USA Orders 519 GAU-21 Machine Guns for $22M
FN Herstal, S.A. in Herstal, Belgium received a $22 million firm-fixed-priced contract for 519 GAU-21 weapons systems, to include related supplies and services, operator and armorer tool kits, replacement part kits, technical manuals for the operation, maintenance and repair of the weapon systems, and training. Work will be performed in Herstal, Belgium (90%); Johnston, PA (4%); Somerset, PA (3%); and Blairsville, PA (3%) and is expected to be complete in October 2007. This contract was not competitively procured by the Naval Air Systems Command in Patuxent River, MD (N00019-06-C-0092).
The GAU-21 is also known as the M3M, and is an updated .50 caliber machine gun that’s envisioned as the primary suppressive fire system for Navy and Marine Corps helicopters and V-22 Ospreys. In exchange for slightly less range than the older M2, it offers a higher firing rate (1100 rpm vs. 550), lighter weight (80 pounds vs. 128), longer barrel life (11,000 rounds vs. 3,000), better safety (open breech eliminates cook-off), and reduced recoil (by up to 67%, improving accuracy). The GAU-21 can also be converted for dismounted use by one person in 2 minutes. See comparative table, and this USMC fact sheet [PDF]. The system came with a few glitches, but the addition of a flash suppressor and other modifications have reportedly improved this situation.