Mini-guns and Interim Measures

A Blackhawk armed with mini-guns

SHAH ALAM: It was announced in Parliament on Dec 17 that the Government is buying 10 7.62mm M134D mini-guns or Gatling guns and mounts for the Army Air Corps’ AgustaWestland AW109 fleet. The procurement according to Deputy Defence Minister Datuk Abdul Rahim Bakri was an interim measure while the government mulls over the Army’s request for six attack helicopters in RMK11.

The attack helicopter requirement was re-mooted in response to the security operations in eastern Sabah following the Lahad Datu incursion in early 2013. To me the decision to buy the mini-guns is puzzling although it has been bandied about since the Lahad Datu incident.

Puzzling AFAIK the PUTD’s AW109 fleet was already fitted for but not equipped as light scout attack helicopters when they were delivered between 2005 and 2006. So actually the only things we need to buy were the gun pods – either 50 calibre or 20mm guns and rocket launchers and the mountings – and our AW109s are good to go as light scout attack helicopters.

An AW109 LOH of the PUTD. This rocket and gun pods version was shown some years back.
An AW109 LOH of the PUTD. This rocket and gun pods version was shown some years back.

So instead of using an on-the-shelf solution we actually reinvented the wheel. Perhaps buying 10 mini guns are cheaper than buying gun pods and rocket launchers. As for which one will give more bang for the buck – I believed two launchers of 16 2.75 inch rockets will beat a twin mini-gun mount any day. I concede this is just based on gut feeling rather than hard evidence.

Dillon Aero – the manufacturer of the mini-gun- is also offering a pod version but based on the statement made in Parliament, the ones we are buying are not the pod mounted version.

A mini-gun fitted to a Blackhawk helicopter
A mini-gun fitted to a Blackhawk helicopter

Another thing we must consider is the the fact that most of the mini-guns being used operationally today are fitted on Blackhawks, UH-1Y Venom and Chinooks. They are used as door guns as shown by the picture above and below.

The business of a mini-gun in a Blackhawk
The business of a mini-gun in a Blackhawk

Dillon Aero – the manufacturer also offered mountings for other helicopters from the Mi-17 to the Fennec. If the mini-guns are fitted on the stub wings of the AW109, it may need a mount as shown below by Dillon Aero. I assumed it could be adapted to the AW109 but that probably mean we have to use a mounting not tested by the air-framer.

A mini-gun fitted to a stub wing of a Fennec by Dillon Aero.
A mini-gun fitted to a stub wing of a Fennec by Dillon Aero.

A much easier way to use the mini-guns on the AW109 is to use it as a crew served weapon. However, I have yet to find another AW109 user using the mini-guns as a crew served weapon among the 15 countries known to be be operating the helicopter. The other solution I found is a twin GPMG mount similar to the single GPMG mount as fitted to the RMN’s Fennec.

Two GPMGs mounted in the cabin of an AW109
Two GPMGs mounted in the cabin of an AW109

As of now I am fairly convinced that the AW109s may not be the exclusive user of the mini-guns. I do not think it will be the Cougar or Nuri either. I am told something is in the works but until I got a full confirmation I will leave it at that.

— Malaysian Defence.

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1 Comment

  1. nas says:
    January 23, 2015 at 10:07 pm

    Just found out from a source that the miniguns will be installed for the nuri. Presumably for CSAR i guess?
    stanman says:
    January 19, 2015 at 6:22 pm

    Miniguns are rather good as door guns because you really can’t get a whole lot of accuracy from a helo unless you are helisniping, which is a whole other skill set. The big beaten area is actually not a disadvantage when suppressing targets.

    The A109s can be operated with door guns and weapon pylons for rockets or even HMG.

    The original requirement for Miniguns was not for choppers.
    RedSot says:
    January 16, 2015 at 5:40 pm

    just curious this mini gun are they with 7barrel..5barrel or 3barrel cause if weight is the problem atm can always opt for 3 barrel minis….it does the same job instead of spewing 3000 rounds/min with 3barrel will be lighter n lesser rounds/mins but anyhow it all depends on who is holding the trigger. ..same goes for gpmg we dont count how many rounds before we stop but we do have method to ensure uniform short burst…..call out loud 21….12….and stop squezzing the trigger n it continues…..until 100 rounds belt is replenish…..

