Talk:M61 Vulcan

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Infobox Needed?[edit]

I think that the addition of an infobox would really make a world of difference in this article, but I've forgotten how and I'll be leaving soon, comments? 14:48, 19 July 2007 (UTC)

Most of these links are wrong. Need to check fighter aircraft.

Gatling gun contradicts this page by saying that the Vulcan cannon is not a Gatling gun. 12:25, 5 October 2005 (UTC)

The M-61A1 Technical Order (Ref class FOUO) does call the weapon a Gatling gun or at least it is a Gatling type gun. This ref. was written by the folks in Calafornia who make it. 17:00, 17 April 2006 (UTC)

M61 in F104A and F4D/E[edit]

My qualifications: 730 hours and weapons officer in 104A; 2020+ hours in F4D/E as an instructor pilot and one combat tour. First, we had very few 104A gun problems in flying 10 firing missions a day 5 days a week. The most frequent problem was a double feed due to failure to extract an empty case. This did stop the gun and require removal and repair but was less than one every several months. The 104A gun was very accurate, with 3 mils dispersion. I boresighted and test-fired the airplanes on a 1000 foot test range so know whereof I speak. The F4D of course used the SUU23/A. It had about 10 mils azimuth and 8 mils vertical dispersion. Reboresighting the gun was a simple swift and accurate technique using the boresight mark on the nosegear door and a borescope. I myself never had a gun problem on either the 104A, F4D or the E. The F4E dispersion was 3 mils, like the 104A. Both aircrafts' internal guns held their boresight well. Using care, these guns could be sighted in within 1/2 mil. That's 1 foot error at 2000 feet, where the bullet pattern is 6 feet in diameter. The spool-up 'problem' is a chimera; we normally tried to fire 50 round bursts and that helped us. I have fired 300 and 600 round bursts, both from a SUU-23/A pod gun. The first was on a scorable range, achieving 100 hits on a 20 foot square target beginning firing at 4000 feet out. The second was for a firepower demonstration, laying down fire on a 50 by 100 yard patch of ground by gently using the rudders. Lastly, the M61 Vulcan gun is a Gatling Gun; there were electrically driven Gatlings converted from hand-crank drive 'way back when'. WaltBJ 02:09, 12 April 2006 (UTC)

Thank you for these great insights! I will work on integrating them into this article and the F-4 Phantom II page. - Emt147 Burninate! 05:23, 12 April 2006 (UTC)


I did not know the B-58 had a tail turret, and the M-60 (not M-61) is the only tail gun I know the B-52 had. The B-52 no longer flies with tail guns, they stopped using them around 1997. 17:00, 17 April 2006 (UTC)

The original B-52A had 4 x Browning M3 0.50 caliber machine guns in a tail turret. On the B-52H these were replaced by a 20mm M61 cannon. All defensive guns have since been removed from operational B-52s as the threat of fighter interception is negligible.

Having been a weapons mechanic on the B-58, I can tell you it did not have a 'turret' in the tail. It had an M61 Vulcan, true, and it could articulate to aim the weapon. But there was no rotating weapon platform. The weapon was not 'manned', but operated remotely by the DSO.

Also, as a B-52 weapons specialist I can also attest to the fact there was indeed a Vulcan M61 in the tail of the H model. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Pops91710 (talkcontribs) 22:59, 5 March 2011 (UTC) e. The gattling gun fitted internally in the nose of the F-4E Phantom II was designated M61A1 indicating that it was turned upside down from it's normal configuration. The drum and belt ammunition feed system could hold 635 plus or minus 5 rounds of 20 millimeter bullets. - Dennis Doolittle USAF 1971 - 1975 (weapons maintenance)

Pop Culture[edit]

If anyone cares, in the game Metal Gear Solid, a villain named "Vulcan Raven" is personally armed with an M61 volcan. Colonel Marksman 00:13, 2 May 2006 (UTC)

Also used in the films Terminator 2: Judgment Day and Superman Returns among others.

