Minigun problems or why our soldiers can't fight when SHTF


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Aikibiker
January 30, 2003, 12:14 AM
While reading the article refferenced in this thread (http://thehighroad.org/showthread.php?threadid=6398) before it turned into a national policy debate I noticed something odd.

While the embattled soldiers fought for their lives they were unable to utilize their most effective weapons, the 7.62mm miniguns their helicopter was equiped with because there was no electricity for them. When I read Blawkhawk Down I noticed that the helicopters that were shot down were also equipped with miniguns yet I heard nothing about the Rangers or Delta Force turning those weapons on the attacking mobs. Are miniguns as employed by the US armed forces today hardwired into the electrical systems of their helicopter so that when the engines aren't turning the guns don't work or is there some form of battery backup? If so was the force of the various crashes significant enough to damage this backup?

Can anyone think of a replacement weapon system that would offer the same level of firepower but in a purely mechanical form not dependent on electricity? Especially something that can be easily removed from a vehicle mount under combat conditions and setup as a fixed weapon.

Man when I saw that show on the discovery channel about the OCSW I thought it would be the greatest thing since sliced bread. I mean an automatic grenade launcher that will tell the projectiles when to explode to better kill the enemy sounds like a toy I would want to have if I was fighting a war, but now I am not so sure. Will that thing still work as a regular grenade launcher with impact fuses if the fancy laser range finder goes kaput?

Guess there is a reason Ma Deuce is still in our arsenal after the better part of a century.

Anyway, what are your thoughts?

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SteyrAUG
January 30, 2003, 12:21 AM
The minigun made by (not surprisingly) General Electric requires a power source to rotate the barrels and sustain the high cyclic rate. In short the damn thing is way too fast to be mechanically operated. You just have to accept that like many advanced weapons it needs power to function.

Aikibiker
January 30, 2003, 12:53 AM
Accept hell let's just invent something better that works when the lights are off.

Idea 1: We step back in time to the days of WW1, build a conventional machine-gun with a waterjacket for cooling that way you can boost the firing rate a bit higher without overheating. Sure it won't be a minigun but it will satisfy the first criteria of working when there is no electricity.

Let's also fix the first problem I can see with it, when the jacket is inevitably broken put in a rate reducing function so it will work as an air-cooled MG. It might also help to make the cooling system able to use fluids other than water. I can think of all sorts of things from transmission fluid to urine that should be available in the event of a helicopter crash. Although using aviation gas should be avoided for obvious reasons.

Okay that is one idea anybody got an Idea 2?

Navy joe
January 30, 2003, 01:01 AM
Uh? Bring back the Lewis and Maxim guns? No thanks. Ought to be simple to design a work around where the minigun could be adapted for a plug in 28VDC pack. Failing that, fly with an M240 as an auxilary weapon. FWIW, in the first crash nobody surviving was exactly 100% functional and their ability to employ a mingun on a helicopter lying on it's side is doubtful. Second crash, they did the best they could, Probably a better plan to take covered positions than to sit in the middle of an exposed helicopter wreck and try to make the big gun work.

Even better idea is to tell the knucleheads back home that nothing happens without AC-130 support, let them draw pretty pictures around the helo. Better yet, how about not use thesame tactics for months on end so that your enemy doesn't have the time to develop effective counter-tactics using crude weapons. Worrying about a mingun running is the least of our worries.

Boats
January 30, 2003, 01:06 AM
Why not attach a capacitor to the minigun, large enough to make it capable of firing through at least one ammo load? It'd be lighter than a battery system, which is important on helos.

PATH
January 30, 2003, 01:09 AM
The application must fit the situation. The minigun is fine when the juice is on but not when the lights go down. Ah, to have an M60 now that spring is here. An oldie but a goodie. Okay so it was not always perfect but I love it anyway! I know there are other choices but I am making this one!

SteyrAUG
January 30, 2003, 01:20 AM
Actually they have a dandy "lights off" alternative called the Minimi aka the FN M249. it is already inservice and fits the role very nice. And they had a few (as well as a 60 here and there) in Somalia and they really saved their collective asses.

Firepower however wasn't the critical issue. The Minigun, while damn nice, isn't a magical wonderbroom death ray that kills all enemy forces in a 10 mile radius.

