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Weapons: Ma Deuce Shows Her Age
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January 8, 2010: The U.S. Navy and Marines have decided to standardize on the GAU-21 machine-gun system for all their heavy helicopters. The GAU-21 uses a Belgian M2M .50 caliber machinegun, instead of the older U.S. made M2 (Ma Deuce). The M2M has less recoil and fewer malfunctions (cook offs). The M2M also has longer barrel life and a higher rate of fire (1,000 rounds per minute, compared to 700 with the older M2 weapon). The GAU-21 is able to accurately hit targets 6,700 meters (21,000 feet) away, partly because the weapon generates less vibration than the M2. The GAU-21 machine-gun costs $60,000 each.

U.S. helicopters also use the M2M as door guns, but in the navy and marines, these will largely be replaced with the GAU-21, even in the marine UH-1N (the refurbished twin engine UH-1 they have been using for decades).

Three years ago, German CH-53G transport helicopters in Afghanistan had their armament (two 7.62mm machine guns, mounted on the side doors), increased with a .50 caliber (12.7mm) machine gun on the rear cargo ramp. The U.S. Navy and Marines first developed this system four years ago, calling it the GAU-21. The larger caliber machine-gun provides more effective firepower when dealing with ambush situations, or anyone on the ground firing at you. The Germans also plan to replace the door guns with 12.7mm machine-guns.


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shep854       1/8/2010 8:17:23 AM
Given that the M2M is actually a modernized M2, this article is actually a testimonial of the excellence and endurance of the Browning design.  FWIW, FN has a very long association with Browning designs; they made and sold many of John M. Browning's designs in Europe.
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captcouv    Ma Duece afficianado   1/8/2010 4:09:25 PM
Ma Duece is a MILF (M2 I Love to Fire)!
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smitty237       1/8/2010 5:18:01 PM
The Ma Duece was a great gun, but long overdue for an update.  The biggest headache with the guns we had in my unit back in the 90's was adjusting headspace and timing.  I've boogered up my thumb a number of times jacking turning that damn knob, and if you weren't careful with what you were doing, you or a buddy could get impaled by the recoil rod!  Still, not bad for a weapon nearly ninety years old! 
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cwDeici       1/9/2010 1:34:55 AM
I wonder how many times the Germans have actually fired these door guns... probably almost only in self-defense when the Taliban think they have a good shot.
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cwDeici       1/9/2010 1:36:38 AM
A range of 6,7 klicks at a thousand rounds per minute is very impressive.
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shep854       1/9/2010 9:17:55 AM
The US Army has been trying to find a replacement design for decades, without success.
They have recently begun fielding a upgrade (M2A1?) with a quick-change barrel and fixed headspace.  see Wiki: "M2 Browning Machine Gun".
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WarNerd       1/10/2010 3:24:03 AM

They have recently begun fielding a upgrade (M2A1?) with a quick-change barrel and fixed headspace.  see Wiki: "M2 Browning Machine Gun".