And I believe this is the heavy from TF2's gun.--Kamikaze14 (talk) 20:47, 3 December 2008 (UTC)

Negative, you are thinking of the Minigun. L0b0t (talk) 22:16, 3 December 2008 (UTC)

Agreed these are usually fictional variations of the Minigun which is much smaller. Be Bold In Edits (talk) 13:04, 7 April 2009 (UTC)

Why Have Them[edit]

I've always wondered why modern day fighters have guns especially when they only carry so few rounds its seems like a waste of space and weight. Milessp 00:15, 27 June 2006 (UTC)

The military thought the same thing with the introduction of the F-4 Phantom; however they discovered missiles were ineffective in close aerial combat during the Vietnam war. Dlodge 21:55, 17 December 2006 (UTC)
The theory goes that you can never spoof a properly aimed cannon round.

Missile technology has greatly improved since the 60's. No air-to-air gun kill of a fixed wing airplane has happened in decades. It is an outdated technology for the air-to-air role that causes a significant maintenance and financial burden on the operators. The systems however cannot be removed as it would have a detrimental effect on the weight and balance of the airframes.

  • That claim is not true. Israel has and countless ground targets have been destroyed by gun fire of a fighter aircraft. The weapon is inexpensive to fire, has much lower collateral damage than a missile and allows fighters to be multirole aircraft. One should realize that the aircraft designers around the world have better thought this out than one or two editors on wikipedia. (talk) 03:17, 26 July 2014 (UTC)
Guns can be, and have been on many occasions, replaced by ballast and/or equipment, so removing the gun is not a big issue. - BilCat (talk) 03:59, 26 July 2014 (UTC)

Air Applications chart[edit]

I do not know enough wikicode to make a chart, but it might be useful (either in supplement to or replacement of much of the applications section) to include a chart of air installations, giving model (M61, A1, A2), power (hydraulic, electric, gas, ram air), feed (single or double ended), rounds carried and rate of fire. This is incomplete, but based upon what I could pull from vol. 5 of Chinn's 'Machine Guns' other wiki articles and other sources:

F104 M61 single ended 725rds, 4000spm F105B M61 single ended 1028rds, 6000spm (used an innovative feed, alternating each round between two seperate linked feed lines, allowing 4000spm to be surpassed) F105D M61A1, hydraulic, double ended, 1029rds 6000spm F4E M61A1, hydraulic, double ended 639rds, 6000spm (The actual capacity was 635 +/- 5) A7D M61A1, hydraulic, double ended 1030rds, 6000spm/4000 optional F111 M61A1, electric, single ended, 2000 rds, 5000spm F106 M61A1, hydraulic, double ended, 650rds, 4500spm F14 M61A1, hydraulic, double ended, 676rds, 6000spm/4000 optional F15 M61A1, hydraulic, double ended, 940rds, 6000spm/4000 optional F16 M61A1, hydraulic, double ended, 512rds, 6000spm/4000 optional F18 M61A1, hydraulic, double ended, 570rds, 6000spm/4000 optional AMX M61A1, double ended, 403rds, 4000spm F18E M61A2, hydraulic 400rds, 6600spm, F22 M61A2, hydraulic 480rds 6600spm, Earthworm Makarov 19:22, 10 August 2006 (UTC)

Airplane Gun drive feed capacity rate of fire
F104 M61 single ended 725rds 4000spm
F105B M61 single ended 1028rds 6000spm (used an innovative feed, alternating each round between two seperate linked feed lines, allowing 4000spm to be surpassed)
F105D M61A1 hydraulic double ended 1029rds 6000spm
F4E M61A1 hydraulic double ended 639rds 6000spm
A7D M61A1 hydraulic double ended 1030rds 6000spm/4000 optional
F111 M61A1 electric single ended 2000 rds 5000spm
F106 M61A1 hydraulic double ended 650rds 4500spm
F14 M61A1 hydraulic double ended 676rds 6000spm/4000 optional
F15 M61A1 hydraulic double ended 940rds 6000spm/4000 optional
F16 M61A1 hydraulic double ended 512rds 6000spm/4000 optional
F18 M61A1 hydraulic double ended 570rds 6000spm/4000 optional
AMX M61A1 double ended 403rds 4000spm
F18E M61A2 hydraulic 400rds 6600spm
F22 M61A2 hydraulic 480rds 6600spm