The problem in Somali was you had about 200 guys vs. a city population like Los Angeles. And they were so well armed and trained that they only lost 19 guys. I don't think any other military force would be capable of that achievement. Also the support aircraft DID have functional Miniguns. I don't think EXTRA Miniguns would have done mcuh more.

The only additonal things that would have factored would have been armor and heavier air support like AC 130s.

And just having the guns doesn't solve the problem. Keep in mind the Somali incident quickly became a guerilla/sniper conflict. Not everyone stood in the middle of the street with a AK held sideways over their head blazing away (but god bless the morons who did). The ones who inflicted casualties were the guys you didn't see on the roofs, behind fortifications and in hidden positions. And I don't think a Minigun would have gotten too many more of them.

PATH
January 30, 2003, 01:30 AM
SteyrAUG,

You are spot on in your assessment. Armor would have helped a great deal. Not being in there at all would have been better. The know it alls in Washington felt armor would be too provocative.

If not for their training and guts a lot more men would have gone down. I blame that lamo in the White House at the time. He let his defense secretary take the hit. Everyone knows who is really responsible!

Aikibiker
January 30, 2003, 01:43 AM
In the Afghanistan firefight the crew were desperately trying to get the miniguns working. Failing that they gave the ammo to the only man with a M240 LMG, which has for better or for worse replaced the M60.

No argument about Somalia a tank or two would probably have been a lot more useful for task force ranger at the first crash sight. How ever didn't Shuggart and Gordon mount their defense of the injured Durant from the wreckage of his Blackhawk? I recall that from the movie but I am not sure how much tactical information we could or should draw from that. I will say that I'll bet the fellow with the M-14 would have loved to have been able to get a minute to put some of those 7.62 rounds into his empty magazines once he was reduced to his pistol. Those were some true heros we lost that day.

SteyrAUG
January 30, 2003, 01:47 AM
PATH, while inclined to agree with you, if you are what I think you are please remember chain of command. Good or bad he was CIC. And those are the cards that got dealt. They don't ask you how you'd feel bout this or that. They just tell you to get your gear and where to assemble.

I too think it was all political bull****. But that is the nature of the beast. I wish we never went over there in the first place. Nothing we did there, no matter how noble, was worth the lives of the men lost.

I'm a bit sick of "peacekeeping" missions, blue helmets and UN coalitions.

Editted to add: Aikibiker the problem is the Minigun is a platform weapon. It is not intended or practical as a "small arm" despite what you saw in Predator. It is like arguing that the gun from a Abrams tank would be a effective infantry weapon if only it could be hand carried and employed by individual soldiers.

Kaylee
January 30, 2003, 02:02 AM
Waitaminnit... isn't the Minigun just a gatling with a power cord? Why not rig some kinda "lights out" port where a hand crank could be latched on to work the thing the old fasioned way? Then just stow the crank on the weapon cradle or som'n, and pull it out if it's ever needed. Sure you'd get a lower ROF, but it'd still work, right?

Seems like a cheap simple mechanical solution, albeit to what sounds an extremely rare problem.

-K

SteyrAUG
January 30, 2003, 02:10 AM
Kaylee, two words: slow and heavy.

A hand powered or portable power source still do not make teh Minigun portable or practical for individual employment, or they would. The FN 249 and to a lesser extent the M60 are far more practical in this role.

When bullets start wizzing past your head and it's time to move that FN 249 "seems" really heavy. You really don't wanna be lugging anything heavier.

For perspective grab a AR15, a back pack with 2 cinder blocks in it and strap a car battery on. Then imagine people shooting at you and try and run as fast as you can to a place of cover. Trying to hand employ a Minigun in a GPMG role would be even harder.

Aikibiker
January 30, 2003, 02:39 AM
I like the hand crank idea, cheap and simple are better than expensive and complicated anyday. I wonder if the motor could be disconnected when the crank is being used to remove that extra resistance. It might even make the weapon easier to service.

SteyrAUG, Even if it is slow and heavy and not my first choice as a support weapon, anything that shoots at the enemy is a good thing in my book. Also history has shown that while rare such a situation can occur. What is that saying about those that do not learn from history?

