its trajectory by active electronic or infrared countermeasures. For this reason, larger military vessels are often protected by combinations of both systems.

Examples include:

  • Sea Sparrow Block 1, Missile used by the Nimitz class carriers, and other USN ships, as a short- to medium-range anti-aircraft weapon.
    • Evolved Sea Sparrow missile, used aboard all Sea Sparrow-capable warships, plus other warships of the Netherlands, Canadian, Spanish, Japanese, Turkish and Australian navies.
  • RIM-116 Rolling Airframe Missile - jointly developed by the US and Germany, it is used extensively on German warships and many American ones - SeaRam is a plan to mate the Phalanx sensor system with an 11-missile RAM launcher
  • 9K33 Osa (SA-N-4 Gecko) missile, is used on various Russian ships.
  • 9K331 (SA-N-9 Gauntlet) missile, used by the Russian Navy, it is stored and fired from Vertical launching systems of various ships. It along with the Tor missile system is the first air-defense system designed from ground up to intercept precision guided munitions like the AGM-86 ALCM[8]
  • 9M311 (SA-N-11 Grisom) missile, used by the Russian and Chinese navies as part of the Kashtan CIWS gun-missile system.
  • Barak 1 an Israeli point defence missile system also used by Indian Navy.
  • Barak 8 jointly developed by Israel and India.
  • Crotale-NG
  • HQ-7 missile, a Chinese missile system, standard for all ships.
  • Sadral, using a version of the Mistral missile
  • Sea-Sprint, using the ADATS missile
  • Modernized Sea Wolf

Land-based CIWS

CIWS are also used in a land-based anti-mortar and missile defense role to protect fixed and temporary bases and other facilities.[9][10]

On a smaller scale, active protection systems are used in some tanks, and several are in development. The Drozd system was deployed on Soviet Naval Infantry tanks in the early 1980s, but later replaced by explosive reactive armour. Other systems that are available or under development are the Russian (Arena), Israeli (Trophy), American (Quick Kill) and the South African-Swedish (LEDS-150).

Laser CIWS Systems

Laser based CIWS systems are being researched. In August 2014 an operational prototype was deployed to the Persian Gulf aboard USS Ponce.[11]

The Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey (Turkish: Türkiye Bilimsel ve Teknolojik Araştırma Kurumu, TÜBİTAK) is the second organisation after the US to have developed and tested a High Power Laser CIWS prototype System which is intended to be used on the TF-2000 class frigate and on Turkish airborne systems.[12][13][14]

See also


  3. Wachsberger, Christian; Lucas, Michael; Krstic, Alexander (June 2004), Limitations of Guns as a Defence against Manoeuvring Air Weapons (PDF), DSTO Systems Sciences Laboratory, p. 36<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. Dan Petty. "The US Navy - Fact File:". Retrieved 2013-05-18.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. Tony DiGiulian. "Italy 40 mm/70 (1.57") Breda". Retrieved 2013-05-18.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. Oerlikon Millennium 35 mm Naval Revolver Gun System
  8. "ЗЕНИТНЫЙ РАКЕТНЫЙ КОМПЛЕКС 9К330 "ТОР" (SA-15 Gauntlet)". Вестника ПВО (in Russian). 2007-08-21. Retrieved 2010-09-01.CS1 maint: unrecognized language (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. [1][dead link]
  11. U.S. Navy Deploys Its First Laser Weapon in the Persian Gulf -, 14 November 2014

External links