BAE Systems is to start adapting a remotely operated minigun to install on the US Air Force BellBoeing CV-22 Osprey.

The 7.62mm-calibre weapon is officially labelled an "interim all-quadrant defensive weapon", but would be the first weapon system to be embedded within the internal structure of a V-22 airframe.

The US Marine Corps operates a ramp-mounted .50-calibre gun on 10 MV-22 Ospreys deployed in Iraq, but this configuration limits the weapon to firing only on rearward targets.

The BAE Systems gun system selected for the CV-22 will be embedded within the "hell hole" normally used by troops for fast-roping to the ground.

A sensor that includes a camera and infrared imager will be embedded in a second hole forward of the weapon station, with the crew chief operating the trigger inside the cabin.

Military and industry officials have emphasised that both approaches are purely an "interim" solution for the Osprey's lack of a defensive weapon.

In the long term, the USMC and the USAF are expected to seek a permanent system that may be installed in the nose of the aircraft or in the hell hole.

BAE prefers the latter configuration because it "does provide that ability to make it very modular", says Clark Freise, vice-president of defence avionics.

BAE has received a $491,000 contract to develop and qualify the belly-mounted system for the CV-22 by the end of the year, but the scope of the deal means its potential value is $16.3 million. BAE unveiled the system in October at a USMC exposition at Quantico, Virginia.

The company says it has been developing the system for two years for use as a general defensive weapon for military aircraft. Freise believes the capability could be applied to the USAF's pending requirement for a combat search-and-rescue helicopter replacement fleet.

Source: Flight International