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

The 7.62mm-calibre weapon is officially labeled as 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 on only 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 emphasized that both approaches represent a purely “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 is perhaps 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, VP of defense avionics.

BAE has received a $491,000 contract to start develop and qualify the belly-mounted system for the CV-22 by the end of the year, but the scope of the deal includes a potential value of $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.