German Door Gunners Get More FN Herstal M3M MK3 Heavy Machine Guns

    Photo: The German Bundeswehr, by Philipp Rabe.

    FN Herstal has recently been commissioned by The German Bundeswehr to supply heavy machine guns for their fleet of NH90 helicopters. The NH Industries NH90 is a medium, twin-engined helicopter for multi-role military missions, and has seen combat in Mali, for instance.

    Picture by Maximilian Schulz. Note the smoke and tracers. Can you guess the firearm that produced it?

    According to the Bundeswehr Procurement Office (BAAINBw), FN Herstal is going to deliver 30 pieces of the M3M MK3 Heavy Machine Gun in 12.7x99mm (Cal .50 BMG) together with various accessories by end of March 2021. Another batch of 20 machine guns of the same type and model is to be supplied a year later.

    Below you can see the M3M in the Medium Pintle Mount.

    Medium Pintle Mount for the M3M

    The specifications as presented by FN Herstal:

    • CALIBER: 50 BMG (12.7x99mm) NATO
    • OPERATION: Short-recoil
    • CAPACITY: 100 – 600 Rd.
    • WEIGHT: 81.6 lb.
    • BARREL LENGTH: 36″
    • RATE OF FIRE: 950 – 1,100 RPM

    Below you can read the description of FN M3M (GAU-21) quoted from FN America’s website:

    The FN M3M (GAU-21) is a .50 caliber (12.7x99mm) single barrel rapid-fire machine gun suitable for rotary-wing aircraft applications providing defensive firepower ranging out to nearly 2000 meters. The FN M3M™ was designated by the U.S. Navy as the GAU-21 in 2004. The U.S. D.o.D. has authorized the use of the GAU-21 for all branches of service, and it is currently in operation on multiple rotary-wing platforms of the US Navy, US Marine Corps, and the US Air Force. An evolution of the M3 .50-caliber heavy machine gun, it produces a blistering 1,100 rounds per minute cyclic rate of fire through the use of open-bolt operation and a dual recoil buffer system. Operating independent of either electrical or hydraulic power sources, the FN M3M™/GAU-21’s unique soft mount system enhances weapon accuracy and minimizes the firing vibration transmitted to the airframe.

    For more door gunner related content, check the “Blackhawk Door Gunner with the M240H Machine Gun” and “Russian Aerial Door Gunners with AKs” POTDs.

    Eric B

    Ex-Arctic Ranger. Competitive practical shooter and hunter with a European focus. Always ready to increase my collection of modern semi-automatics, optics and sound suppressors. TCCC Certified medic.


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