Evolution of the M230 Bushmaster Chain Gun

From the Apache to the Ground

The Evolution of the M230 Bushmaster® Chain Gun®

By Linzee LeJeune

For the last 25 years, the M230 Bushmaster Chain Gun held the spotlight as the premier weapon used on the AH-64 Apache helicopter.

Today, it’s descendant, the M230LF (Link Fed), represents a new adaptation of medium caliber cannons for ground vehicles.

“Combat veterans experienced such a high success rate with the M230 from the air, they requested a ground variant of this 30mm x 113mm solution. This is what prompted the engineering team at Northrop Grumman to develop the M230LF,” said John McCollum, director of business development for Bushmaster Chain Guns.

Northrop Grumman’s medium caliber cannons boast unrivaled reliability and effectiveness, and the proven technology led to the development of the M230LF to mount on light weight ground platforms to bring the same fire power to ground applications

Expanding the Mission Set

Originally developed to support anti-armor, border control, and maritime missions, the M230LF can replace the use of .50 caliber machine guns on light weight platforms to move from a suppression weapon to an offensive mission set. The advancement of Northrop Grumman’s ammunition fuzing technology allows the M230LF to also defeat unmanned aircraft systems (UAS). The M230LF increases ground applications’ lethal payload, survivability, and mission effectiveness with its anti-armor and proximity ammunition solutions.

“Northrop Grumman is producing a 30mm x 113mm high-explosive proximity round that detects and detonates in proximity of a drone, defeating the threat without having to make a direct hit,” explains McCollum. “If the round doesn’t detect a target during flight, it self-destructs in the air at maximum range, protecting those on the ground. This makes the M230LF used in conjunction with proximity ammunition ideal for use against unmanned aerial threats.”

Losing Weight, Adding Stability and Safety

The M230LF earned its name by transitioning to a link-fed system, which ultimately reduces the space claim and eases integration. The engineers redesigned the Apache gun turret from 3,000 pounds down to roughly 1,000 pounds to accommodate lighter platforms. The barrel of the M230LF was lengthened to regain muzzle velocity lost by lack of altitude and to add gun stability to lower the recoil force. The addition of a critical anti-hangfire safety mechanism to the gun increases protection of the M230LF operators who often sit very close to the gun.

army truck with gun mounted in bed

Field Adoption

Today, the M230LF is deployed on a variety of international and U.S. military manned vehicles, including Joint Light Tactical Vehicles, Stryker vehicles, and Mine-Resistant All-Terrain Vehicles. The M230LF was adopted by the Army as XM914 to support their M-SHORAD program and is under contract to support the U.S. Marine Corps MADIS program.

Now contracted and fielded on over 1,400 systems worldwide, the M230LF has come a long way since the idea was generated in 1995 and has proven itself as the most capable solution for lightweight ground vehicles.

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Linzee LeJeune