General Electric M134 Minigun Six-Barrel Gatling Gun
The ferocious General Electric M134 Minigun has been used to good effect as a vehicle weapon firing from either land, sea, or air platforms.
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The vehicle-mounted General Electric M134 "Minigun" was born as a derivative of the 20mm General Electric M61 aircraft gun, retaining the same six-barreled Gatling design concept while being rechambered for the 7.62x51mm NATO cartridge. This ferocious weapon has gone on to have a lengthy service life, seeing combat action during the Vietnam War (1955-1975) with American forces and in the global wars that followed. Despite its 1960s origins, the M134 continues in service through a large stable of operators today (2015).
The concept of rotating barrels for (barrel cooling and to achieve a high rate-of-fire) was far from a new approach with the introduction of the M134. The approach pioneered by Dr. Richard Gatling's original attempts of the 1800s has been evolved through various designs though all follow the core concept - multiple rotating barrels with an external mechanism for rotation. Early forms included a manual hand-cranked action while more modern offerings have since relied upon electric drive assistance.
The modern American Army began to look into a new "suppression" weapon based on its early Vietnam War experience where its lightly-armored, highly vulnerable transport helicopters were fodder for well-hidden enemy ground forces. General Electric threw its hat into the ring for development of such a weapon and began by exploring its existing 20mm M61 "Vulcan" aircraft gun as a possible solution though in a much more compact body. The resultant weapon was essentially a dimensionally smaller product and chambered for the ubiquitous 7.62x51mm NATO rifle cartridge. The developmental "XM134" ultimately became the "M134" in U.S. Army service while the USAF knew it as the GAU-2/A and GAU-17/A (the USN used the "Mk 25 Mod 0" designator). Original versions held a rate-of-fire of 6,000 rounds per minute but this rate was scaled back to 4,000 rpm (and now variable between 2,000rpm and 6,000rpm) for greater accuracy and ammunition control. Due to the drive power required of the weapon an external powerpack is a standard component of the weapon system, restricting the weapon to vehicle-mounted use such as in aircraft, on a ground vehicle or installed on a watercraft. Hollywood's take on the gun has many believing these are man-portable battlefield weapons requiring no outside / fixed power supply(!)