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M242 Bushmaster

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M242 Bushmaster
U.S. Army press photo of a M242 Bushmaster
TypeChain gun
Place of originUnited States
Service history
In service1981–present
Used bySee Operators
Production history
DesignerHughes Helicopters[1][2]
ManufacturerHughes Helicopters (1981–1985)[1][3]
McDonnell Douglas Helicopters (1985–2002)[3]
Alliant Techsystems (2002–2015)[3]
Orbital ATK (2015–2018)[3]
Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems (2018–present)[3]
No. built>11,000[4]
VariantsSee variants
Mass119 kilograms (262 lb)[4]
Length2,672 mm (105.2 in)[4]
Barrel length2,175 mm (85.6 in)
Width318 mm (12.5 in)[4]
Height373 mm (14.7 in)[4]

Shell25 × 137 mm
BarrelsSingle barrel (progressive RH parabolic twist)
ActionExternally powered, chain driven, open bolt
Rate of fireCyclic: 200 rpm with 1 hp or 500 rpm with 8 hp
Muzzle velocity1,100 metres per second (3,600 ft/s)
Effective firing range3,000 metres (9,800 ft)
Maximum firing range6,800 metres (22,300 ft)

The M242 Bushmaster chain gun is a 25 mm (25×137mm) single-barrel chain-driven autocannon. It is used extensively by the U.S. military, such as in the Bradley fighting vehicle, as well as by other NATO members and some other nations in ground combat vehicles and various watercraft. Hughes Helicopters in Culver City, California, was the original designer and manufacturer.[1][2] As of 2019, Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems produces the gun.[4]

It is an externally-powered, chain-driven, single-barrel weapon that may be fired in semi-automatic, burst, or automatic modes. It is fed by a metallic link belt and has dual-feed capability. The term chain gun derives from the use of a roller chain that drives the bolt back and forth. The gun can destroy lightly armored vehicles and aerial targets (such as helicopters and other slow-flying aircraft). It can also apply suppression fire against exposed troops, dug-in positions, and occupied built-up areas. The standard rate of fire is 200 rounds per minute. The weapon has an effective range of 2,000 metres (6,600 ft),[5] depending on the type of ammunition used. With over 11,000 units sold worldwide, it is one of the most successful modern autocannons.[4]


Close up of the MK 38 naval variant

Unlike most automatic firearms, the M242 does not depend on gas or recoil to actuate its firing system. Instead, it uses a 1 hp (0.75 kW) DC motor, positioned in the receiver to drive the chain and dual-feed system. This system uses sprockets and extractor grooves to feed, load, fire, extract, and eject rounds. A system of clutches provides for an alternate sprocket to engage and thus allows the gunner to switch between armor-piercing and high-explosive rounds.

The weapon assembly consists of three parts: the barrel assembly, the feeder assembly, and the receiver assembly. The three-part structure makes it possible for a two-person team to install or remove the system (under ideal conditions) despite its considerable total weight.

The M242 weapon system has both electrical and manual fire control and can be operated electrically or manually. The gunner can choose from three rates of fire:

  • Single shot semi-automatic, in which the gunner can shoot as fast as the trigger can be operated, limited only by the electrical drive speed (it cannot exceed the "high rate" firing speed).
  • Low rate fully automatic, in which the weapon fires 100 rounds per minute, ± 25 rounds.
  • High rate fully automatic, in which the weapon fires 200 rounds per minute, ± 25 rounds.


An enhanced M242 with a fluted barrel on an M2 Bradley (the top-mounted metal box and spotlight are MILES training attachments, not part of the gun system).

The Bushmaster project started as an offshoot of the US Army's MICV-65 program that was attempting to introduce a new infantry fighting vehicle to replace their existing M113 armored personnel carriers. Part of this program called for a new scout vehicle to replace the M114, a parallel development taking place under the XM800 Armored Reconnaissance Scout Vehicle. Both the XM800 and the cavalry version of the XM701 MICV vehicles were armed with the M139, a US-built version of the Hispano-Suiza HS.820 20 mm autocannon. During the testing phase, the Army eventually rejected the XM701 and started work on a newer design known as the XM723. Soon after the XM800 was also rejected. This led to the combination of the two programs, moving the scout role to the cavalry version of the XM723.

