The US Air Force (USAF) is set to evaluate the ballistic dispersion of a GAU-21 .50-calibre machine gun aboard HH-60G Pave Hawk aircraft at Edwards Air Force Base’s Gun Harmonising Range.
The testing is part of an HH-60 defensive weapons system upgrade modification proposal that recommends a weapon currently used by other Defense Department services.
The modification proposal by the Air Combat Command’s (ACC) also requires the weapon to be an open bolt system, with longer barrel life, a higher-cyclic rate of fire besides lighter weight and reduced recoil.
The USAF’s 412th Test Wing (TW) and 418th Flight Test Squadron will support the project by providing the facilities, range safety, photographic documentation.
The FN Herstal-built GAU-21 is an open bolt system with a barrel life of 10,000 rounds, capable of firing up to 1,100 rounds a minute and reduced recoil compared to the others.
Powered by two General Electric T700-GE-701C turboshaft engines, the HH-60G Pave Hawk is a derivative of Sikorsky UH-60A Black Hawk helicopter, and is primarily used for day or night personnel recovery missions in hostile environments.
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Equipped with upgraded communications and navigation suite, the multi-mission helicopter can also be configured to conduct peace-time operations, including civilian search-and-rescue, medical evacuation, disaster response, as well as humanitarian assistance and counter-drug activities worldwide.
Around 100 Pave Hawks have been deployed to date by the USAF, Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard (ANG) for conducting operations in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya.
Image: An HH-60G Pave Hawk. Photo: courtesy of US Air Force photo / Christopher Okula.