The story of the M230 30mm autocannon begins with Hughes Helicopter in early 1970’s thru the effort to develop AH-64 Apache Helicopter.
M230 ChainGun is now part of ATK’s ChainGun family.
M230 forms an integral part of the Apache helicopter with its 1200 round magazine. It enables he Apache crew to engage fortifications, light armor and personnel in the open.
M230 fires 30x113mm ammunition. The ammunition was first developed for British ADEN and French DEFA 550 revolver cannons in 1950s. These guns were developed for aircraft usage.
One common mistake about M230 gun and its ammunition is to think that it is better than the 25mm (25x137mm) and/or equal to the larger 30mm-30x173mm that is fired from Mk44/MK30 cannons.
In fact, 30x113mm ammunition can be best described as ‘Light 30’. The following image shows the size comparison of 30x113mm and its big brother 30x173mm rounds.
You can see from the above image that, 30x173mm round fired from Mk44 cannon has a lot bigger punch than the M230’s 30x113mm.
Three types of ammunition were developed for M230. These are:
- M788 TP Target Practice
- M789 HEDP High Explosive Dual Purpose
- M799 HEI High Explosive Incendiary
For AH-64 and MH-60L Direct Action Penetrator helicopters, the preferred and widely used combat round is M789 HEDP. Some of its characteristics:
- Weight: 350grams
- Muzzle velocity: 805 m/s
- Anti-personel effect: 4m lethality radius
- Penetration: 25mm thick RHA Rolled Homogenous Armor at 50degree obliquity at a range of 500m
As comparison for lethality, 25mm APFSDS round that can be fired from a M242 Bushmaster cannon penetrates around 45mm RHA at 500m range.
The penetration for 30x173mm APFSDS round that is fired from Mk44 can easily penetrate about 55mm RHA at the same range.
So these numbers say that M230 is not a direct replacement for 25mm M242 Bushmaster, let alone Mk44 Bushmaster II 30mm.
Development of M230LF
ATK started the development of a new variant of M230 chaingun aimed at ground and naval platforms. It is called M230LF with LF stands for LinkFed.
The development effort concentrated on the following changes & improvements:
- Link-feed ammunition to enable conventional belted ammunition usage and simple ammo cans
- Increased barrel length to enable higher muzzle velocity
- 24V DC electrical operation required for ground platforms
- Hang-Fire protection to improve manned turret safety
- Rate of fire better suited to land and naval applications
So how best M230/LF can be best employed?
Although 30x113mm ammunition is a member of the Medium Caliber Family, it is located at the lower end of the spectrum in terms of lethality.
However, M230 is a compact, lightweight and low recoil cannon.
ATK M230 Cannon DIMENSIONS
As you can see from the image, M230LF has a total length of around 2.2m.
- 25mm M242 has a total length of 2.6m
- 30mm Mk44 has a total length of 3.4m
In terms of weight:
- M230LF total weight: 72.6kg
- 25mm M242 total weight: 119kg
- 30mm Mk44 total weight: 156kg
- M230LF Recoil: 7.34kN (Naval)/ 28kN (Ground)
- 25mm M242 Recoil: 40kN
- 30mm Mk44 Recoil: 35.6kN
Looking at the values above, it seems M230LF can be a good alternative for light turrets and Remote Weapon Stations that are armed with:
- 12.7mm/.50 cal M2 Heavy Machine Gun
- 40mm Mk19/GMG Automatic Grenade Launcher
In that case, the main reasons/advantages will be:
- M230LF’s high lethality and longer range compared with M2/Mk19
- M230LF’s straight trajectory compared with Mk19’s high trajectory
- M230LF being an electric driven gun that does not need any fancy mechanisms such as trigger solenoid and cocking actuator
- Frontal case ejection that makes it easier to integrate in a turret
- Lower weight, smaller dimensions and lower recoil enables light turrets to be developed. This also provides light platforms packed with higher fire power.
However, M230LF also has some drawbacks when compared with M2 & Mk19
- Apparently higher initial cost
- Comparably higher weight that limits man portability
- Lack of tripod operation in case of removal from the turret or platform.
The images below shows some applications of M230LF:
M230LF would be a very good capability to upgrade the firepower of some platforms such as:
– US Marine Corps AAV7 Amphibious Assault Vehicle
– M1117 4×4 Armored Security Vehicle
– M113 to enable more firepower than the current .50cal cupolas
– M1126 Stryker 8×8
in 1-Man and remote turret designs.
Thanks to Warfare Technology for this post.