One of G.M.'s Contributions to National Security


1944 Pontiac advertisement

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GM’s Pontiac Division produced the M39 aircraft cannon from 1951 to 1975

Until the development of air-to-air missiles, machine guns and automatic cannons were the primary weapons of fighter aircraft. The M39 cannon is typical of aircraft cannons that commonly equipped fighter aircraft in the 1940s, 1950’s and early 1960’s.

The United States Air Force contracted Pontiac to produce the M39 starting in 1951. Based on the T-160 cannon, developed by the Springfield Armory, much of the M39’s design actually dates back to a World War II German aircraft cannon.

The M39 could fire 1,500 rounds-per-minute with a muzzle velocity of 3,300 feet-per-second. Known as a "revolver cannon", the M39 used a five chamber cylinder (similar to a hand held revolver) to accelerate the gun's rate of fire. A revolver cannon differs from a gatling gun in having only a single barrel.

The F-86H Sabre, F-100 Super Sabre, F-101A and F-101C Voodoo and F-5 Freedom Fighter all carried the M39 cannon. Pontiac produced more than 35,000 M39 cannons from 1951 to 1975.

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