    Reply
    The one we are buying is the six barrel one and its the latest variant which weighs about 20kg for the fixed firing and 25kg for the crew served as I mentioned in the post . The three barrel one is the GAU-19 which fires the 50 calibre rounds. It is heavier than the one we are buying
    azlan says:
    January 16, 2015 at 4:52 pm

    Redsot,

    As I mentioned previously, it all depends on the actual requirement. A mini-gun is not a space shuttle or some high tech gadget that needs years before one gains proficiency, if we wanted the ‘experience’ or to ‘experiment’, we can perform local trials. The main question is whether the Aviation Wing actually wants mini-guns or whether the decision has come from the top – like everything else mini-guns are good for certain but not all things.

    Another question is whether the A-109 has actually been certified to be fitted with a door mounted mini-gun. If it has not been certified and anything unpleasant happens, Agusta Westland can refuse to provide any assistance.
    RedSot says:
    January 16, 2015 at 3:30 pm

    to my thinking…its a good move to buy mini guns….these guns are after all meant for experiment n experience….these guns after knowing their ability n performance it can be install on reverine craft..vehicle platform etc…
    AM says:
    January 16, 2015 at 1:49 pm

    Time for me to correct myself:

    The gun pod at the museum is not a SUU-12 but a SUU-11B/A. I also assumed it was for the Skyhawk, but this seems illogical now since the Skyhawk had 2 internal cannon.

    Azlan,

    If you visit, don’t have high expectations. It really is in junk condition. The same heap also contains a 19 tube rocket pod, 2 old drop tanks, bomb casings, wing sections, radar consoles, engines and so on. There are two possible locations. 1. Outdoors at the back of the museum field between the hangar building and the fence with the VIP Blackhawk hangar. 2. Inside the museum back room hangar (you will pass it while walking to location 1). Note you aren’t supposed to be there. And everything is in heartbreaking condition.

    I have never been to the Mindef museum but I heard it is still open.
    azlan says:
    January 16, 2015 at 12:46 pm

    To clarify, the pods were SUU-11s (as …. mentioned) and not GAU-2/As as I had previously mentioned. The mini- guns were MA134As (U.S. Army designation)/GAU-2/As (USAF. designation).

    The PC-7s of the LAS were also reportedly armed with gun pods – no idea if this is true and what type of guns they were. There is photo evidence however showing aircraft armed with rocket pods and rockets (training). Not sure if it’s still the case but former LAS Mk1s ended up with 3 FTC and still retained their shark mouth motifs almost a decade after the squadron stood down.

    edliew,

    Perhaps Tebuans also dropped napalm but my RMAF contact knows of napalm only being dropped from F-5s.
    azlan says:
    January 16, 2015 at 11:11 am

    AM,

    Thanks for mentioning it. Ashamed to say the last time I was at the museum was when it first opened! Do you know if the MAF museum at MINDEF is still open? They had a U-boat deck gun, taken from one of U-boats interned at Penang after the German surrender, outside and a Bren carrier as well. Museum Negara has a 25 pounder and a Alo 3 gunship outside.
    … says:
    January 16, 2015 at 10:47 am

    @ ferret

    IMO the Kiowa Warriors is as real as it can be as an attack helicopter goes.

    I didn’t say we should write a new attack helicopter doctrine feom scratch. What I meant is to fly practically, train and finetune the existing attack helicopter doctrine as much as possible. Using a cheap to fly helicopter makes this frequent flying and training possible. A doctrine just on paper and not practiced often is nothing.

    And it won’t be “olok2″ fly with an observation helicopter but pretend it is an attack helicopter thingy… Using kiowa warriors (yes it is also formerly an observation heli but after upgrades it is a fully armed light attack helicopter) it functions and operates like a purpose built attack helicopter. Utilising its helmet display, mast mounted sights, hellfire missiles, FFAR rockets and 50cal in attack helicopter mode this would be as real as it can be for PUTD pilots and also soldiers on the ground.

    @ azlan, marhalim

    Previously tudm use ge xm134 7.62mmminiguns (same as the dillon aero miniguns) in SUU-11/A pods for our CL-41G Tebuans. Usually 2 pods are carried by each tebuan. I have seen these in kuantan ab, and it can be refurbished by dillon aero to be reused. So marhalims statement that this minigun is not designed for pod mounting is not quite true (as even tudm has used this gun in a pod)

    http://www.portierramaryaire.com/imagenes/suu11a.jpg

    Reply
    I am talking about the D version which Dillon makes not the original one.
    AM says:
    January 16, 2015 at 10:46 am

    Is it the SUU-12 pods? I thought these were on the Skyhawk. Go to Muzium TUDM, in the back end of the hangar you can see a junked example and a few junked triple ejector racks.

