MG FF cannon

The MG FF was a drum-fed, blowback-operated, 20 mm aircraft autocannon, developed in 1936 by Ikaria Werke Berlin of Germany. It was a derivative of the Swiss Oerlikon FF F cannon (its FF suffix indicating Flügel Fest, for a fixed-mount, wing location from the Swiss original), with the Oerlikon FF design itself a development of the Imperial German World War I Becker 20 mm cannon, and was designed to be used in space-limited, fixed mountings such as inside aircraft wings, although it saw use as both an offensive and a defensive weapon, in both fixed and flexible format. It saw widespread use in those roles by the German Luftwaffe, particularly during the early stages of World War II, although from 1941 onwards it was gradually replaced by the Mauser firm's 20 mm MG 151/20. MG FF stands for Maschinengewehr Flügel Fest, which translates into "machine gun, wing, fixed"; this reflects the fact that in Luftwaffe practice guns of 20 mm or less were designated as "machine guns" (maschinengewehr) as opposed to larger "machine cannons", or autocannons, which were "MK", for maschinenkanone The "wing, fixed" part reflects the fact that the primary motivation behind its design was to create a 20 mm caliber weapon that was compact and light enough to be mounted in the wings of aircraft, especially fighters.

Compared to rival designs, such as the Hispano-Suiza HS.404 – which had been developed from the larger Oerlikon FF S – the MG FF had some disadvantages, such as low rate of fire and low muzzle velocity, as well as limited ammunition storage in its drums. On the other hand, it was much lighter and shorter. Even with its compact size, wing installation on the Messerschmitt Bf 109 and Focke-Wulf Fw 190 fighters was not easy, as the drum required substantial space, and as a consequence the ammunition storage was initially reduced to 60 shells per drum. An ammunition drum of 90-round nominal capacity was developed for the Fw 190 A-5, and retrofitted to some earlier variants. There were also experiments with belt feedings.

The MG FF was adapted to fire a new type of high-capacity, high-explosive "mine shell", called Minengeschoss that featured a projectile with thinner walls that allowed increased explosive charge. This projectile was lighter and thus had a higher muzzle velocity than the previous ammunition; this also entailed that it generated less recoil than earlier projectiles requiring a modification of the recoil mechanism. With this modification it could fire the new mine shell, but accidentally using the heavier MG FF ammo could damage the gun. In the interest of avoiding such errors, the weapon was redesignated the MG FF/M. It was introduced with the Bf 109 E-4 and Bf 110 C-4 in summer 1940.

The MG FF and FF/M saw widespread use in fighters such as the Bf 109 E-3 to F-1, Bf 110 C to F, and Fw 190 A-1 to A-5. Early variants of the Fw 190 (A-1 to A-5) were typically fitted with an inboard pair of MG 151 and an outboard pair of MG FF/M, although the MG FF/M were sometimes removed in the field in order to save weight. The MG FF/M fed from a 60-round drum that required an underwing bulge to fit within the wing (90 rounds in the A-5). From the A-6 onward, the MG FF/M were replaced by a pair of MG 151/20 feeding from 125 round belts, or deleted altogether. The cannon was also fitted to bombers such as the Do 217, Ju 88, He 111, Do 17, as well as many other aircraft, either as aerial defense, or more often for anti-ship and defensive fire suppression. Although the MG FF was often replaced with the 20 mm MG 151/20 from 1941 onwards, it saw a comeback in 1943 as the primary Schräge Musik gun in the Bf 110 (and other) night fighters, as it fit perfectly into the rear cockpit, and muzzle velocity was less important in this application (there were also stocks of surplus guns and ammunition to be used up).

The MG FF fired a 134 g projectile with a muzzle velocity of some 600 m/s and a rate of fire of about 520 rounds per minute. The MG FF/M fired a 90 g HE/M (high explosive mine shell) projectile with a muzzle velocity of c. 700 m/s and a rate of fire of c. 540 rounds per minute. AP, HE and incendiary projectiles were also available (115 to 117 g projectiles, 585 m/s, c. 520 rpm) because the mine-shot was not capable of holding incendiary or tracer parts.

A restored MG FF cannon
TypeAircraft Cannon
Place of originNazi Germany
Service history
WarsWorld War II
Production history
Mass26.3 kg (59.2 lbs.)
Length1.37 m (4 ft. 7 in.)

