Air Weapons: September 19, 2003


After ten years of talking about it, the U.S. Marines have finally installed a .50 caliber machine-gun on the rear ramp of their 34 ton CH-53 helicopters. It was noted in Somalia in 1993, and then in Afghanistan in 2001, that the CH-53s were often sent in on long range missions without an armed escort. A little extra firepower in the rear was suggested. The marines selected the Belgian made M3M .50 caliber machine-gun. This weapon weighs 80 pounds and is mounted on a shock-absorbing column (a "soft mount"), which reduces recoil and increases first round burst accuracy. A 300-round magazine is used so one Marine can lift the ammo container and reload. Unlike the original M-2 .50 caliber, the M3M has a higher rate of fire (1100 rpm vs. 550), better safety (open breech; which eliminates cook off), improved barrel life (10,000 rounds vs. current 3,000), reduced recoil (a third of the M-2), better accuracy, maintainability and reliability. The system is called the Ramp Mounted Weapon System (RMWS) and can be quickly affixed to the rear ramp of a CH-53 in a few minutes. The gunner sits in a seat right behind the M3M and is able to fire in a 180 degree arc. The marines have ordered 80 M3M's, with the intention of mounting some in other helicopters as well (firing out side doors.) The RMWS is being used on Marine CH-53s operating in Djbouti. 


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