July 10, 2011: STRATEGY PAGE
A Chinese firm is now offering a single barrel version (AK-130) of their multi (6-10) barrel CIWS (Close In Weapons System) for defending against missiles and small boats. The AK-1030 is the ten barrel version of the older AK-730 (seven barrel) and AK-630 (six barrel) systems. All fire 30mm shells at an effective range of four or more kilometers. These are similar to the older American 20mm Phalanx. With a max range of 2-3 kilometers, the original Phalanx was designed to be aimed using the ship's fire control systems. Now, Phalanx, and all other CIWS, have their own radar and fire control system and, once turned on, will automatically fire at any incoming missiles. This is necessary, as some anti-ship missiles travel at over a 500 meters a second.
The single barrel AK-130 is meant for naval support ships, or large merchant ships. This would be for protection from pirates or terrorists. The merchant seamen would not need a lot of training to use the AK-130, since the system can automatically detect and take aim at likely targets. If not on automatic mode, the operator (probably an officer, on a merchant ship) would fire via a mouse click using a PC linked to the CIWS. The AK-130, weighing less than a ton, can be bolted to the deck, one on each side, or just one near the bow (front of the ship). While costing over a million dollars each, the AK-130s could be transferred to the growing number of Chinese navy support ships once the Somali pirate threat is gone. Meanwhile, the AK-130 would be a worthwhile investment to protect larger tankers and cargo ships operating in the Indian Ocean.