At the same time, the M139 proved to be disappointing and a contract for a new weapon to replace it started as a competitive development in 1972 simultaneously at Ford's Aeronutronic Division with the PFB-25 (self-powered weapon) and the Hughes Helicopters' Ordnance Division (externally-powered,)[2] under the Summa Corporation as the Vehicle Rapid-Fire Weapons System-Successor, or VRFWS-S. This was essentially a power-driven gun firing similar 20 mm ammunition to the HS.820, the power-driven mechanism was to ensure operation even in the case of a misfire.

Progress on the VRFWS-S was slow, and eventually resulted in a switch to a much more powerful, 25 mm, round. Similar delays in the MICV program meant the ultimate vehicles descending from their efforts, the M2/M3 Bradley fighting vehicle, did not enter production until 1981, by which point the Bushmaster had matured. Since 1990, there have been several enhancements made upon the weapon, resulting in the enhanced 25 mm gun.

To date, more than 10,500 weapons are in service. One of the major reasons for this popularity is the extremely reliable nature of the weapon. It has a rating of 22,000 mean rounds between failure (MRBF), much higher than many comparable devices.


M793 target practice with tracer (TP-T) rounds for the MK-38 being inspected
MK210 high explosive incendiary with tracer (HEI-T)

A wide range of ammunition has been developed for this weapon, providing it with the capability to defeat the majority of armored vehicles it is likely to encounter, up to and including some light tanks, including an encounter during the war in Ukraine where a Russian T-90M main battle tank was forced to be abandoned. The ammunition used in the M242 may also be used in a variety of weapons such as the GAU-12 Equalizer, the French Giat M811, or the Swiss Oerlikon KBA weapon system. It has the capability to fire U.S. manufactured ammunition as well as the NATO equivalents thereof. Primarily though, it fires six types of rounds: the M791, M792, M793, M910, MK210, and M919.

M791 armor-piercing discarding sabot with tracer
The APDS-T penetrates lightly armored vehicles, self-propelled artillery, and aerial targets such as helicopters and various slow-moving, fixed-wing aircraft.
M792 high explosive incendiary with tracer and self destruct
The HEI-T can destroy unarmored vehicles and helicopters and suppress anti-tank missile positions and enemy squads out to a maximum effective range of 2,200 meters.
M793 target practice with tracer
The TP-T cartridge is a fixed-type, percussion-primed training round that matches the high explosive incendiary with tracer (HEI-T M792) round ballistically. The TP-T's tracer is visible out to 2,000 meters, however, the round has a maximum effective range (accuracy-limited) of 1,600 meters.
M910 target practice discarding sabot with tracer
The TPDS-T replicates the flight pattern of the M791 armor piercing discarding sabot with tracer (APDS-T) round. The TPDS-T allows units to realistically practice sabot engagements.
MK210 high explosive incendiary with tracer
Used by the U. S. Navy in their Mk38 naval weapon system.
M919 armor-piercing, fin-stabilized discarding sabot with tracer.
The APFSDS-T round penetrates lightly armored vehicles, self-propelled artillery, and aerial targets, which include helicopters and slow-moving fixed-wing aircraft. The dart is made of depleted uranium.


The M242 is currently in use by the United States Army, the United States Navy, the United States Marine Corps, the United States Coast Guard, the New Zealand Army, the Royal New Zealand Navy, the Norwegian Army, the Spanish Army, the Sri Lanka Navy, the Swiss Army, the Canadian Army, the Royal Canadian Navy, the Australian Army, the Royal Australian Navy, the Israeli Navy, the Philippine Navy, the Philippine Army, the Singapore Army, and the Republic of Singapore Navy as well as several others, including since 2023 the Armed Forces of Ukraine.[6] The wide usage has resulted in several variations and modifications on the standard M242 weapon system.

Ground vehicles[edit]

A U.S. Marine Corps LAV-25A2 firing its M242 Bushmaster during a live-fire exercise, circa 2014

The M242 is standard equipment on the U. S. Army M2 and M3 Bradley fighting vehicles; it is also in use on the LAV-25. Before the project was cancelled, the Mk44 Bushmaster II 30 mm chain gun (a successor to the M242) was used on the Marine Corps' Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle (EFV).

The M242 is also a popular choice of primary armament for armored fighting vehicles manufactured around the world, such as Singapore's Bionix AFVs and as the Rafael Overhead Weapon Station-25 mounted on upgraded M113A2 Ultra IFVs.[7]

Enhanced 25 mm gun[edit]

Work on an upgraded weapon began in 1990. In the upgrade program, all three major systems and seven minor systems were improved. The modifications began with introducing a chrome-lined barrel, an enhanced feeder, and an enhanced receiver. The weapon systems also received minor upgrades such as quick-detachable link covers, a larger breech assembly, a high efficiency muzzle brake, longer recoil, an integral round counter, an extended life firing pin and spring, and a triple-spring drive clutch. Upgraded weapons were first put to use on the M2A3 Bradley, the fourth version of the M2 Bradley fighting vehicle.


