General Dynamics (GD) Armament and Technical Products has been awarded a contract for the production and supply of more than two dozen GAU-19/B Gatling gun systems for installation on US Army helicopters.

Under the contract, the company will also provide field support, spare parts and logistics support to the army. Currently fielded on the US armed forces’ aircraft, ground vehicles and ships, the .50-calibre GAU-19/B is a lighter version of the GAU-19/A three-barrel heavy machine gun. The weapon offers quick reaction and greater firepower against light vehicles and ground forces when mounted on armoured personnel carriers (APCs) or utility vehicles including the High Mobility Multi-Purpose Wheeled Vehicle (HMMWV). When fielded as a secondary armament on larger weapon systems, the gun provides protection against close-in ground threats and air defence capability.

General Dynamics Armament and Technical Products armament systems vice-president and general manager Steve Elgin said: "The new GAU-19/B gun provides the same superior firepower as the GAU-19/A system in a significantly lighter package, which easily integrates aboard existing platforms and expands the war-fighter’s performance envelope."

Production work will be carried out at the company’s facility in Saco, Maine, US, while programme management will be handled by its Williston Technology Center in Williston, Vermont, US. Deliveries under the $7.3m contract will take place in February 2012 followed by installation on the helicopters.

Currently, about 250 GAU-19/A systems are installed on the US Army’s OH-58D Kiowa helicopter and on its new armed reconnaissance helicopter, as well as on the US Marine Corps’ Bell-Boeing V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft. The guns are also in service with the armed forces of Columbia, Mexico, Japan and Oman.