I like the M249 in the SAW role but as a LMG I will take the M240 and it's 7.62mm round everytime. For helicopters it makes even more sense to use the heavier bullet that is less likely to get blown about by the downdraft off the rotors.

Triad
January 30, 2003, 02:43 AM
There's a simple way to do what you want, all you have to do is adapt it to pneumatic drive. IIRC this is already possible with the larger Vulcans. It couldn't be that difficult to make it so that you could select between electric and pneumatic drive. I think the best way to do it would be to determine how much ammo the platform can carry, and then have the air tank be large enough to provide enough power to fire all of that.

T.Stahl
January 30, 2003, 04:04 AM
Do you really need a cyclic rate of six-thousand rounds per minute?
Twin MG3s will give you 2x1200 rpm, they are recoil-operated and can easily be dismounted to be manportable.

duck hunt
January 30, 2003, 08:18 AM
Hell. Just use the MG42. Duplicate the design, but make it 5% bigger and chamber it for .338.

buzz_knox
January 30, 2003, 09:19 AM
Do you need a high rate of fire? Yes. Remember that with helos, the primary defenses are manueverability and the ability to suppress enemy fire. If you're going into an LZ, the first is compromised, so you have to put a lot of fire on target fast.

As for dual guns, you run into the problem of barrels overheating. The beauty of a mini is that each barrel only fires once for every six (or three depending on model) rounds.

Admiral Thrawn
January 30, 2003, 09:30 AM
"Twin MG3s will give you 2x1200 rpm, they are recoil-operated and can easily be dismounted to be manportable."

The MG3 is a great weapon... the original MG42 (nicknamed "Hitler's Ripper") sure gave the allied boys hell in WWII.

The barrel on them can be replaced very easily as well in the event of overheating.

SteyrAUG
January 30, 2003, 09:58 AM
What a lot of you are missing with your portable Minigun idea is the feeding system and how much ammo it consumes. A person couldn't carry enough ammo to keep it running for 5 minutes. Not a good idea in combat.

The Minimi is popular because it has two cyclic settings. Also the lighter 5.56 round can be carried in greater quantity. This is important for a SAW.

Again you could make it work, as in Predator, but nobody in their right mind would want to carry it in combat.

BigG
January 30, 2003, 10:26 AM
Just think that a thousand rounds of 308 is about 2' x 2' x 6" and weighs a quite a bit. You would have to carry many of those just to feed the beast as a crew served weapon. But, it would be a fabulous broom!

bogie
January 30, 2003, 10:33 AM
They are really big.

They are really heavy.

They recoil a great deal. They need to be securely fastened down. There was an incident at KCR a few years back where a father had his daughter shoot a minigun exhibit, and it wasn't bedded well enough, and it flipped on her. Not good.

George Hill
January 30, 2003, 12:25 PM
80 pounds worth of normal combat load.
Plus 50 pounds of mini-gun.
Plus 50 pounds of battery.
Plus 6 cases worth of belted ammo to feed the thing.

No, I wouldn't have gone for the mini-gun either. You gotta be kidding me.

bogie
January 30, 2003, 12:31 PM
I still think that a palletized air-droppable .22LR minigun would be interesting...

ysr_racer
January 30, 2003, 12:42 PM
http://dillonaero.com/default.cfm?

They bring good things back to life.

Kaylee
January 30, 2003, 01:20 PM
oh, as a carried weapon that makes perfect sense... it sounds horrificly heavy.

From the story though, it sounded like they were using the vicinity of the downed vehicle as a temporary fighting position. It seems the ability to pry the thing off the deck and remount it as a more-or-less fixed emplacement weapon would have make sense, wouldn't it? Provided there was a way to quickly and permamently disable it when the time came to scram?

Frohickey
January 30, 2003, 03:34 PM
Man when I saw that show on the discovery channel about the OCSW I thought it would be the greatest thing since sliced bread. I mean an automatic grenade launcher that will tell the projectiles when to explode to better kill the enemy sounds like a toy I would want to have if I was fighting a war, but now I am not so sure. Will that thing still work as a regular grenade launcher with impact fuses if the fancy laser range finder goes kaput?


Scotty: Aye sir, the more they overtake the plumbing, the easier it is to stop up the drain

Frohickey
January 30, 2003, 03:42 PM
No. You do not need a minigun that works when the main power supply is down. You need a lightweight and inexpensive two-way communication with the home base or better yet, the AC-130, or A-10 providing ground cover. That is what was missing.

