What challenges have arisen from the increased use of drones in modern warfare and what challenges do future “swarm drones” pose?

The explosive growth of commercial drone technology has resulted in the relatively cheap and rapid acquisition of modified commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) items for use in the defence arena. Drones are undoubtedly redefining modern warfare and a demonstration of advancements in technology driving down market prices, providing smart solutions and consequently enabling new military tactics.

Drones are being used frequently on and around the battlefield in Ukraine for both traditional reconnaissance missions to support artillery strikes and further they are being modified as an effector in the form of “kamikaze” drones that conduct direct attacks on infantry and critical infrastructure. The use of drones in modern warfare represents a shift in paradigm where quantity may become the new quality.

A “DJI Mavic 3” drone produced by China and used on both sides of the war in Ukraine can be purchased for less than €2,000. To put that into context, you could purchase more than 60,000 drones for the cost of a single Eurofighter Typhoon. Even the more sophisticated Iranian Shahed-136 drones cost around €20,000 – a fraction of the cost of a cruise missile.

The effect of 60,000 drones is yet to be understood, but even if only one-tenth are successful in penetrating defensive positions or loitering near expected target points, the impact is sure to be devastating. This is only exacerbated with the power of autonomy, with future coordinated drone swarms using live data from the battlefield to make their own decisions without the need for direct control by humans. Evidently, highintensity conflicts like that seen in Ukraine, paired with the increased and novel use of drone technology, results in an urgent demand for new, effective and affordable counter measures.

How can CTA-International’s product range help to overcome these threats?

To deal with the plethora of future threats and their range of capabilities, an integrated and multi-layered SHORAD/VSHORAD defence approach is required. Part of this VSHORAD layer can be effectively serviced using weapons systems like the 40-CTAS and its associated precise anti-air kinetic effectors. In addition to defensive positions, the 40-CTAS can operate in an attack environment and has been integrated onto armoured fighting vehicles for three NATO users. The 40-CTAS can change modes of operation rapidly, operating in ground-to-ground combat though the use of ammunition such as the 40mm APFSDS-T round before rapidly switching to a “Kinetic Energy Airburst” (KE-AB) round in a ground-to-air combat role to eliminate enemy drones carrying lethal payloads. The flexibility the system offers is a key differentiator which will ensure our allies on the battlefield can overcome future threats.

The range of 40-CT ammunition is currently made of six available war-shots which can all be loaded and managed together in the rapid and intelligent handling system that can automatically choose the best response dependent on the unique nature of each threat environment. Out of the six, two are of the airburst type. The General Purpose Airburst (GPR-AB-T) high-explosive round is optimised for fragmentation effects and has a lethality area of 125m2 at a range of 2,500m. The KE-AB round which leverages this proven airburst technology launches 1.4kg of highvelocity tungsten pellet in a shotgun-type effect at the enemy target at a distance up to 4,000m.

The system can change ammunition natures in seconds, and this can be managed by a simple link-less single feed system that can accommodate a high number of rounds before a reload is required. The number of rounds stored is only limited by the platform and can be expanded or reduced depending on the needs of each end-user. Another differentiating factor is that of the cased telescoped rounds which require a smaller footprint, meaning more rounds can be held ready for firing. This unique design, paired with an increased kill probability means each 40mm round provides more “bang for buck” when compared with other designs and importantly can last longer and be more effective in theatre.

What modifications, if any, have been made to the 40-CTAS to enhance its optimisation against drones?

The 40-CTAS is a highly adaptable and flexible system, this system can operate on land, at sea, and in an increasing number of operational contexts. Its adaptability and ease of integration make it inherently suitable for use against aerial threats such as drones. The 40-CTAS was originally conceived for land forces, being first integrated into armoured and infantry fighting vehicles. With its growth potential, the 40-CTAS now also arms the “RAPIDFire” turret in the maritime environment and is specifically designed to address aerial threats. The system is completely agnostic and can be installed in a multitude of platforms whether that is fixed, mobile, on land or at sea. CTAI is an organisation with innovation at the heart, and the teams are continuously optimising the design to ensure the product adapts to the evolving threat landscape. The true savviness of the system is in its simplicity. This simplicity along with the experience of the CTAI team allows for rapid design improvements that in turn increases our performance.

For the dedicated anti-air KE-AB round, the design improvements have ensured the system’s high accuracy is maintained at distances of up to 4,000m. These improvements include a heavier duty barrel and a new muzzle brake with three baffles.

What features of 40-CTAS ammunition make it capable of taking down drones in the field?

The 40-CTAS is a high-precision, highimpact system which is effective as a C-UAS solution. The system with its range of available ammunition and its ability to fire in single shot, burst and coincidence mode can effectively eliminate the threat of enemy UAS. The 40-CTAS has an at arc of elevation of 85°, thus giving more target flexibility. This is further supported by its unique compact design which results in no-deck intrusion. Additionally, the control and coordination unit for the weapon system enables continuous firing while simultaneously aiming and re-calibrating as targets quickly move positions.

Specifically for use in an anti-air capacity, CTAI’s KE-AB munition launches a 1.4kg payload of tungsten pellets with a directional terminal effect up to an effective range of 4,000m. The projectiles’ aerodynamics reduces the time of flight and increases the probability of each hit.

The power behind each KE-AB round surpasses that of smaller medium calibre munitions, which means less rounds with a higher critical effect in the field and importantly a more cost-effective solution than alternative VSHORAD defence systems. The 40-CTAS rate of fire further supports this philosophy. With up to 200 rounds per minute, the system can manage multiple threats simultaneously. Such a system is required to counter future “drone swarms” which may operate autonomously. These performance characteristics ensure any enemy UAS can be neutralised from multiple angles of attack before they are effective in the battlefield.

CTA-International will be at DSEI London from 12–15 September 2023. Visit CTA-International on stand H6-327 and BAE Systems on stand H3-110.