Chalky (talk) 02:32, 12 February 2011 (UTC)

Photo on F-18 page[edit]

There is a very good photo on F-18 which shows the M61 with it's ? ammo drum. The photo is found at File:100_0307.jpg. Dlodge 21:19, 16 December 2006 (UTC)

spool-up problem?[edit]

In the article, it says:

"Another criticism is that despite its high rate of fire, the Gatling-type weapon is hampered by the time it takes for the weapon to spin up to its maximum rotation speed (about 0.5 seconds). As a result, a one-second burst only fires about 70-75 rounds..."

If that is the case, why don't they have the gun spin up to speed as soon as the pilot arms it, and remain spinning until the pilot puts it back on safe, instead of waiting for him to press the trigger before the barrels begin to turn? I am not an engineer, so maybe I don't understand, but if that's a problem, this seems to be an obvious solution.

Because it would be ejecting unfired "live" rounds as it turned, leaving the weapon empty.

To clarify, the ammunition feed system is directly linked to the cannon, in fact the same hydraulic or pneumatic source that powers the gun also powers the feed system. With a system that operates at that speed you cannot be engaging and disengaging the two systems on a whim, they need to stay perfectly indexed.

Additionally, the "argument" that spin-up time is a problem doesn't make sense. "Only 70-75 rounds"? A 20mm single barrel revolver-style cannon firing between 1,500 and 1,800 rounds per minute will fire only 25 to 30 rounds in one second. That's over double the rate of fire in a 1 second burst.

The argument is somewhat valid, the thinking going that most air to air cannon engagements are "snap shots" with very high crossing aspect angles and a very short window when the gun is on target. The revolver-style single barrel cannons have an advantage in the first quarter to half second. The flip side is that the Vulcan cannon armed pilot can simply squeeze the trigger a half-second early and sweep across the target at a much higher rate of fire than the single barrel cannon armed pilot.
This is valid since otherwise if you see "3000 rounds in 3 seconds (obvious overstatement for example)" many people may other wise deduce incorrectly that it could fire 1000 rounds in 1 second when it would likely be much closer to "only" 500. Thats where the only comes in. And as stated a half second can be surprisingly long time in air combat (consider how far two jets flying at each other at near subsonic speeds fly in half a second).

Be Bold In Edits (talk) 13:08, 7 April 2009 (UTC)

just to add in some info on the converse side. as it spools down, the electric current is cut of from the firing pin, and 5-12 (gun "mood" dependant) rounds are left unfired. these may not be refired unless reloaded on the groudn, as the feed system detects the first spent cartrigde that comes around (It's a loop) and disables the gun at that point. We could always see how many salvos a pilot had used when we got the bulkloaders in, by counting the groups of unspent rounds. (Corp RNoAF, munitions 331/332 sqdn) Raymond Holmoey (talk) 19:59, 16 May 2012 (UTC)

Tapping vs. Trapping[edit]

The correct usage is "tapping". A gas operated automatic cannon gets the gas used for its operation from a hole drilled into the barrel called a tap or gas port. The same usage as in "tapping a well". 18:53, 25 July 2007 (UTC)

Numbers correct?[edit]

"The multiple barrels provide both a very high rate of fire--around 100 rounds per second--and contribute to long weapon life by minimizing barrel erosion and heat generation. Mean time between jams or failures is in excess of 10,000 rounds, making it an extremely reliable weapon."