    Reply
    Yes. The next time I go to the museum I will look for it.
    edliew says:
    January 16, 2015 at 10:37 am

    F5?
    azlan says:
    January 16, 2015 at 10:30 am

    Marhalim,

    We had M134A 7.62mm mini-guns mounted on GAU-2/A pods for our Tebuans. Strike packages against Chin Peng’s men would comprise of some Tebuans armed with bombs and others with mini-guns. Pity a mini-gun pod is not on permanent display at the RMAF museum.

    On another note, it is something that was never publicly released or mentioned much but our F-5s also dropped napalm. This was told to me by a former 3 SQ AQM who was at Butterworth from the late 70’s until he left in 1983.
    azlan says:
    January 16, 2015 at 9:17 am

    Every weapon, if it hits its target is “potent”, even a bolt action 22. or a homemade shotgun with a 50 metre effective range 🙂

    To put things in perspective, mini-guns are intended for fire suppression but are very thirsty and are not accurate at long ranges as the rounds tends to tumble. But the questions that really should be asked before comparing the merits of mini-guns, pintle mounted GPMGS and gun pods and deciding which is more suitable is “in what circumstances will the A-109s engage targets and what kind of roles will armed A-109s be expected to perform”? Sustained and accurate fire in short bursts is better performed by a pintle mounted GPMG but if the requirement is to lay down as many rounds as possible over a brief period than the mini-gun is the preferred solution…..

    Trivia time. We had previously operated mini-guns before. From memory and without googling, anyone know on which platform and what type of mini-gun?

    Reply
    No Googling, honest, the gun on the Hornet. Cannot name type without Googling though.
    Ferret says:
    January 16, 2015 at 9:02 am

    kerberosWXIV,

    One of the uses of the mini-gun is suppressive fire in support of ground troops. Rate of fire is important here (3000 rds per minute mini-gun vs 700 rds GPMG). The aim of suppressive fire is not to kill the enemy per se but rather to prevent them from doing what they want to do. As LYM says, the idea is to force the enemy to keep their heads down. If you want to kill enemy personnel individually, carry a sniper.

    …,

    There is no need to reinvent the wheel as far as doctrine goes. Lots of countries have employed AH. The UK AAC has done lots of thinking on AH doctrine. They have an AAC flight in Brunei (mainly for liaison work, I believe, but who’s to stop them from developing doctrine?). Closer to our region I think Australia (doctrine mainly a combination of UK and US doctrines) whose northern parts are quite similar to our area in terms of terrain and climate and from where the threat is likely to come, is operating Tiger AH. We can work with them as we’ve always done on doctrines.

    As far as training goes, it’s true that Guderian trained his armoured forces for the Blitzkrieg with lorries dressed as tanks and doctrine borrowed from the Brits pre-WW2, and what a success that was.

    But he was forced to do so because of several constraints and as he himself said, it could have done better if he had real tanks.

    Your point about using other heli types for training is taken, but simulation can only go so far in fine-tuning skills. Our pilots need to fly the real McCoy to become good.
    kerberosWXIV says:
    January 16, 2015 at 5:59 am

    Apart for strafing run like the A-10 and air-to-air combat where brief attack window is concerned, a Gatling gun design on a slow platform like helicopter, is nothing but a bullet-guzzler more for movie magic than actual effectiveness, we are not engaging hordes of enemy soldiers here… As already mentioned, for all intended purpose, a .50 cal gun pod will likely be more economical, accurate and deliver more killing power per round, or a conventional GPMG for anti-personnel purpose would make more sense…
    nimitz says:
    January 15, 2015 at 9:57 pm

    “3-pips”,

    I believe PUTD currently is leaning heavily towards EU in terms of equipment&training. This could make Kiowa so foreign to them&govt. Kiowa should not be too unfamiliar as its “grandfather” the Bell Jetranger had been operating in Malaysia for quite some time in civillian colors. Or maybe (just my crazy thought) govt want Kiowa for the AH.
    AM says:
    January 15, 2015 at 9:45 pm

    Lee, there are many weapons that can achieve your desired effect, from artillery to direct fire weapons on the ground.