In 1977, the U. S. Navy realized that it needed a replacement for the Oerlikon 20 mm Mk 16 series of guns. In 1986, this requirement was satisfied with the introduction of the Mk 38 Mod 0 weapons system. A derivative of the M242 system, the Mk 38 consists of the M242 chain gun and the Mk 88 Mod 0 machine gun mount. It provides ships with defensive and offensive gunfire capability for the engagement of a variety of surface targets. Designed primarily as a close-range defensive measure, it provides protection against patrol boats, floating mines, and various shore-based targets.

Mk 38 Mod 2 and Mod 3[edit]

Recently, several US Navy platforms have been outfitted with a newer version, the Typhoon Weapon System designated Mk 38 Mod 2,[8][9] which is remotely operated and includes an electronic optical sight, laser range-finder, FLIR, and a more reliable feeding system, enhancing the weapon system's capabilities and accuracy. In 2006 the Sri Lanka Navy added the M242 to its fleet of fast attack craft.[10]

The system is also in use by the Republic of Singapore Navy's Formidable-class frigates and Endurance-class landing platform dock ships[11] and were deployed as part of coalition forces' port security efforts in Iraq as well as anti-piracy roles in the Gulf of Aden.[12] Aside from that, the Singapore Police Coast Guard's new coastal patrol craft (NCPC) has adopted the system as its main armament.[13]

The Mod 3 updates electronics and adds a coaxial 7.62 mm machine gun with a 570-round-per-minute rate of fire.[14][15][16]

Aselsan STOP[edit]

Turkish made Aselsan STOP stabilized weapon station can be fitted with an M242 Bushmaster.[17]

BAE and Boeing teamed together after a March 2011 contract to add a directed energy weapon to the Mk 38 Mod 2 gun mount, known as the Mk 38 Mod 2 tactical laser system. The TLS combines a Boeing-designed solid-state laser with the existing BAE-manufactured Mk 38 mount to deliver high-precision accuracy against fast surface and air threats including speed boats and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). Laser power levels can be adjusted depending on the target and mission objectives.[19][20] Originally, the system was armed with a 10 kW laser, but in April 2017 BAE announced they had increased power to 60 kW.[21]

Proposed upgrades[edit]

In April 2012, BAE unveiled a potential version of the system mount, developed in collaboration with Rafael Advanced Defense Systems. It is visually distinctive from previous versions with its stealthy housing, which also protects the gun from weather and allows for easier access to internal components through large access panels. The upgrade mounts a larger Alliant Techsystems Mk44 Bushmaster II 30 mm cannon for a 500-meter range increase, as well as a coaxial .50 caliber M2 heavy machine gun. Elevation is increased to +75 degrees for engaging UAVs and helicopters, and ammunition storage is greater at 420 30 mm rounds. Other features include a larger manual fire control panel, an offset mode specifically for firing warning shots, and a surveillance mode where the gun can be pointed away from a target but the EO sensor remains pointed in the target direction. Although it has a high degree of commonality and has the same footprint as previous models, the upgrade is 20 percent heavier due to the greater ammo load.[22]