100 rounds per second seems extremely fast, is this number correct?
MTBF of 10,000 rounds is ridiculously low, surely this must be wrong? Else there would be a jam or failure every 100 seconds of shooting on average. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 23:01, 16 October 2007 (UTC)

It definetely needs to be clarified. Perhaps the 10,000-round figure is per barrel, which would make the total 60,000 rounds, tho still not a lot. It might also be 100,000. - BillCJ 23:21, 16 October 2007 (UTC)
If you think about it, no M61 installation carries anywhere close to 10,000 rounds. It is a reasonable figure, particularly in contrast to the MTBS/MTBF for most small arms. And yes, a rate of 100 rps works out to 6,000 rpm, which is the commonly cited cyclic rate for this weapon. D.E. Watters 23:35, 16 October 2007 (UTC)
We don't usually talk in terms of MTBF, since time "T" doesn't really mean anything in this context (i.e. the gun system reliability is infinite in time if you never pull the trigger). Most of the M61-based aircraft gun systems using linkless ammunition handling systems have a reliability of about 30,000 mean rounds between failures (MRBF). The gun mechanism itself is good for about 5 times that, but the overall system reliability is lower because of the accumulated reliabilities of all the subassemblies that make up a system. And, yes, the firing rate of these systems is 100 rounds per second. VTFirefly911 04:30, 27 October 2007 (UTC)
Years later I have come across this article and exactly the same point bothered me. I assume one doesn't fire a cannon like this for 100 seconds non-stop but even still - I can't believe they jam on average after 100 seconds of firing. Perhaps small arms jam after this many rounds but surely that's apples and oranges? (1) they fire much slower and (2) they can be unjammed in action. IF the M61 jams I presume it's out of action for the flight, which is pretty inconvenient 2A02:8071:2786:F300:5031:B223:ACC5:1DCC (talk) 20:21, 16 April 2013 (UTC)
This needs clarification: What exactly means "failures" and "jams"? A non-fired round is probably ejected, so the gun doesn´t fail or gets jammed by it. A total malfunction every 10k rounds would make the gun extremely unreliable and probably entirely useless. What is the weight of these guns, and how much ammunition is usually being carried? If that´s only about 500 or 1200 rounds, what could be achieved with a gun that can be used for only about 10 seconds and is bound to fail? Lee-0 (talk) 17:13, 1 January 2018 (UTC)

The correct specs on the M61A1 or A2 Vulcan 20MM cannon[edit]

Ok 1st off the correct rate of fire for any BOTH the A1 and the A2 is 6000 RPM that makes it 100 rounds per second. It takes about .25 seconds to get to 3200 RPM to start firing. That is the rotation speed required to send rounds through the chamber to be fired. It is linkless so there is no drum used for it. It holds 578 rounds causing a fire time of 5.78 seconds, exactly .22 seconds before the weapon overheats causing the barrels to melt and damaging the gun. All this information comes from a person whose sole job is to work with the ammunition and explosives use on military aircraft. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk)

As a former USAF weapons specialist, I can tell you that the hydraulically driven models were capable of firing rates up to 7,200 rounds per minute. The no drum claim is not quite accurate. Both the SUU-16 and the SUU-23 gun pods held 1200 rounds in a drum behind the weapon. The 20mm rounds were stacked vertically, nose-down, side by side, and moved along to the feeder by a rotating helix assembly. The GAU-4 was a gas powered model, and needed a "kick start" from a heavy flywheel and clutch assembly behind the gun. It took 40 seconds for the flywheel to reach maximum speed, so the pilot had to arm the gun 40 seconds before anticipated use. The gun will fire at anyItalic text speed. I once saw a man killed by a static gun while in Vietnam. He stood in front of it and the trigger was squeezed up stairs to "test" the gun's firing leads. Unfortunately, the lead was connect to the gun and not to the PSM-6 testing meter. Two rounds fired, tragically killing a great young man (a weapons specialist) I knew. He was in the front nose wheel well depressing the micro switch that closes the circuit to the gun's firing circuit. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Pops91710 (talkcontribs) 23:24, 5 March 2011 (UTC)

the munitions barrle of the vulcan on the F16 Block 15 used by RNoAF, and others hold 511 rounds, as mentioned the rounds will fire at any rotational speed, though 6000 rpm is the "rated" standard sped of the gun (after spool up) the Munition delivery sytem and the gun is tightly interlinked, and the rounds enter the "breach" (one for each barrel) moves helically to the oppsite side of the barrel "drum" where it is fired, and the empty casing is moved backwards again to be fed back into the munitions feed system. as long as power is supplied to the firing pin, the gun will allways fire once a round passes through the top position of the breech drum, when the firing pin is moved forward.

