Greeting your enemies with 75 bullets per second: Meet the Phalanx CIWS

The Phalanx CIWS (Close-In Weapon System) is a naval defense system designed to detect and destroy incoming anti-ship missiles and other airborne threats.
Interesting Engineering

The Phalanx Close-In Weapons System (CIWS) is a rapid-fire, radar-controlled gun system used by navies around the world to defend against incoming threats such as anti-ship missiles, aircraft, and small boats. The development of this system began in the early 1970s, with General Dynamics being awarded the contract for its production.

The first prototype of the Phalanx CIWS was offered to the U.S. Navy for evaluation on the destroyer leader USS King in 1973. However, further work was required to improve its performance and reliability. The first ship to be fully fitted with the system was the aircraft carrier USS Coral Sea in 1980.

At the core of the Phalanx CIWS lies the M61 Vulcan, a six-barreled, 20mm rotary cannon capable of firing at a rate of 3,000 to 4,500 rounds per minute. The ammunition handling system is composed of two conveyor belt systems. The first system takes the rounds out of the magazine drum to the gun, while the second system takes empty shells or unfired rounds to the opposite end of the drum.

The CIWS employs a duo of radar antennas that work together to target potential threats. The search antenna is housed within the radome atop the weapon control group's white-painted section. It supplies the CIWS computer with data on the bearing, range, velocity, heading, and altitude of detected objects.

The Phalanx CIWS has proven to be an effective defense system for naval vessels around the world, with its high rate of fire and advanced radar technology allowing for quick and accurate targeting of incoming threats. As naval warfare continues to evolve, it is likely that the Phalanx CIWS will continue to be updated and improved to keep pace with emerging threats.