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M167 Vulcan

Towed / Static Air Defense System [ 1967 ]

The M167 Vulcan was designed for ease of transport and short-ranged saturation of contested airspace.

Authored By: Staff Writer | Last Edited: 05/21/2018 | Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com | The following text is exclusive to this site.

Requiring a voluminous fire, light-class towed anti-aircraft defense system, the U.S. Army adopted the M167 "Vulcan" in 1967. Design work on the weapon spanned from 1964 to 1965 under the direction of the Rock Island Arsenal and the Vulcan went on to see production reach 626 total units, eventually also adopted by the armies of Belgium, Botswana, Chile, Egypt, Honduras, Japan, Morocco, Thailand, Uruguay, South Korea, Sudan and Yemen. For the U.S. military, the M167 replaced the aged stocks of M55 "Quad 50" systems then in use.

NOTE: The M163 "Vulcan Air Defense System" (VADS) is a related, self-propelled version of the towed M167 detailed in this article, the gun portion being set atop a modified version of the ubiquitous M113 Armored Personnel Carrier (APC).

At the core of the Vulcan system is its six-barreled 20mm M61 Vulcan aircraft gun (firing the 20x102mm projectile). Utilizing a rotating approach, the weapon counters barrel overheating by presenting a set of barrels with attached chambers rotating on a single drum. This arrangement also allows for the quick extraction of ammunition cases, providing a high rate-of-fire which allows a Vulcan crew to saturate airspace against an incoming aerial threat - the trade-off, of course, being ammunition stores quickly drying up. If pressed, the Vulcan could also be used to counter light-armored ground targets with ferocious results. The rate-of-fire was adjustable by the operator between 1,000rpm and 3,000rpm.

The M167 is a complete weapons system involving the gun itself, the mounting assembly, crew controls and carriage. The carriage features two rubber-tired road wheels for transport by a mover vehicle. Legs are extended to help buffer the recoil effects when firing and this is coupled to a jack system at the front. A typical crew included at least two personnel with one seated at the weapon to man its controls. M167s proved compact enough to be hauled by any manner available - mover vehicle, air transport or rail.

In U.S. service, the M167 was reserved for the short-ranged defense role through the Army and Air Force service. Its limited effective range was 1.2 kilometers against aerial targets and up to 2.0 kilometers against ground targets. The system lacked radar guidance for inherent accuracy, particularly against a moving target, and only granted a ranging radar with manual targeting. The 82nd Airborne was one of the weapon's well-known American operators, serving with the type from 1970 to 1994. Its versatility and portability proved sound.

Beyond the original M167A1 models was the M167A2 which introduced a modified, improved Fire Control System (FCS). A road wheel was added to either side of the carriage to counter the threat of roll-overs and improved gun direction was added. The M167 was in use with all American forces up until 1994 at which point conventional ground-based guns were given up in favor of missiles - primarily the short-ranged "Stinger" family.

Other operators may still be using M167s in frontline roles despite their Cold War-era lineage.©MilitaryFactory.com
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Rock Island Arsenal - USA
Belgium; Chile; Egypt; Honduras; Japan; Morocco; Thailand; Uruguay; South Korea; Sudan; United States; Yemen
Operators National flag of Belgium National flag of Chile National flag of Egypt National flag of modern Japan National flag of Morocco National flag of South Korea National flag of Sudan National flag of Thailand National flag of the United States National flag of Uruguay National flag of Yemen
Service Year
United States
National Origin

3,968 lb
(1,800 kg)
2.0 tons

None. This is a towed artillery piece.
Drive System

1 x 20mm M61 six-barreled, revolving main gun
Dependent upon ammunition carrier.

M167 - Base Series Designation
M167A2 - Modified M167A1 with improved fire control subsystem.
K263 SPAAG M167 - South Korean Variant

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Image of the M167 Vulcan
Image courtesy of the Fort Bragg museum collection.

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