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While supporting 16 Air Assault Brigade (16AAB) during their Final Training Exercise on Salisbury Plain Training Area (SPTA) in July, ahead of their deployment to Afghanistan in October, 846 Naval Air Squadron began training aircrew on their new FN Herstal M3M .50” NATO calibre door mounted weapon system.

CHF have been operating their Commando Sea King HC4+ helicopters in support of Operation Herrick since late 2007. Today, the aircraft can now be armed with either the 7.62mm General Purpose Machine Gun (GPMG) or the M3M, the later only having recently been fully cleared for operational duties with CHF.

This now provides the Sea King HC4 with a defensive and offensive capability, helping to increase the Commando Sea King’s operational versatility and allowing CHF to undertake a wider range of support missions.

Lieutenant Commander Nigel Gates RN, CHF Command, Aviation Warfare Officer commented: ‘The M3M is able to put down a higher rate of fire than the General Purpose Machine Gun (GPMG), and being 0.50 cal instead of 7.62 each round obviously has greater effect.

‘The rounds have much greater energy so not only do they travel further but their flight path is affected much less by gravity; this means the gunner can lay down rounds accurately from a safe range or altitude. The Sea King is a good stable platform for the weapon and we are confident this will give us significant extra capability in support of ground units.’

The M3M is fitted into the Sea King using a specially adapted base-plate which allows the weapon to be stowed allowing the cabin door to be closed when not in use. A specially mounted canister holding 600 rounds is attached to the side of the cabin just aft of the main door.

CHF have their own Royal Marine, Air Door Gunner Instructors (ADGI) on both the GPMG and M3M. Aircrew undertake ground instruction followed by day and night shoots to become qualified on both weapon systems. These shoots cover a range of operational profiles depending on the mission. Aircrew operate both the M3M and GPMG using Night Vision Goggles.

Source: Shephard.co.uk

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