We covered the history of the Navy’s 3” guns up through the immediate post World War II era. But that isn’t the end of the story.
While 3” guns may have been displaced as anti-aircraft weapons by guided missiles, early guided missile systems were terribly large and expensive. Further, there are a lot of navies that use small combatant ships that needed a cheap, simple weapon to deal with other small combatants. These ships were too small to mount heavier guns like a 5” mount, so a rapid fire 3” gun was still attactive. Reducing the size of the crew needed, improving fire control, and upping the rate of fire would make up for the shortcomings of the 3” gun. In the 1960s, quite a few NATO nations, and even the US, also saw the cost and logistical benefits of collaborating to built a series of common warships, and using common weapon and sensor suits. National priorities and competition by defense industries often meant this goal was more honored in the breach, but one system was so successful it was widely adopted- the OTO Melara 76mm (3”)/62 gun.
First built in 1963, the 76 Compact was a lightweight gun mount with a very high rate of fire (85 rounds/minute) with an 80 round ready service magazine. The mount was unmanned and controlled entirely by remote fire control from a ships combat center.
How successful is the 76mm/62? Well, it and a modified version with a higher rate of fire is in use with 53 different navies, and several hundred have been produced. Currently, in US service, it is the main battery on FFG-7 Oliver Hazzard Perry class frigates, and two different classes of US Coast Guard cutters.
Here’s a vid:
The next generation of US frigate sized ships have gone with the even smaller Bofors 57mm automatic gun, reflecting a great concern with defending ships against swarm attacks by small boats, as described in the ONI appreciation of the Iranian Navy we posted yesterday.
We’ll skip that gun, and discuss the 5” family of guns next.