(I always forget the damn tildes)  Raymond Holmoey (talk) 20:12, 16 May 2012 (UTC)


Moved from article per MOS recommendation for uncited text not kept in visible article space. Such claims need to be sourced before being included. - BillCJ (talk) 16:13, 26 October 2008 (UTC)

Despite its reliability and tremendous rate of fire, the Vulcan has been criticized in recent years for its limited performance.[citation needed]

The ballistic characteristics of the 20 mm round are relatively poor, with the projectile losing energy quickly, and its destructive power and accuracy are lacking compared to the heavier 25-30 mm rounds favored by European and Russian air forces.[citation needed]

Another criticism[who?] is that despite its high rate of fire, the Gatling-type weapon is hampered by the time it takes for the weapon to spin up to its maximum rotation speed (about 0.5 seconds).[citation needed] As a result, a one-second burst only fires about 70-75 rounds, which some experts[who?] feel is not enough of an advantage over revolver cannons like the ADEN/DEFA 30 mm weapons to justify the additional weight and complexity. To overcome this shortfall, the M61A2, with its lower inertia, can be powered by a hydraulic motor running on 5,000 psi (34 MPa) of hydraulic pressure instead of the 3,000 psi (21 MPa) previously used on the F-15 Eagle and F-16 Fighting Falcon.

(Moved from article space) - BillCJ (talk) 16:13, 26 October 2008 (UTC)

It's "provess" is really a moot point. Even though it is still incorporated in modern designs, and trained by pilots. the use of the gun is really a last ditch measure, and a sure sign the pilot is in a bad place if he really has to use it. as a last dich measure it offers a large volume of fire in a compact space. Mind you, the gun starts firing once the pilot presses the trigger, the time to spool up is merely the time needed to reach max RPM. Raymond Holmoey (talk) 20:23, 16 May 2012 (UTC)

Infobox item on wars[edit]

It seems certain Vulcan gun was used on US and NATO aircraft in

1999 NATO bombing of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, US/Nato war against Serbia over Kosovo
Gulf War, 1991
Operation Enduring Freedom, 2001-
Operation Iraqi Freedom, 2003

But Wikipedia requires references, not just inferences, to add these to the infobox.

--AndersW (talk) 09:11, 2 March 2009 (UTC)

List of planes using and varitions[edit]

As much as some people hate lists I think this page would really benefit from a list major variations and vehicles utilizing the weapon. This would also have the benifit of making it easier to figure out which wars it was used in and how wide spread it is adopted. Does anybody object to this? Be Bold In Edits (talk) 13:14, 7 April 2009 (UTC)

This is what the current Applications section is for. Maybe a table or list there... -Fnlayson (talk) 14:47, 7 April 2009 (UTC)

Fire Rate?[edit]

Say that the gun is capable of firing 9000 rounds per minute. How long in yards would the ammo belt have to be to fire that many bullets? —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 20:47, 7 July 2010 (UTC)


The text states that "The gun was first used in aerial combat in the skies over North Vietnam when North Vietnamese Air Force MiG-17s dove through escorting F-100 Super Sabres and shot down 2 F-105 Thunderchiefs on 4 April 1965. One escorting Super Sabre engaged the MiGs with an air to air missile, while two other F-100s engaged with 20mm (M39) cannon". I don't see in that sentence where the M61 Vulcan was used, was it the MiG that had it installed? Chalky (talk) 02:02, 12 February 2011 (UTC)

Good catch. Those sentences were added in July 2009 by an IP user. I've reverted to the previous version of the text, as I doubt the competancy of the user who added the material. If someone has the sources, they can check to see what the text actually said, and if there's something about hte F-106 and M61, they can add that in. - BilCat (talk) 23:24, 5 March 2011 (UTC)

Errors in the M61A1 description[edit]

The author states the SUU-16 was a RAT (ram-air-turbine) driven gun that made and electric motor turn to turn the M61. This is not correct. The RAT was a direct drive system. The RAT would flip out into the air stream. The steep pitch propeller in the turbine spun turning telescopic splined shafts connected directly to the gun. The obvious problem was that airspeed was critical to operate the gun at full firing rate.

