F-16 20mm M61A1 Six-Barrel Gatling Gun and Feed System
F-16 20mm M61A1 Six-Barrel Gatling Gun and Feed System

General Dynamics Awarded $88 Million US Air Force Contract for Purchase of Vulcan Cannon Guns

General Dynamics-Ordnance and Tactical Systems (GD-OTS) Inc., Williston, Vermont, has been awarded an $88,275,000 firm-fixed-price, indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity requirements contract for the purchase of M61A1 Vulcan 20MM cannon guns. This contract provides for production of the guns in support of the F-16 weapon system. Over 4,500 F-16 systems have been delivered to date. Work will be performed in Williston, Vermont, and is expected to be completed by Dec. 12, 2031. TThese features provide additional space for other aircraft equipment. This award is the result of a sole source acquisition. U.S. Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, Robins Air Force Base, Georgia, is the contracting activity.

The F-16 20mm Gun System features the M61A1 six-barrel Gatling gun and a linkless ammunition feed system. The M61A1 provides up to 10 times the reliability of single-barrel guns, firing at 6,000 shots per minute and placing a controlled dispersion of projectiles in the path of the target. The double-ended linkless ammunition feed system incorporates a compact lightweight composite rotary ammunition drum to store unfired and fired ammunition. The feed system is compatible with four General Dynamics Ordnance and Tactical Systems’ loading systems: the Universal Ammunition Loading System; the Ammunition Loading System; the F-16 Delinking Loader and the Universal Delinking Loader.

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F-16 20mm M61A1 Six-Barrel Gatling Gun and Feed System
F-16 20mm M61A1 Six-Barrel Gatling Gun and Feed System (Photo by General Dynamics-Ordnance and Tactical Systems (GD-OTS) Inc.)

The M61 Vulcan is a hydraulically, electrically or pneumatically driven, six-barrel, air-cooled, electrically fired Gatling-style rotary cannon which fires 20 mm (0.787 in) rounds at an extremely high rate (typically 6,000 rounds per minute). Each of the cannon’s six barrels fires once in turn during each revolution of the barrel cluster. The multiple barrels provide both a very high rate of fire — around 100 rounds per second—and contribute to prolonged weapon life by minimizing barrel erosion and heat generation. The success of the Vulcan Project and its progeny, the very-high-speed Gatling gun, has led to guns of the same configuration being referred to as “Vulcan cannon”, which can sometimes confuse nomenclature on the subject.

The M61 and its derivatives have been the principal cannon armament of United States military fixed-wing aircraft for sixty years. The M61 was originally produced by General Electric. In 1993, General Electric sold its aerospace division with the design and production tooling for the M61 and GE’s other rotary cannon, to Martin Marietta. After Martin’s merger with Lockheed, the rotary cannon became the responsibility of Lockheed Martin Armament Systems. Lockheed Martin Armament Systems was later acquired by General Dynamics, who currently produce the M61 and its variants. Lockheed Martin Armament Systems was later acquired by General Dynamics, who currently produce the M61 and its variants. After several mergers and acquisitions, it is currently produced by General Dynamics.

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Thanh Nguyen, 372nd Training Squadron Detachment 202 F-16 armament systems instructor and scheduler, examines a M61A1 Vulcan cannon at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C.
U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Thanh Nguyen, 372nd Training Squadron Detachment 202 F-16 armament systems instructor and scheduler, examines a M61A1 Vulcan cannon at Shaw Air Force Base,, South Carolina. (Photo by 20th Fighter Wing Public Affairs )

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