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"German Aircraft Cannons" from Tactical and Technical Trends

The following WWII report on German MG-131 and MG-151 aircraft cannons was originally printed in Tactical and Technical Trends, No. 12, November 19, 1942.

[DISCLAIMER: The following text is taken from the U.S. War Department publication Tactical and Technical Trends. As with all wartime intelligence information, data may be incomplete or inaccurate. No attempt has been made to update or correct the text. Any views or opinions expressed do not necessarily represent those of the website.]


There have been few radical innovations in the design of German small- or rifle-caliber machine guns, since these were developed to a high degree of efficiency before the war. Extensive changes, however, have been made in the design of some of the larger-caliber aircraft guns. While the 15-mm and the 20-mm types are still standard aircraft cannon, the Luftwaffe has brought into limited operational use a 30-mm cannon. It is anticipated that this maybe used on late-model planes in the near future.

[Luftwaffe MG-131 and MG-151]

The MG-131 manufactured by Rheinmetal Borsig and the 151 patented by Mauser are among the most interesting developments in German medium-caliber armament. The accompanying sketches illustrate these types. These are commonly called machine guns because of their high rate of fire.

a. The MG-131

The MG-131 is a 13-mm air-cooled, recoil-operated gun, the ammunition being fed in a disintegrating metal, open-sided link belt, which is both light and flexible. This gun is distinctive in that the cartridges are detonated electrically. The current is broken when the gun is pointed toward the tail, wings, etc., and reestablished when the gun is aimed in the clear. This compact, light gun is of excellent workmanship and has a bore large enough to make possible the design of efficient AP and HE ammunition. The theoretical rate of fire is approximately 900 rounds per minute.

b. The MG-151

The MG-151 types (15-mm and 20-mm), found both in fixed and turret mountings, are notable for the simplicity of their mechanism and their high rate of fire. Although they are cocked and fired electrically, provision is made for hand cocking for servicing purposes and in emergencies. Ammunition for these guns is carried in a disintegrating metal belt similar to that used on the MG-131. A small electric lamp on the control board automatically lights when the gun is cocked, and indicates that it is ready to fire. For the 15-mm model the theoretical rate of fire is about 740 rounds per minute for AP, and 680 rounds per minute for HE. Rates for the 20-mm version are: AP, 800 rpm; HE, 750 rpm.


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