Superior firepower24 January 2023
A joint venture between BAE Systems and NEXTER Systems, CTA International is responsible for the development, qualification, production and in-service support of the 40CTAS – a weapons system that provides enhanced versatility and superior firepower over any other medium calibre system. We speak to Sylvain Richy, managing director of CTA International, to learn more about the company and its products.
Could you give a brief overview of the history of CTA International and the CT40 weapon?
Sylvain Richy: CTA International was established in the 1990s as a joint venture between GIAT Industries in France and Royal Ordnance in the UK. These companies had the shared vision of creating a revolutionary medium-calibre weapon through international cooperation between allies.
Today, these joint-venture parent companies are Nexter Systems and BAE Systems, and CTA International has delivered over 600 of its CT40 weapons and 100,000 rounds of CT40 ammunition. Currently, there are three Nato customers for the weapon: France, the UK and Belgium. The ‘CT’ in CT40 stands for ‘Cased Telescoped’, which is the novel technology at the centre of the weapon that has enabled CTA International to create the world’s most powerful and compact medium-calibre weapon.
The major parts of the CT40 weapon are the cannon, gun control equipment, weapon computer and ammunition-handling system. The ammunition-handling system is a real differentiator for the CT40 weapon, as it gives users the capability to quickly switch between ammunition natures to address a wide-range of potential threats. For example, the CT40 weapon can defeat a BMP-3 infantry fighting vehicle followed immediately by an Orlan-10 UAV for significantly less than the comparative cost of using an ATGM or MANPAD.
I’m excited to see the CT40 weapon integrated into an unmanned vehicle, as I think that the digital sensors and versatility of our weapon will make it well-suited to this application. I like to think about the CT40 weapon as a metaphor for the power and resilience brought about by international cooperation.
Could you speak a little more about the weapon’s versatility? Specifically in the context of manned vs unmanned systems?
Between 2003 and 2007, CTA International integrated the CT40 weapon into both manned and unmanned turrets. At the time of the two major vehicle programmes, Ajax and Jaguar, the decision was made to install manned turrets. As requirements and technology enablers such as manned-unmannedteaming evolve, we increasingly see a future environment in which unmanned ground vehicles (UGVs) will deploy in parallel with crewed systems. There will be a balance to strike between manned and unmanned platforms in order to deploy en masse in an effective and sustainable way.
The CT40 weapon would provide the optimum ratio of firepower and size for such solutions, in addition to the weapon being fully digitised. The CT40 weapon is packed with digital sensors and a central ‘brain’, giving live feedback to the user about system status and activity. The weapon can be operated at a vehicle level, or as part of a networked battlefield, with sensors decoupled from the platform they’re attached to, and targets addressed with the most appropriate ammunition for the job.
We see a growth path for the weapon toward active health monitoring, easing the cognitive burden on vehicle crews, while increasing the volume of performance data available to engineers for preventative or routine maintenance.
Novel capabilities can be gamechanging, but they must be supportable. How are you ensuring that there is resilience in the CT40 weapon supply chain?
Between the Covid-19 pandemic, the conflict in Ukraine and global recession, it’s critical that businesses have the resilience to weather the storms caused by labour shortages and material supply – all this in the context of increasing customer demand. With the French Jaguar vehicle now coming into service, and the British Ajax close to doing the same, CTA lnternational has demonstrated its capability to deliver consistently on time.
CTA International is fortunate to have a strong and ITAR-free European supply chain in support of central manufacturing operations based in Bourges, France, as well as two CT40 munitions production lines in Europe. These features help CTA International to address the challenge of mass production capacity required by growing international uncertainty. On the subject of supply chain, CTA International is always seeking new global industrial partners to reinforce capacity and to address future programmes around the world.
CTA International is a fantastic example of European defence industrial cooperation, alongside companies like MBDA and Anglo-French programmes such as FC/ASW. These programmes ensure not only the fielding of interoperable cutting-edge equipment, but also that critical skills are retained and shared across allies.
How scalable is CT40 weapon production to meet increasing needs in the current dynamic geopolitical situation?
Within the current dynamic geopolitical context, particularly with the war in Ukraine, we have seen countries move quickly to acquire new defensive equipment on the basis of effect, availability and Nato interoperability. To address these points, the CT40 weapon gives users the power of a conventional 40mm weapon in a compact package, with scalable production capacity and three existing Nato customers. From initial observations, we very much see the conflict in Ukraine as having reaffirmed the CT40 weapon’s place on the modern battlefield with its high-power, versatility and compatibility with agile/ mobile platforms.
Following qualification of the CT40 weapon in 2014, CTA International entered a significant production ramp-up phase, enabling the company to deliver the 515 cannons ordered by the UK ahead of schedule. Currently CTA International is delivering CT40 weapon systems to its customer Nexter Systems for the French Jaguar and S40SA (naval anti-air) programmes, with long-term production volumes confirmed out to 2030.
From an ammunition production perspective, both BAE Systems (UK) and Nexter Arrowtech (France) are equipped for high-volume CT40 munition production to support our current and future CT40 weapon users.