The American Northrop Grumman has announced the development of a 20mm chain gun prototype, dubbed Sky Viper, for the U.S. Army to evaluate for use on its future vertical lift aircraft as a part of the Army’s Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft (FARA) effort.
Northrop Grumman is working with the U.S. Army Development Command Armament Center on the development of the prototype. General Dynamics is also developing the XM915 multi-barreled Gatling gun for the effort.
The Sky Viper, which is a Chain type, which is an evolution of the M-230, which equips the AH-64 Apache that the same company produces for the Apache, but will feature new technologies to make it more accurate. The use of new materials and technologies has resulted in weight reduction and regression.
The Chain category was chosen by Northrop Grumman for reliability, ease of maintenance, and increased shooting accuracy. To increase the accuracy of the weapon, Northrop Grumman technicians have increased the firing rate of the weapon, which will therefore be higher than the M320’s 625 rounds per minute.
Thanks to the increased accuracy, according to Quinn Canole, director of the Guns Operating Unit at Northrop Grumman, it will be possible to “decrease the overall weight of the weapon by reducing the number of rounds and the fuel system”.
The Sky Viper has already passed an initial evaluation phase with a non-functional mock-up, but prototype production and real fire tests should begin shortly, around spring or early summer.
The Future Vertical Lift program is currently developing two projects: the Future Long-Range Assault Aircraft (FLRAA) and the Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft (FARA). The former is designed to replace the UH-60 Black Hawk multipurpose helicopter, while the latter seeks to design a new type of reconnaissance and attack aerial vehicle.