Colt Mk 12 cannon

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Colt Mk 12
20 mm Mk 12 cannon of RNZAF A-4K Skyhawk 1984.jpg
Mk 12 cannon of a RNZAF Douglas A-4K Skyhawk.
Place of originUnited States
Service history
In service1950s – present
WarsVietnam War, Falklands War, Gulf War
Production history
DesignerColt's Manufacturing Company
ManufacturerColt's Manufacturing Company
Mass46.0 kg (101.4 lb)

Cartridge20×110mm USN
Caliber20 mm (0.787 in)
ActionGas-operated reloading
Rate of fire1,000 rpm
Muzzle velocity1,010 m/s (3,300 ft/s)

The Colt Mk 12 was a 20 mm autocannon widely used by the United States Navy after World War II.


The Mk 12 was an advanced derivative of the wartime Hispano HS 404 that had been used on British and some American fighter aircraft during World War II. It used a lighter projectile with a bigger charge for better muzzle velocity and higher rate of fire at the cost of hitting power. It entered U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corps service in the mid-1950s, replacing the earlier M3 cannon.

In service, the Mk 12 proved less than satisfactory. Although its muzzle velocity and rate of fire were acceptable, it was inaccurate and frequently unreliable. Pilots of the F-8 Crusader over North Vietnam, in particular, appreciated the presence of the cannon, but jams and stoppages were common, especially following hard dogfighting maneuvers.

Nevertheless, the Mk 12 was standard cannon armament on gun-armed American naval fighters from the early 1950s to the early 1970s, including the F4D Skyray, F3H Demon, A-4 Skyhawk, F-8 Crusader, F-11 Tiger and early navy versions of the LTV A-7 Corsair II.

International customers of the A-4 Skyhawk, F-8 Crusader, and the A-7 Corsair II also used the Mk 12 cannon: Argentina, Australia, Brazil, France, Kuwait, Malaysia, New Zealand, the Philippines and Portugal. The only exceptions were Israel and Singapore. The Israeli Air Force replaced the Mk 12 cannon with the French 30 mm DEFA cannon (a revolver design) in its Skyhawks, while the Republic of Singapore Air Force fitted the British 30 mm ADEN cannon (another revolver). Indonesia later bought some used A-4s from Israel.

As of 2013, the Mk 12 cannon is still in use in Skyhawks of the Argentine Air Force and the Brazilian Navy.

See also[edit]