A mini-gun is a little bit on the heavy side, and even it it just so happens to be pointed in the general direction, you can still get flanked, and in a crashed helicopter, it not doing you any good.

Better would have been take aimed shots, and establish a perimeter. Now, if the Army were to make a supershovel that can dig a manhole-sized hole in 10 seconds....:scrutiny:

CZ-75
January 30, 2003, 03:49 PM
I'll bet the fellow with the M-14 would have loved to have been able to get a minute to put some of those 7.62 rounds into his empty magazines once he was reduced to his pistol.


Question about this statement, which is aren't miniguns using ammo with electric primers?

Seems mechanically activated, percussion primers would mean major wear on firing pins.

Hence, no compatibility with light weapons for minigun rounds.

Mark D
January 30, 2003, 04:11 PM
The 20mm and up use electric primers. The 50cal and down used mechanical primers.

wingnutx
January 30, 2003, 04:47 PM
The Minimi is popular because it has two cyclic settings. Also the lighter 5.56 round can be carried in greater quantity. This is important for a SAW.

Also, you can grab an M-16 mag from your buddy and fire from that when your belts run out. I LOVE that feature.

CWL
January 30, 2003, 06:50 PM
Minigun has a cyclic rate of 6000rds minute. You won't even be able to carry one minutes' worth of ammo. You also have to include a tripod mount system to be able to stabilize such a weapon.

Useless as infantry weapon. Not even useful as vehicle mounted anti-personell weapon. It is an airborne weapon system, and it works as such.

The minigun used in "Predator" was a pain in the ***, Jesse Ventura had so many cables run up his leg and back to power the thing that he wasn't able to move. It's a movie everyone.

Autolite
January 30, 2003, 07:47 PM
The bigger Vulcans could be electricaly, hydraulicaly, or pneumaticaly driven. They could even be gas driven by bleeding off chamber pressure to drive the barrels, (but the gun needed to be initiated by an external drive source). Also, different rotating cannons could use either electric or percussion primers. It depends on the application. As I understand, there is work being done to build a single gatling gun design that will fire either percussion or electricaly primed ammo. (Navy prefers percussion ammo, Airforce likes electric ammo). The reason for electric ammo is the fact that the design requires fewer moving parts, and is therefore a more reliable gun (assuming, of course, that your firing voltage is always available). Also, on an electric gun, there is nothing to 'cock', so there's not a need for hammers or strikers and such.

Cyclic rate would be an easy thing to vary regardless of the drive system (the M61A1 has two rates of fire). The problem is, as already mentioned, the weight and the requirement of carrying a vast amount of ammunition. This was the reason the Gatling design was ditched shortly after the turn of the last century. The Maxim gun was transportable and, although much slower than the contemporary Gatlings, it threw enough lead to meet the need ...

Navy joe
January 31, 2003, 04:13 AM
Hopefully covered as not doable by now? Now if you had a MK-19 mounted in the helo too...


Better would have been take aimed shots, and establish a perimeter. Now, if the Army were to make a supershovel that can dig a manhole-sized hole in 10 seconds....

Been around for years. The original method was to dump a full clip from a Garand straight down in the dirt, scoop away loose dirt as deep as possible, insert demolition block, prime, back up and fire. Return and tidy up excavation. :) Something I want to try personally, nobody will give me a block of Comp B or C-4 though. :mad:

With regards to Somalia and Afghanistan our crews and rescue teams did as good as can be expected given the circumstances they found themselves in.

Viking6
January 31, 2003, 08:04 AM
"Better would have been take aimed shots, and establish a perimeter. Now, if the Army were to make a supershovel that can dig a manhole-sized hole in 10 seconds...."

The Army used to have foxhole digger. I think it was on a collapsible tripod and fired straight into the ground. Then there are cratering charges that make a big hole and turn the dirt into the density of self-rising flour. Combat Engineers have those.

All in all, those fellas done good faced with the hand they were dealt.

Double Naught Spy
January 31, 2003, 08:22 AM
Electric powered miniguns were designed with particular roles in mind where the high cyclic rate was needed and that was in a bird on the move than needed to lay down considerable fire power, usually against people or light equipment. The gun was not designed or intended for use on the ground and without power to it.