The upgrade is probably the M2M, but with a different name.
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doggtag    M2E2   1/10/2010 5:05:00 AM
The "new" gun is being built by General Dynamics.
Yes, as a whole its internals are very obsolescent designs when compared to newer available gun technologies,
but still effective nonetheless solely because of the bullet it fires.
There were attempts to design replacement 50-cal guns, mostly which resulted in failure (M85 dual rate of fire weapon used on M60 tanks) because they got even more complex and solved nothing rather than adding additional concerns.
Mostly nowadays, there are just several nations building their own locally produced mods of this tried-and-trusted Browning,
rather than masses building their own indigenous designs as has happened with so many 5.56-7.62mm guns.
The Russians' experience with 12.7mm has them using a slightly bigger cartridge case, a 12.7x108mm as opposed to the "American" 12.7x99mm.
The most notable perhaps ideal replacement that coulda/woulda/mighta replaced the big Browning and all its complexity was the Dover Devil, a US project from ages ago that featued the novel idea of quick conversion to fire 20mm ammo, which back in those days (1970s?) was also used by the US Army's Vulcan M163 air defence system (mounted on an M113).
This was also back in the days when it wasn't yet set in stone that the Bradley fighting vehicle would eventually bring about development of the 25mm Chain Gun family...speaking of which, there has been development of a 12.7mm Chain Gun, the drawback being it needs extrnal power (from a vehicle or back-up hand crank) to function, but with the benefit that Chain Guns do not have runaway risks if/when the gun overheats.
The original Dover Devil did not die: it still exists, in more modern refined form, in Singapore Technologies' CIS50.
An interesting feature of the design, from the original, is its dual feed capability.
South Africa also has played around with convertable guns: one noatable gun called the MA1 borrowed much from WW2 German gun technology to develop a 50-cal gun that could up-convert to a 20x82mm round (as opposed to the 20x102 as the US uses in Vulcan guns).
There also have been anti-materiel rifle developmentsd that can convert in a similar method, with one South African design offering conversion between 12.7x99, the big Russian 14.5mm, and the 20x82 round, should the situation warrant it ever needs to be done.
(Comparable to US developments by Barrett Rifles to create a line of 12.7mm antimaterial rifles, at least one of which led to up-caliber development of the 25mm Payload Rifle, the M109, developed from the M107 in 12.7mm form.)
The US Army's OCSW/ACSW program also featured a gun whose caliber could be converted from 12x7x99mm to the newer 25mm caliber utliized by those "smart" grenades,
with the end result being a machine gun "family" which offered a comparably slower rate of fire of 240-250rpm, as opposed to the Browning's 400-500rpm.
Even though aimed precision fire is becoming more popular in many aspects over the established area fires effect where a larger number of rounds is put into a "beaten zone", it's been suggested that troops in the field just won't have enough faith in a slower firing weapon, no matter how much more accurate (or not?) it may prove to be with enough training...
Tactically, it's doubtful it would be necessary to change calibers in the field due to ammo shortages (let alone the necessity of keeping all those extra parts in inventory to do so), but still an interesting option to have.
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kirby1       1/14/2010 10:54:23 PM
I love the Ma Deuce, but I always thought it would be nifty if someone would develop a three or four barrel Gatling 50 cal to mount on armored vehicles in the coaxial position.
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doggtag    yes, but not as a coax...   1/15/2010 7:15:33 AM
The GAU-19 has actually been around for quite a while (1980s?).
GE initially developed a 6-barrel 12.7mm, the original GECal 50, before settling on a lighter 3-barrel model more suited to a lightweight installation on helicopters and ground vehicles.
(General Dynamics now owning the production rights, the company's GAU-19 pdf is here.)
As a coax for a AFV, the gun itself might create too much of a hole in the armor protection of said turret mounting it, not to mention additional complication internally for ammunition feed chutes and sufficient access to the weapon in event of malfunction and ease of maintenance,
but also various print magazines (and Jane's encyclopedias) past have shown pics depicting it pintle-mounted on top of Humvees mostly, with the weapon also seeing service as a door gun in larger helos (MH-type Chinooks and Stallions, etc).
Most recently, that AT-802 crop duster that was mentioned back in Summer 2009 for COIN missions, it was demo'ed with a GAU-19 mounted under each wing.
Months ago, we actually had mention of it here in a COIN thread,...might try checking back thru the Fighters, Bombers, and Recon threads...
What kind of seals the deal against using the GAU-19 as a ground vehicle weapon is,
there's that M3 development of the 50-cal HMG that offers upwards of 1000rpm from a single barrel weapon that overall is lighter and takes up less volume than the 3-barrel GAU-19.
Only drawback in that instance of using the M3 in the ground role is that it's burst-limited because of being a single-barrel, air-cooled weapon.
The rotary (gatling) operation of the GAU-19 assures that its barrels can sustain longer fire rates, as the gun rotation acts as some cooling effect on the barrels and breeches,
and they don't fire as many rpm per barrel over the same duration: the M3 does ~1000rpm on 1 barrel, where at max rpm the GAU-19 fires 2000rpm using 3 barrels, roughly 667rpm each...won't overheat nearly as fast as the M3.
Plus, gatling type weapons by design are more likely to spit out dud rounds rather than jam up on them because, unlike the Browning 50-cal's mechanism, the gatlings aren't recoil-dependent to operate.
That help any?
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