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Military Guns and Ammunition

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This is intended for people interested in the subject of military guns and their ammunition, with emphasis on automatic weapons.

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XM915 20mm debuted    Aircraft Guns

Started 21-Nov by gatnerd; 5556 views.
gatnerd

From: gatnerd

23-Nov

stancrist said:

Regarding weight, 500 rounds of 20mm is 100 lbs lighter than for 30mm.

Thanks, I hadn't had the exact weight.

Whats interesting is that the Apache originally started off with a 1200rdx30mm capacity, but now only carries ~300rd of 30mm (reportedly due to the addition of an internal fuel tank). With the decent accuracy plus decent bang of the 30mm, this has proven adequate so far. And at least for Anti Personnel, we can assume the addition of the new proximity airburst rounds will make that much more effective use of those 300rds.

In terms of weight, how do these stack up? 

115lb XM915 + 500rd 20mm 

130lb M230 + 300rd 30mm 

In terms of relative effectiveness, one simple method we can use is the lethal fragmentation range for the two shells x # of rounds carried to get a sort of 'area of fragments' rating for each loadout. 

20mm reportedly has a 2m lethal radius. 2m radius results in 12.57 square meters of fragmentory lethal area per shell. x500 is 6,285 m2 of fragment coverage 

30mm reportedly has a 4m lethal radius. 4m radius = 50.27 m2 of fragmentory lethal area per shell. x300 = 15,081 m2 of fragment coverage.

No doubt this is an imperfect analysis, but does give an idea of just how much more effective 30mm is. Even with 40% fewer shells, it has 240% more fragmentory area. 

And even here, I think this still oversells the 20mm's effectiveness. While 2m radius is claimed, I suspect actual effectiveness is closer to 1m:

-20mm is designed for anti aircraft/ anti material work, and so produces a a few handfulls of large fragments designed to tear through machines, not thousands of small fragments like 30mm which is designed for anti personel. The fewer frags, the worse hit probability becomes as the radius expands.

-20mm, being anti material, is designed for impact / impact delay function, and when fired air to ground into sand/dirt/mud, the round will almost certainly burry itself a bit into the ground before detonation (this same problem plagued 30mm and drove the development of Proximity fuse.)

If the (in my eye, more realistic) 1m radius is used for 20mm, we get 3.14m2 per shell, or 1,570m2 per 500rd, vs the 15,081m2 per 300rd of the 30mm. That essentially a 10x increase in fragmentation coverage.  

  • Edited 23 November 2021 1:04  by  gatnerd
gatnerd

From: gatnerd

23-Nov

Mr. T (MrT4) said:

For me the surprising part is going for a Gatling vs a revolver canon when you only have 750 and 1500rd  cyclic rates.

That is a good point; pretty low rpm for a Gatling. Plus I believe each 'burst' with Gatling ends up ejecting a few live rounds as well as the gun slows down. 

I know Northrop is trying to offer their 20mm SkyViper chan gun as an alternative, which they claim will have a higher ROF then the M230's ~625rpm

https://archive.fo/91lmn

“The M230 on the Apache started out with a 1200-round magazine initially. With significant advances in the accuracy of the weapon and fire control system, they’ve reduced [the magazine] to just a few hundred rounds.”
“Our view,” Canole says, “is that, at the the end of the day, a significantly more accurate weapon pays greater dividends than one that fires more rounds at a higher dispersion.”
Northrop Grumman declined to offer Sky Viper’s rate-of-fire or weight details but Canole says it will match the XM301’s weight while offering a greater firing rate than the current M230.
The company says its configuration is more reliable and easier to maintain than a Gatling-style gun with multiple rotating barrels. The reduced recoil of the Sky Viper - which Northrop Grumman says is “ground-up” redesign of the M230 - diminishes airframe fatigue and gimble/mounting structure stress, rendering lighter system weight as a whole.
stancrist

From: stancrist

23-Nov

Here are the weights I used.  (From TM43-0001-27  Army Ammunition Data Sheets)

   20mm  M56A3   HEI     3965 gr

   30mm   M789   HEDP   5371 gr

-------------------------------------------------

I think your "area of fragments" comparison is badly flawed, because it assumes that (a) the entire ammo load will be fired, and (b) there would be an even distribution of projectiles and their fragments.

More importantly, I think you are placing far too much attention on anti-personnel effectiveness, when the Army is concerned about engaging targets like this:

Which is better for hitting such a target as fast and as hard as possible:

   1500 rds/min @ 3400 ft/sec?

                            or

     600 rds/min @ 2600 ft/sec?

gatnerd

From: gatnerd

23-Nov

stancrist said: I think your "area of fragments" comparison is badly flawed, because it assumes that (a) the entire ammo load will be fired, and (b) there would be an even distribution of projectiles and their fragments

Which is better for hitting such a target as fast and as hard as possible

Its not so much firing the whole load, but rather showing area per loadout. I'd think the #'s would hold up the same for comparing say 25rd bursts between weapons; basically the point is that for any given burst size, the 30mm will be able to have a much higher area of fragments / greater fragment density per area. 

Now in terms of destroying vehicles, 30mm is rated to defeat 25mm RHA at 50 degrees using its HEDP design. I've not been able to find an exact penetration level for the 20mm (Nammo says over 10mm at 1000yd) but I'd be surprised if the HEI/SAPHEI was equal/better then the 25mm at 50 degrees of the 30mm HEDP. 

