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Polish Armed Forces Procure Minigun Ammunition

M134D, in the Mi-17’s rear door. The gunner’s station is protected by extra armour. Image J.Sabak
M134D, in the Mi-17’s rear door. The gunner’s station is protected by extra armour. Image J.Sabak

The Armament Inspectorate announced that a procurement procedure has begun with regards to the delivery of DA165 (165grs bullet) 7.62×51 mm NATO rounds for the M134D/G Miniguns. The weapons system in question is operated by the Special Operations component and by the Army – on its Mi-17 helicopters. Up to three bidders could take part in the procedure. They would then be invited to submit their offers, should they meet the formal requirements.

The limited tendering procurement procedure is aimed at selecting businesses that could potentially deliver a significant quantity of 7.62×51 mm rounds between 2020 and 2021. The information on the exact quantitative shape of the orders, along with other details, shall be transferred solely to bidders meeting the formal and economic requirements. The requirements include the tender guarantee in an amount of PLN 25,000 and means, or credit capacity of at least PLN 500,000. The bidder also needs to have completed at least 3 ammunition deliveries throughout the last 3 years, with values that have not been lower than PLN 130,000.

The submission deadline for this procedure has been set on 29th April 2020. Then, no more than 3 entities will be left – they would receive detailed information and a proposal to submit the offers. The total value of the orders would exceed, as the documents suggest, the EU-set threshold of EUR 428,000.

M134 Gatling Miniguns have been used by the Polish military since 2013 when 10 examples have been procured for Mi-17-1W helicopters operated during the Afghan deployment. Later on, both the Army, as well as the Special Operations component, were procuring more of these guns. The latter user employs the weapon on vehicles and fast boats. M134 Minigun has been fitted with 6 barrels, the rotation of which ensures cooling required for safe operation at rates of fire ranging from 3 to 6 thousand rounds per minute. For the sake of comparison, it could be pointed out that a conventional PKM machine gun used by the Polish military (shooting the 7.62×54R round) has a theoretical rate of fire of 650 rounds per minute.

Due to the firepower it offers, the Minigun is a popular support weapon for general purpose and cargo helicopters. It is also frequently mounted on vehicles and light boats utilized by the special operations component. Considering its ammunition consumption (50 to 100 rounds per second) and the necessity of using a power supply, the weapon in question requires a proper platform and a high volume ammunition storage.

The rate of fire and the principle of operation also create a necessity to use ammunition of proper quality. At 50-100 rounds per second, the powder burning speed has a relevant meaning when it comes to the correct operation of the weapon. As the Minigun uses an electric motor, not the energy produced when the round is fired, the rate of fire is not dependent on the ammunition. Thanks to the above misfires do not translate into malfunctions - misfired rounds are ejected just like empty brass. However, if the powder burns too slow, the breech may unlock before the decompression cycle ends. This may lead to malfunction, damage or consequences that would be even direr. Thus, M134 shall use proper ammunition with verified parameters.