BAE Systems USA has been contracted to deliver three of the well-proven Mark 45 gun systems for installation aboard Australia’s first three Hunter-class frigates.
In a deal worth US$255 million (AU$380 million), BAE Systems will provide the three shipsets with the Mark 45 medium calibre gun, complete with the automated ammunition handling systems.
This is a 127mm (five-inch) gun system, now the standard for the Royal Australian Navy and already fitted aboard the Navy’s three Hobart-class DDGs and eight Anzac-class frigates.
The Mark 45 is also standard aboard US Navy warships and on warships of Denmark, Greece, Japan, South Korea, Japan, New Zealand, Thailand, Taiwan and Turkey.
“We are proud to partner with BAE Systems Maritime Australia to deliver the Mk 45 gun system and Ammunition Handling System to the Royal Australian Navy,” said Brent Butcher, vice president and general manager of Weapon Systems at BAE Systems.
“The highly reliable Mk 45 system maximises the lethality of the Hunter class frigates, offers the capability to integrate advanced munitions, and supports additional future technology upgrades. With this system fielded on 11 fleets across the globe, it has proven it offers high-reliability.”
Work on this contract began in 2023 and will conclude in 2036. Engineering work will be completed in Minneapolis, Minnesota and production will occur in Louisville, Kentucky.
BAE Systems was also awarded a US$30 million (AU$45 million) contract to upgrade existing Mk 45 Mod 2 naval gun systems on the Navy's Anzac class frigates with a Common Control System (CCS), with first delivery expected by 2026.
The CCS upgrade modifies existing Mk 45 systems to eliminate obsolescence issues and extend the life of the gun system, and replaces electronics to be compatible with the Mk 45 Mod 4.
“The Common Control System upgrade is the most cost-effective way to extend the life of Mk 45 gun systems, enabling them to provide critical ship naval fires and creating a configuration that allows for the integration of future precision guided munitions,” said Butcher.
The Mk 45 gun system combines the five-inch, 62-calibre Mk 45 Mod 4A naval gun, with a fully automated ammunition handling system which continuously supplies the gun with ammunition even in high sea state conditions without assistance from the crew.
This is intended for use against surface warships, anti-aircraft and shore bombardment. The last time Australia fired a naval gun in anger was during the 2003 Iraq war when HMAS Anzac supported British ground forces on the al Faw Peninsula.
Mark 45 can deliver a range of munitions out to around 37 kilometres. The US Navy is examining new guided and hyper-velocity rounds for better performance again a range of threat including missiles.
The Mark 45 lineage predates World War 2, with the current design developed by United Defense in the 1960s in response to a US Navy request for a lighter and easier to maintain gun system. United Defense was acquired by BAE Systems in 2005.
Mark 45 has passed through a number of iterations and is now on Mod 4a.
Sustained firing operation requires a crew of just six, the gun captain, panel operator and four ammunition loaders, all stationed below decks.