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France’s Nexter will this year deliver the 300th gun for the Rafale fighter jet, parent company KNDS announced on 23 June 2023.

The M791 cannon, manufactured at Nexter’s site at Bourges, is the latest in a long line of 30 mm DEFA (Direction des Études et Fabrications d’Armement) guns dating back to the post-war period that have armed French fighters.

“The capabilities of this single-tube gun are unrivalled to date,” KNDS stated in a press release. “Thanks to numerous innovations, its rate of fire is the highest in the world: 2,500 rounds/minute. It fires 42 shells in one second: equivalent to 1.5kg of explosive. This performance enables a single M791 gun to be as effective as the Mirage 2000’s two M550 guns, which each fire 1,200 rounds/minute. Designed for onboard use, the gun is gas-operated to limit the need for electricity on the aircraft.”

With a rate of fire of 2,500 rounds/minute, the Rafale’s 30 mm M791 cannon has proved successful in ground support missiles despite being initially designed for air combat. (Photo: Nexter/KNDS)

Nexter has developed special ammunition for the M791 cannon: the 30×150 mm semi-perforating explosive incendiary round. These profiled shells are fired at over 1,000 m/s, to reach their target more quickly and thus considerably increase their hit probability.

“Thanks to a double-safety fuse and a primer insensitive to electromagnetic radiation, this ammunition ensures perfect safety for Rafale pilots and operators, even in environments as demanding as the aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle,” KNDS stated.

“Today, this gun is combat proven for many years. Initially designed for air-to-air combat, it has proved as effective for ground support missions, ensuring precision and reducing collateral damage,” the company added.

Peter Felstead