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Posted 9/25/2007 Printable Fact Sheet
Rotary Cannon 2
General Electric M61A1 "Vulcan" 20mm Rotary Cannon
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General Electric M61A1 "Vulcan" 20mm Rotary Cannon

The 20mm M61A1 Vulcan built by General Electric was a standard aircraft gun used by the USAF. Based on the premise of the multi-barrel gun first generated by Dr. Gatlin in the nineteenth century, the Vulcan was equipped with a rotary action and was tied into the aircraft's hydraulic or electrical system.

The Vulcan fired about 6,000 rounds per minute and had a high muzzle velocity of 1,036 meters per second. Initially the ammunition was fed into the cannon on a belt but the reliability was low and there were problems with the link disposal. So GE designed the Vulcan cannon with a linkless feed system. The ammunition drum could hold around 1,000 rounds and was attached to the cannon by an ammunition conveyor belt.

The M61A1 had six rifled barrels that were clamped together and placed at the front of the breech rotor. This multi-barrel setup allowed heat to dissipate and reduced barrel erosion. Shot dispersion patterns could be altered with the use of barrel muzzle clamps. The ammunition used by the Vulcan could be armor piercing or incendiary. The Vulcan was carried on a wide variety of aircraft, including the A-7, F-4, F-14, F-15, F-16, F-104, and F-105.

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