The United States military once tested a super-massive helicopter mounted shotgun that could spew a barrage of 1,200 rounds in under 10 seconds. Despite the fierceness and the ability to strike fear in the heart of the enemies, the 1,200 barrel shotgun never saw active use.
Born of the necessity to protect helicopters dropping off soldiers, the ‘Suppressive Fire Weapon System for Helicopters’ was mean and massive. Developed during the trying times of 1968, when the United States was deeply entrenched in fighting with the Vietcong, the shotgun was supposed to offer suppressive fire while soldiers disembarked.
Though a pretty common sight on any battlefield, helicopters are especially vulnerable when hovering low to the ground and dropping off troops. Moreover the Viet Cong were quite notorious for their disdain towards these transport helicopters. The Helicopters were routinely greeted with deadly traps. American helicopters needed ample room to touch down—and clearances stuck out like sore thumbs in the dense jungles, explained a contemporary report,
“Possible helicopter landing areas often are filled with bamboo stakes … sharpened at both ends. In some cases, stakes have been wired together and mined or booby-trapped.”
Hence the military weapons designers at Limited Warfare Labs thought of outfitting even the transport helicopters with weapons that could spew bullets, under whose cover, the soldiers would safely dismount and the helicopter could take off.
At its heart, the shotgun had four clusters of.22-caliber barrels, each preloaded with a single cartridge. Every one of these XM-215 “Multiple Barrel Guns” had more than 300 separate barrels. At a mere touch of a button, a crew member could fire more than a thousand rounds in 10 seconds in a 40-degree arc in front of the helicopter.
The whole system resembled a honeycomb. But this scatter-gun could also shoot its terrifying barrage at a slower pace, for up to 40 seconds of continuous fire from the four “modules” attached to the front of a chopper. During tests, a trustworthy heavy-duty UH-1D Huey helicopter served as the host.
Despite successful trials, the 1,200 barrel shotgun never saw active duty for multiple “fears.” At the foremost, the army was concerned about hitting “friendlies.” Secondly, the relatively smaller bullets were being swayed out of their trajectory due to the huge amount of downwind from the rotors of the helicopter. However, the army was also concerned about the gun becoming a deadweight once the bullets were all fired, leaving the helicopters even more vulnerable than they already were.
[Image Credit | Army Photos/Medium, Museum Of Flight]