ROF and time of flight is better for 20mm though, which could be important for hitting a target while flying. 

renatohm

From: renatohm

23-Nov

One transonic round every few seconds, far away from flak's effective range.

Seriously now, if they're thinking about dealing with air defenses better than AKs (or the occasional MANPADS / RPG wielder), then neither 20mm nor 30mm won't do it.

If they do want to use it for spray and pray against scattered soldiers, either will do, but I'm also of the '30mm is better' team.

stancrist

From: stancrist

23-Nov

gatnerd said:

Its not so much firing the whole load, but rather showing area per loadout.

Yeah, I understood that.  And I still think it's a meaningless comparison, for the reasons previously stated.

gatnerd said:

I'd think the #'s would hold up the same for comparing say 25rd bursts between weapons; basically the point is that for any given burst size, the 30mm will be able to have a much higher area of fragments / greater fragment density per area. 

1.  Your focus is still on fragmentation, which doesn't seem very relevant to neutralizing what the Army perceives as the primary threat to FARA.

2.  If you want to make such a comparison, it seems like it would be more realistic to compare 1-second bursts (25 rds 20mm vs 10 rds 30mm).

gatnerd said:

Now in terms of destroying vehicles, 30mm is rated to defeat 25mm RHA at 50 degrees using its HEDP design. I've not been able to find an exact penetration level for the 20mm (Nammo says over 10mm at 1000yd) but I'd be surprised if the HEI/SAPHEI was equal/better then the 25mm at 50 degrees of the 30mm HEDP. 

As would I.  All I can say is that apparently the Army thinks 20mm has sufficient penetration capability.

gatnerd

From: gatnerd

23-Nov

stancrist said:

If you want to make such a comparison, it seems like it would be more realistic to compare 1-second bursts (25 rds 20mm vs 10 rds 30mm).

Thats fair.

20mm x 1 Second @ 1m radius = 25x 3.14m2 = 78.5 m2 frag coverage

20mm x 1 second @ 2m radius = 25x 12.57m2 = 314.25 m2 frag coverage

30mm x 1 second @ 4m radius = 10x 50.27m2  = 502.7 m2 frag coverage 

So for say, quickly strafing an ATGM team or eliminating a guy with a MANPAD, 30mm still seams the way to go even with the lower ROF. 

Ultimately, theres a reason that the US went to 30mm from 20mm when it went from Cobra to Apache, and why nearly every modern attack helicopter has also gone 30mm. 

stancrist

From: stancrist

23-Nov

gatnerd said:

Ultimately, theres a reason that the US went to 30mm from 20mm when it went from Cobra to Apache

Yup.  And there are reasons why FARA, like its predecessor, the RAH-66 Comanche, has a 20mm gun.

17thfabn

From: 17thfabn

24-Nov

From gatnerd

"Ultimately, theres a reason that the US went to 30mm from 20mm when it went from Cobra to Apache, and why nearly every modern attack helicopter has also gone 30mm. "

The FARA is supposed to be a light scout with limited attack capability. Not an attack chopper. 

A big gun with high rate of fire and large amount of ammunition is ideal. But weight of  gun and ammunition and recoil forces have to be taken into consideration. These are even more important consideration on a light helicopter. 

The OH-58 that the  U.S. Army previously used in the scout role only had a .50 machine gun. So a 20 mm is an upgrade. 

gatnerd

From: gatnerd

24-Nov

17thfabn said:

The FARA is supposed to be a light scout with limited attack capability. Not an attack chopper.

Well, like the Comanche program before it, and several others (this is the 4th program to replace the Kiowa) there appears to be pretty serious mission creep, and the design is looking increasingly geared as a next generation mini attack helicopter.

Specifically, its become envisioned as a 'day 1' attack asset operating in A2AD contested zones against peer enemies. 

https://www.forbes.com/sites/erictegler/2020/07/22/army-eyes-replacing-apache-with-fara-as-its-kick-in-the-door-attack-helicopter/

For decades, the AH-64 Apache has been the Army’s Alpha Dog, the aircraft you go to war in on day one. Apparently, that won’t be the case in the not-so-distant future. Some time around 2030, the Army’s Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft (FARA) will be its first-day fighter.
If the idea of FARA as a “kick in the door” attack helicopter comes as news to you, you’re not alone. It has largely been promoted as a light-attack reconnaissance helicopter, meant to work with other joint force platforms and air-launched affects, and to relieve the Apache of the mission once performed by the OH-58 Kiowa Warrior.
But Brigadier General Walter Rugen, Director of the Army’s Future Vertical Lift Cross-Functional Team, said in an interview that the “critical path” in future multi-domain operations is the Army’s ability to penetrate anti-access, area denial (A2AD) environments. According to Rugen, Apache is not the aircraft that will do this.
“The FARA and its ecosystem is really our penetration force in the lower tier of the air domain. That force is going to be able to find, fix and finish pacing threats,” says Rugen. “We’ll generate the ability for other players across the joint force to maneuver in that freed-up airspace. Then we’ll start disintegrating [the enemy forces] and open up a corridor.”
“And really, I don’t think Apache participates in the penetration phase. I think FARA and the FARA ecosystem does that…
....
Photos of FARA also reflect an Attack oriented nature, with the helicopter bristling with missiles comparable to those of Apache.
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