Finmeccanica used the IDEF exhibition in Istanbul earlier this month to unveil its 20mm palletised air-to-ground gun system, which it has designed for installation aboard transport platforms.

The Oto Melara gunship system is intended to provide fire support for troops including special forces personnel. It can also be used against ground vehicles with up to medium armoured protection, and to strike lightly defended outposts.

Designed to be self-contained within a standard single military cargo pallet, the system comprises a Vulcan 20mm gatling gun mount and servos, electro-optical fire control system, gunner workstation and 750-round magazine. The total weight is 1,550kg (3,200lb) including the operator and full magazine, but excluding ballistic protection. The gun, mount and operator console are made of carbon fibre material to help absorb firing recoil, Finmeccanica says.

The gunship payload can be rapidly loaded aboard an unmodified tactical transport such as a Lockheed Martin C-130 or Alenia Aermacchi C-27J using a forklift, and be self-powered within about 30min. The weapon is installed to fire through the aircraft’s left hand paratroop door, and is capable of a maximum rate of 4,000 rounds/min.

Financial backing for the development has come from the Italian defence ministry’s research and development department, in accordance with the nation’s special forces requirements for airborne precision and long-endurance fire support.

A prototype system was delivered to the Italian air force’s flight test facility in Pratica di Mare last October for certification with the C-27J. This was achieved in late February, before airborne live firing tests. Analysis is ongoing, but the gunship system is expected to be fine-tuned for a final accuracy of better than 4m (13.1ft) when fired using a 2,000m slant range from an altitude of 5,000ft.

Other possible customers will be offered use of the prototype to support evaluation or training in the near future. Production units could be delivered within the next 12 to 15 months, Finmeccanica says.