In-Box Review
Minigun 20mm barrels M61A
The Vulcan
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by: Stephen T. Lawson [ JACKFLASH ]


The M61A Vulcan is a hydraulically or pneumatically driven, six-barreled, air-cooled, electrically fired Gatling-style cannon, which fires 20 mm rounds at an extremely high rate. The M61 and its derivatives have been the principal cannon armament of United States military fixed-wing aircraft for fifty years. The M61 was originally produced by General Electric, and after several mergers and acquisitions is currently produced by General Dynamics.

At the end of World War II, the United States Army began to consider new directions for future military aircraft guns. General Electric Armament Division resurrected an old idea: the multi-barrel Gatling gun. The original Gatling gun had fallen out of favor because of the need for an external power source to rotate the barrel assembly, but the new generation of turbojet-powered fighters offered sufficient electrical power to operate the gun, and electric operation offered reliability superior to a gas operated weapon. With multiple barrels the rate of fire per barrel could be lower than a single-barrel revolver cannon while still giving a superior total rate of fire.

The development of the F-104 Starfighter revealed that the T171 Vulcan (later redesignated M61) suffered problems with its linked ammunition, being prone to misfeed and presenting a foreign object damage (FOD) hazard with discarded links. A linkless ammunition feed system was developed for the upgraded M61A1, which subsequently became the standard cannon armament of U.S. fighters.

The Vulcan was first used in the F-104 Starfighter. The gun was also used in the F-105 Thunderchief in combat against Soviet-designed MiG fighters over Vietnam. It was installed in the Air Force's A-7D version of the A-7 Corsair II where it replaced the Naval versions' standard dual cannon, and subsequently adopted by the Navy on the A-7E and in future fighters. Significantly it was designed into the F-4E Phantom II; no previous F-4 had a cannon. It had been believed that missiles had made guns obsolete. Combat experience in Vietnam showed that a gun could be more effective than guided missiles in many combat situations, and that a gun pod was less satisfactory than an internal gun.

The Vulcan was later fitted into the weapons bay of some F-106 Delta Dart models and the F-111 Aardvark. It was also adopted as standard in the teen-series air superiority fighters, the F-14 Tomcat, the F-15 Eagle, F-16 Fighting Falcon and F/A-18 Hornet. Other aircraft include the Italian/Brazilian AMX International AMX (on Italian aircraft only), and the F-22 Raptor. It was fitted in a side-firing installation on the AC-119, some marks of the AC-130 gunships, and was used in the tail turrets of both the Convair B-58 Hustler and Boeing B-52H Stratofortress bombers. Japan's Mitsubishi F-1 carried one internally mounted JM61A1 Vulcan with 750 rounds.

Two gun pod versions, the SUU-16/A (also designated M12 by the US Army) and improved SUU-23/A (US Army M25), were developed in the 1960s, often used on gunless versions of the F-4. The SUU-16/A uses the electric M61A1 with a ram-air turbine to power the motor. This proved to cause serious aerodynamic drag at higher speeds, while speeds under 400 miles per hour (640 km/h) did not provide enough air flow for maximum rate of fire. The subsequent SUU-23/A uses the GAU-4/A self-powered Vulcan, with an electric inertia starter to bring it up to speed. Both pods ejected empty casings and unfired rounds rather than retaining them. Both pods contained 1,200 rounds of ammunition, with a loaded weight of 1,615 pounds (733 kg) and 1,720 pounds (780 kg) respectively. During service in the Vietnam War the pods proved to be relatively inaccurate: the pylon mounting was not rigid enough to prevent deflection when firing, and repeated use would misalign the pod on its pylon, making matters worse.

A variant with much shorter barrels, designated the M195 was also developed for use on the M35 Armament Subsystem for use on the AH-1G Cobra helicopter. This variant fed from ammunition boxes fitted to the landing skid and was developed to provide the AH-1 helicopter with a longer-range suppressive fire system before the adoption of the M97 Universal Turret mounting the M197 cannon.

The M61 is also the basis of the US Navy Mk 15 Phalanx CIWS system and the M163 VADS Vulcan Air Defense System (the M168 variant is used). ( Some of this info is from Wikipedia)

Kit Contents

6 milled brass barrels.
1 milled brass pin stabilizer rod for the frame works.
14 pieces of good quality PE brass or the frame works.
01 small instruction sheet.

This gun set up has been flown on Helocopters, jets and prop driven aircraft. I can pigeon-hole it is a multiperiod experience.as quite eveidently it was used extensively on Vietnam era aircraft til today. Note This is only a detail set and the gun breach and stand itself are not included. I am hoping that Aber will do the short barreled version of the XM-197 or XM-93 gun 7.62mm for the Utility aircraft of the Vietnam era as well. Like the Roden 1:48 Fairchild AU-23, or any AC-47 kits and Huey gunships

Whats in a name?

Vulcan (Latin: Vulcanus), aka Mulciber, is the god of beneficial and hindering fire,[1] including the fire of volcanoes in ancient Roman religion and Roman Neopaganism. The name belongs to the most ancient stage of Roman religion: Varro citing the Annales Maximi, recalls that king Titus Tatius had dedicated altars to a series of deities among which Vulcan is mentioned. Vulcan was identified with the Greek god of fire and smithery, Hephaestus. (Via Wikipedia)

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Highs: Quality brass used throughout, great detail for 1:32 subjects Large application possibilities.
Lows: The need for listed aircraft opinions in the instructions.
Verdict: This is an important addition to any one buildng modern1:32 aircraft kits.
Percentage Rating
  Scale: 1:32
  Mfg. ID: #A32 050
  Suggested Retail: 11,70 EUR
  Related Link: website
  PUBLISHED: Mar 27, 2011
  NATIONALITY: United States

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About Stephen T. Lawson (JackFlash)

I was building Off topic jet age kits at the age of 7. I remember building my first WWI kit way back in 1964-5 at the age of 8-9. Hundreds of 1/72 scale Revell and Airfix kits later my eyes started to change and I wanted to do more detail. With the advent of DML / Dragon and Eduard I sold off my ...

Copyright 2021 text by Stephen T. Lawson [ JACKFLASH ]. Images also by copyright holder unless otherwise noted. Opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of AeroScale. All rights reserved.


That looks like it's going to make one beautiful assembly. Not sure what I would use it for yet, but I'll definitely keep an eye out for one
MAR 27, 2011 - 07:22 AM
Thanks for the review! That looks awesome. Anyone know who carries this that also ships to Europe?
SEP 11, 2011 - 12:19 AM
One of our advertisers "Air Connection" stocks Aber. Also you can order from Aber directly.
SEP 24, 2011 - 06:11 PM

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