As to the SUU-23/GAU-4 being initially started by an electric motor is also incorrect. While there was indeed an electric motor, it did not drive the gun. Rather it drove a large diameter heavy flywheel that took a full 40 seconds to acheive usable firing speed. Of course, this required the pilot to arm the gun in advance. Once up and running, the pilot could squeeze the trigger. The flywheel clutch would engage the cannon's drive mechanism, and start the gun spinning. It would disengage the moment the gun reached sustainable firing speed, and then operate off of its own gasses. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Pops91710 (talkcontribs) 23:45, 5 March 2011 (UTC)


The following discussion is closed. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made in a new section. A summary of the conclusions reached follows.
Closed nonsense query, per WP:Not a forum.

Has this gun ever been used to shoot down another plane since, say, Vietnam? Does a modern fighter-only plane need a gun anymore? Wouldn't it be better to have a couple extra missiles instead? — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 20:09, 23 June 2011 (UTC)

The above discussion is closed. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made in a new section.

Why ban my section but leave "why have them?" section intact? Or the other sections that are "nonsense"? And if you didn't like it so much why not just delete the section? — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 23:25, 24 June 2011 (UTC)


Does anyone have any shoot down statistics that can be added to the article? Very curious about the combat history... — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 23:27, 24 June 2011 (UTC)


The TP and TP-T should really be incorporated in that list.. IT may seem mundane, but it's probably the most fired round, since it's cheap, and inert. one of the reasons our F16's got refitted with those in the period after 9/11 (inert steel was favourable over HEI/HEISAP on the ground after takedown of a civillian flight) Raymond Holmoey (talk) 20:28, 16 May 2012 (UTC)

Sourced Information and Aircraft Downed in the Vietnam War by Vulcans[edit]

Hello Bilcap, I don't mean to edit war with you, but I've read some of your edits in the past, and highly respect your contributions. And I respectively want to point out to you that you do endorse properly sourced contributions to articles whether they are from registered Wiki editors or not, based upon your past dialogs. The Vietnam War was the only war in which the Vulcan was solely used to shoot down so many enemy jets. Not "just one war."

There are past readers (see talk page) that are interested in how many enemy aircraft fell to the Vulcan. This list indicates how many, when, what type, and who did it. And its not that long, only 39 (or so planes). For an encyclodia, it seems to be simply additional information for the Vulcan's combat record. I think many readers will agree, this extra information only adds to the Vulcan's history, and does not detract from it.

I do not believe the Vulcan has by itself never been used to shoot down any aircraft since the Vietnam War. If it has, that too would be interesting to know. But I think we may be assured that it would not be a long list, and probably not even a list at all; only 1 or 2 enemy aircraft...if that.

Again, of all the Wiki editors that I've noticed, in the area of aircraft, you seem to be one of the most respected; my hats off to you. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 23:16, 23 September 2013 (UTC)

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Question: Can An M61 Vulcan be manned by a person?[edit]

I'm assuming someone here may be a gun expert. i have a question. I'm writing a military story, and anyways, my question - can an M61 Vulcan be manned by a person? I have a part in my story where a crew member is on this fictional type of plane that has two machine guns on either side. Do you know if a person could use some sort of trigger to fire the gun? If not, are there any aircraft guns that are still and use and could be mounted on a plane? Thanks! — Preceding unsigned comment added by Mikey Matthew (talkcontribs) 01:58, 25 May 2016 (UTC)

Highly unlikely, too heavy plus the recoil. Sounds like some confusion with the much smaller 7.62 mm Minigun, which has been carried by soldiers in films. -Fnlayson (talk) 13:38, 25 May 2016 (UTC)

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