Army tests new helicopter-mounted Gatling XM915 machine gun

In recent tests at Yuma Proving Ground, Arizona, the military tested a new 20mm Gatling-style machine gun for the very first time.

According to a November 3 press release, the machine gun is being tested as an addition to the Army’s next generation Future Vertical Lift (FVL) and Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft (FARA). Ideally, the cannon will serve as a rotating cannon on one of those futuristic rigs – but for now, the military is testing it on a UH-60 Black Hawk. It was first fired during Project Convergence, a massive exercise hosted by Army Futures Command, in which the military experimented with integrating its weapon systems with the rest of the joint force.

“It shoots fast, it shoots well and it shoots accurately,” Lt. Col. Cameron Keogh, chief of flight tests for the US Army’s Combat Capability Development Command, said in the statement. “As a former attack and reconnaissance pilot, I like it.”

The military mentioned the Gatling-style pistol, called the XM915, in a press release last year. The three-barreled weapon, which is still in development, can fire up to 1,500 rounds per minute and weighs less than 115 pounds, the statement said.

The US Army Combat Capabilities Development Command Armaments Center, or DEVCOM AC, headquartered in Picatinny Arsenal, NJ, prepares the 20mm XM915 rotary cannon for field testing during Project Convergence 2021. (US Army)

“The weapon will be mounted in a turret cradle allowing the weapon to be aimed regardless of the direction of travel of the aircraft,” the 2020 press release said, meaning the aircraft did no need to be facing the same direction it is shooting. “Ammunition will be fed into the weapon through an unrelated carrier drive system that performs the same task as steel belt ammunition while reducing weight and increasing system reliability.”

The original Gatling gun, developed in the 19th century, “paved the way for the modern machine guns we know today,” as Popular Mechanics reported last year. Although its design varied over the years, the 170-pound manual machine gun “offered unprecedented firepower” and featured multiple barrels around a central axis, which fired with one turn of the crank by the shooter.

In addition to having had the chance to try the XM915, soldiers participating in Project Convergence flew a UH-60 Black Hawk “completely autonomously” and field tested items such as Air Launched Effects, such as the Communiqué described as low-throw surveillance drones attached to a helicopter or vehicle “that can be the eyes of an aviator.”

Lt. Col. Tanner Spry, the experimentation planner for the future cross-functional vertical lift team, said testing and experimentation with new technologies will ultimately “reduce the workload on soldiers.”

And who doesn’t like the sound of that?

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