    But first, which target were you thinking of- military or infiltrator?
    Lee Yoke Meng says:
    January 15, 2015 at 9:20 pm

    The mini guns a potent weapon system. The rate of fire will ensure destruction of targets they spot. As a fire suppression weapon or to destroy targets nothing can beat it. Who would dare to even lift their head when thousands of rounds are falling on them.

    Reply
    Yes its a potent weapon all right. But the intended platform is so small that the most it can carry will be around 10,000 rounds (my guess). At 3000rpm all the rounds will be gone in less than 10 minutes. So even if all the 10 AW109s are fitted with the mini-guns and flying at the same time in the same area, the bad guys just need to wait for them to fly away to get to start doing their bad stuff.
    … says:
    January 15, 2015 at 6:08 pm

    Tactics and techniques of attack helicopter use in Vietnam could be studied and adapted for use by PUTD.

    One of the reason I suggested that we get the Oh-58d kiowa warrior 1st before expensive shiny brand new attack helicopters is just that. Fly a cheap used but fully equipped attack helicopter to develop the skills, and to fine tune doctrines of attack helicopter use in malaysia. Get them cheaply as excess defence articles from usa. Already armed and with all the helmet sights, targetting and optical systems standard as it is, so just get them and fly them as much as possible. When the human skills and fine tuned doctrines are there, then we can think of more advanced helicopters.
    azlan says:
    January 15, 2015 at 6:05 pm

    The reason there were seconded ALAT officers with the Aviation Wing was to help us with tactical day/night training. If I’m not mistaken the A-109 that crashed had a French officer in the co-pilot’s seat. According to Dzirhan Mahadzir’s Janes article, it suffered quite intensive damage.
    azlan says:
    January 15, 2015 at 5:38 pm

    As I understand it, the squadron’s NVGs have to be upgraded to NVIS 9 to enable better night flying to be performed. Yes there is a FLIR but limited vision approaches into a LZ and low level flying at night will require NVGs. The decision to get a pintle mounted weapon may have to do with weight issues. Even though various rocket/gun pods have been certified on the type, weight issues are still a major consideration. I really doubt if any of the Alo 3 doors gunners are still serving.
    Ferret says:
    January 15, 2015 at 5:02 pm

    “the decision to buy the mini-guns is puzzling…”

    Yes, why did they choose a crew served system rather than a fixed fire (pods) one?

    The only answer I can think of is that the PUTD is not sufficiently trained to fly tactically as AH unit yet. There are certain tactics and techniques required to fly helis with fixed-forward weapons. Even the RMAF only has experience with door gunners and, if they’ve not retired, may be seconded to teach PUTD air crew.

    I read somewhere that some of our pilots have been trained to fly the Tiger AH but, as a former Alouette pilot, PUTD instructor, Rajawali examiner and now one-star general told me, flying is one thing, tactical flying is quite another.
    azlan says:
    January 15, 2015 at 1:09 pm

    When it comes to laying suppressive fire for brief periods, mini guns are good for the job (abs is what must users use them for) but when it comes to actual accuracy fired in short bursts, a 7.62mm GPMG or a HMG is the answer. Which begs the question: are the A-109s intended to go after bad guys per say or is the decision to arm them driven by the need for self defence whilst carrying out other duties?

    Previously we were offered Giat 20mm gun pods and Force Zebrruge rockets- both were seen on an A-109 at DSA 2006. Interestingly, our A-109s came delivered with a fixed rocket sight in the co-pilots position. Personally, I fail to see what difference a dedicated or light gunship will do if non-state actors in small groups manage to enter Sabah again as spotting them from the air will not be easy; it not as if the terrain is as open as the plains of southern Afghanistan or the deserts of western Iraq. And it’s not as if the A-109s will be landing or extracting troops from a “hot” LZ. Also, amongst the problems we faced in 2013 was getting enough troops there in time to seal the bad guys in and actually finding them; not a lack of firepower.
    … says:
    January 15, 2015 at 1:04 pm

    New helicopter for PUTD?

    Btw what is the fate of the crashed PUTD aw109? Is it a write-off or it is repairable and being repaired to flight status?

    Reply
    I was told that the crashed A109 is a write off but someone will chipped in…

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