Does this hamper our soldiers' ability to defend themselves? No, not at all any more than cannons are fairly useless for CQB operations, although a nice civil war cannon loaded with grapeshot would do very nicely.

Helicopters on the ground, artillery, airplanes on the ground, etc., have to be protected with other means. A plane on the ground can no more drop bombs on the enemy than I can.

SDC
January 31, 2003, 12:15 PM
You also have to remember that the juice is needed not only to run the gun itself, but to power the mechanism that pulls the belt into the gun; a hand-powered minigun would not only have to rotate the barrels (feeding, firing, extracting, and ejecting), it would also have to pull a 50' or longer belt into the gun at the same time. Not really feasible at this point, I think.

Autolite
January 31, 2003, 05:59 PM
AFAIK, most mini guns use a continuous close-ended 'belt', (called an 'element train'), that draws the rounds out of a spiral 'helix' in the gun's magazine. A long belt is not the problem, it's the all up weight of the gun and the ammo ...

Sean Smith
January 31, 2003, 08:42 PM
Aikibiker,

No offense, but your post basically shows you have no idea what you are talking about. The whole premise of this topic is incredibly ignorant. The miniguns worked fine in Somalia, as they have for pretty much the entire time they have been in service. The problem in the Mog was that entire helicopters were getting blown out of the sky. The tactics, operations, strategy and grand strategy were what was broke, not the minigun.

Hard to believe you read Black Hawk Down and came to the conclusion the miniguns were to blame...

:rolleyes:

SDC
January 31, 2003, 09:15 PM
B]"AFAIK, most mini guns use a continuous close-ended 'belt', (called an 'element train'), that draws the rounds out of a spiral 'helix' in the gun's magazine. A long belt is not the problem, it's the all up weight of the gun and the ammo ..."[/B]

That's true for the larger versions of the Minigun (20mm and 30mm), but the 5.56mm and 7.62mm versions still need to use links; they couldn't get the proper round-to-round spacing needed for reliable feeding unless they had a mechanism to keep the rounds ready to be picked up. If you can find a video of the Knob Creek shoot (or get a chance to go), you can see piles of both brass and links under Ciener's minigun.

Blueduck
February 1, 2003, 04:05 PM
Agree with the "It might be usefull and would be nice" aspect of the mini-gun but...

Gotta remember we lost 19 men (which was obviuosly 19 too many), they lost near 6000 by most accounts. When your massivly outnumbered and you still turn in a 300+ to 1 KIA ratio I don't think equipment is the problem.

Aikibiker
February 1, 2003, 04:52 PM
You're absolutely right Blueduck. It really ticks me off to hear people speaking about that battle as if we lost it. The fact is our soldiers accomplished their initial objectives and when things went to hell they fought bravely and fiercely bringing about one of the greatest military victories in human history. What were the odds there? One hundred men against an entire city? And they still accomplished the mission of retrieving Aidid's advisors.

I still stand by my assertion that had there been heavy weapons in the downed blackhawks that could have been salvaged to use in their defense, they would have been better off.

In the Afghanistan crash their is documented evidence that the crew tried to get the miniguns working to provide supporting fire to the soldiers defending the crash site.

Throwing as much lead at the enemy as possible is a good thing.

Rebel Gunman HK
February 3, 2003, 01:17 PM
Those mini's sure would have come in handy. But it seems typical to me from what I experienced in the Army, that all the availible resources wouldnt be availible when needed.

MrAcheson
February 3, 2003, 04:38 PM
Would it have been nice to be able to use those miniguns? I suppose. The rescuers did dismount some of the kevlar armor plates off the blackhawk floors to use for cover. A pneumatic minigun hooked to a pig would at least be good for a few bursts I suppose.

The point is that nothing would have really saved the soldiers in Somalia though. They were vastly outnumbered and outgunned. Once the situation started to go south they should have had an AC130 there along with all the air support they could get. As it was the rescue mission was so badly run that some of the soldiers had to walk out behind the convoy because nobody thought to leave enough room for them.

AmericanFreeBird
February 3, 2003, 05:07 PM
Dual or better yet Quad .50's :D

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