Map with M242 operators in blue

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Chinn, George M., 1987, pp. 455–456.
  2. ^ a b c Fiscal Year 1977 Authorization for Military Procurement, pt. 6., p. 3242.
  3. ^ a b c d e "Trademark Assignment Abstract of Title". United States Patent and Trademark Office. 12 November 2018. Archived from the original on 7 May 2016. Retrieved 28 April 2019.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g "Northrop Grumman M242 25mm BUSHMASTER chain gun fact sheet" (PDF). 2018. Archived (PDF) from the original on 28 April 2019. Retrieved 28 April 2019.
  5. ^ "M242 Bushmaster 25mm Automatic Gun". GlobalSecurity.org. Retrieved 6 June 2023.
  6. ^ Barnes, Joe (18 January 2024). "Watch: Russia's most advanced tank destroyed by US Bradley fighting vehicle". The Telegraph.
  7. ^ a b "Factsheet – Technical Specifications of Ultra M113" (Press release). Ministry of Defence, Singapore. 16 June 1998. Archived from the original on 25 October 2017. Retrieved 28 October 2010. [Last updated on 12 June 2010]
  8. ^ "Mk 38 Mod 2 Machine Gun System (MGS)". BAE Systems. Archived from the original on 8 March 2009. Retrieved 24 October 2010.
  9. ^ "Typhoon: Naval Stabilized & Remotely Operated Gun System" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2 December 2012. Retrieved 26 August 2010.
  10. ^ a b Sri-Lanka learns to counter Sea Tigers’ swarm tactics, JANE’S NAVY INTERNATIONAL Archived 3 November 2011 at the Wayback Machine, Jane's Information Group.
  11. ^ a b "RSN – Assets – Weapons". Ministry of Defence (Singapore) (MINDEF). 23 July 2010. Archived from the original on 20 July 2008. Retrieved 15 September 2010.
  12. ^ "The Next Wave". MINDEF. 6 May 2010. Archived from the original on 14 October 2017. Retrieved 15 September 2010.
  13. ^ a b Muhammad Juffry, Bin Joihani (July–August 2009). "PCG upgrades with new fleet and training centre". Police Life Monthly. 35 (7). Singapore: Singapore Police Force. ISSN 0217-8699. Archived from the original on 22 June 2011. Retrieved 8 November 2010.
  14. ^ "MK 38 – 25 mm Machine Gun System". United States Navy Fact File. Archived from the original on 3 November 2018. Retrieved 6 April 2019.
  15. ^ "Mk 38 Mod 3 Machine Gun System (MGS)". BAE Systems. Archived from the original on 6 April 2019. Retrieved 6 April 2019.
  16. ^ "Contracts for June 29, 2018". U.S. Department of Defense Search Defense.gov: Search. Archived from the original on 6 April 2019. Retrieved 6 April 2019.
  17. ^ "25 mm STOP Remote Controlled Stabilized Naval Gun System". Aselsan. Retrieved 8 July 2021.
  18. ^ Joel Avila. "The Real Benefits of Barrel Fluting". www.snipercountry.com. Archived from the original on 24 October 2014. Retrieved 25 August 2014.
  19. ^ BAE Putting Lasers on Mk 38 Naval Gun Archived 12 November 2014 at the Wayback Machine – Defensetech.org, 25 July 2011
  20. ^ Boeing and BAE team up to develop laser weapon for the U.S. Navy Archived 2 November 2014 at the Wayback Machine – Gizmag.com, 26 July 2011
  21. ^ BAE Systems Unveils a 60 kW Variant of the MK 38 Tactical Laser System Archived 6 April 2017 at the Wayback Machine – Navyrecognition.com, 4 April 2017
  22. ^ BAE Systems Developing Next Generation Mk 38 Gun Mount Archived 3 April 2015 at the Wayback Machine – Defensemedianetwork.com, 24 September 2012
  23. ^ Wertheim, Eric, ed. (2007). The Naval Institute Guide to Combat Fleets of the World: Their Ships, Aircraft, and Systems (15th ed.). Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press. p. 22. ISBN 978-1-59114-955-2. OCLC 140283156. Archived from the original on 6 July 2014. Retrieved 25 October 2016.
  24. ^ U.S. Embassy in Zagreb (3 December 2023). "First Bradley M2A2 Infantry Fighting Vehicles Arrive in Croatia". Retrieved 2 January 2024.
  25. ^ "Civil.Ge | U.S. Donates Two Patrol Boats to Georgian Coast Guard". Archived from the original on 12 December 2017. Retrieved 19 August 2017.
  26. ^ Farzan, Zulfick (27 October 2021). "Sri Lanka Navy takes delivery of Ex-USCGC Douglas Munro". News 1st. Retrieved 20 February 2024.
  27. ^ Stone, Mike; Charlish, Alan; Hovet, Jason; Blair, Edmund (20 January 2023). "Factbox: Ukraine's military supplies: What ground vehicles are Kyiv's allies sending?". Reuters. Retrieved 24 January 2023.
  28. ^ "More Than $3 Billion in Additional Security Assistance for Ukraine" (Press release). United States Department of Defense. 6 January 2023. Retrieved 6 January 2023.
  29. ^ "Biden Administration Announces Additional Security Assistance for Ukraine" (Press release). United States Department of Defense. 19 January 2023. Retrieved 19 January 2023.
  30. ^ "MK 38 – 25 MM MACHINE GUN SYSTEM". Navy.mil. US Navy. Archived from the original on 17 February 2017. Retrieved 16 February 2017.

External links[edit]