Caliber20 mm
Rate of fire520-540 rpm
Muzzle velocity585, 600 or 700 m/s

Technical data

Bf 109E-3 in flight (1940)
Bf 109E-3 with MG FF
  • Weight: 26.3 kg
  • Length: 1.37 m
  • Muzzle velocity:
    • 600 m/s (MG FF),
    • 585 m/s (MG FF/M with AP or HE),
    • 700 m/s (MG FF/M with mine shell)
  • Rate of fire:
    • 520 rpm (MG FF, FF/M with AP or HE),
    • 540 rounds per minute (MG FF/M with mine shell)
  • Round types:
    • armor-piercing (AP),
    • high-explosive (HE), incendiary, all with or without tracer,
    • high-explosive mine shell (HE(M)) (only MG FF/M)

See also

External links

2 cm Flak 30/38/Flakvierling

The Flak 30 (Flugabwehrkanone 30) and improved Flak 38 were 20 mm anti-aircraft guns used by various German forces throughout World War II. It was not only the primary German light anti-aircraft gun, but by far the most numerously produced German artillery piece throughout the war. It was produced in a variety of models, notably the Flakvierling 38 which combined four Flak 38 autocannons onto a single carriage.

Arado Ar 196

The Arado Ar 196 was a shipboard reconnaissance low-wing monoplane aircraft built by the German firm of Arado starting in 1936. The next year it was selected as the winner of a design contest and became the standard aircraft of the Kriegsmarine (German navy) throughout World War II.

Arado Ar 197

The Arado Ar 197 was a German World War II-era biplane, designed for naval operations for the never-completed German aircraft carrier Graf Zeppelin. Only a few prototypes were built; the project was abandoned in favour of the Messerschmitt Bf 109T and Me 155.

Avia B-135

The Avia B.135 (RLM designation Av-135) was a Czechoslovak cantilever monoplane fighter aircraft. It was the production version of the Avia B.35 developed shortly before the war, based on the B.35/3 prototype but featuring a new all-metal wing.

Becker Type M2 20 mm cannon

The Becker Type M2 20 mm cannon was a German autocannon developed for aircraft use during World War I by Stahlwerke Becker. It was first mass-produced in 1916 and was installed in a variety of aircraft. It was the only German autocannon to see service in the air during the war.The Becker also served as the pattern for the famous Swiss-built Oerlikon 20 mm cannon, which is in service to this day, and in a later form, was the original inspiration, through the Swiss design after World War I, for the World War II German Luftwaffe's MG FF (Maschinengewehr Flügel Fest, "fixed wing-mount automatic ordnance") 20 mm autocannon design.

Berezin B-20

The Berezin B-20 (Березин Б-20) was a 20 mm caliber autocannon used by Soviet aircraft in World War II.

Dornier Do 215

The Dornier Do 215 was a light bomber, aerial reconnaissance aircraft and later a night fighter, produced by Dornier originally for export, but in the event most served in the Luftwaffe. Like its predecessor, the Dornier Do 17, it inherited the title "The Flying Pencil" because of its slim fuselage. The successor of the Do 215 was the Do 217.

Focke-Wulf Fw 57

The Focke-Wulf Fw 57 was a prototype German fighter-bomber. Prototypes were built in 1936 but never entered production.

Hamburger Flugzeugbau Ha 137

The Hamburger Flugzeugbau Ha 137 was a German ground-attack aircraft of the 1930s. It was Blohm & Voss' entry into the contest to equip the re-forming Luftwaffe with its first purpose-built dive bomber. Although the contest would eventually be won by the Junkers Ju 87, the Ha 137 demonstrated that B&V's Hamburger Flugzeugbau, not even two years old at this point, had a truly capable design team of its own. One Ha 137 single-seat prototype competed against the Henschel Hs 123 at Rechlin.

Heinkel He 111

The Heinkel He 111 was a German aircraft designed by Siegfried and Walter Günter at Heinkel Flugzeugwerke in 1934. Through development it was described as a "wolf in sheep's clothing". Due to restrictions placed on Germany after the First World War prohibiting bombers, it masqueraded as a civil airliner, although from conception the design was intended to provide the nascent Luftwaffe with a fast medium bomber.Perhaps the best-recognised German bomber due to the distinctive, extensively glazed "greenhouse" nose of later versions, the Heinkel He 111 was the most numerous Luftwaffe bomber during the early stages of World War II. The bomber fared well until the Battle of Britain, when its weak defensive armament was exposed. Nevertheless, it proved capable of sustaining heavy damage and remaining airborne. As the war progressed, the He 111 was used in a variety of roles on every front in the European theatre. It was used as a strategic bomber during the Battle of Britain, a torpedo bomber in the Atlantic and Arctic, and a medium bomber and a transport aircraft on the Western, Eastern, Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, and North African Front theatres.

The He 111 was constantly upgraded and modified, but became obsolete during the latter part of the war. The German Bomber B project was not realised, which forced the Luftwaffe to continue operating the He 111 in combat roles until the end of the war. Manufacture of the He 111 ceased in September 1944, at which point piston-engine bomber production was largely halted in favour of fighter aircraft. With the German bomber force virtually defunct, the He 111 was used for logistics.Production of the Heinkel continued after the war as the Spanish-built CASA 2.111. Spain received a batch of He 111H-16s in 1943 along with an agreement to licence-build Spanish versions. Its airframe was produced in Spain under licence by Construcciones Aeronáuticas SA. The design differed significantly in powerplant only, eventually being equipped with Rolls-Royce Merlin engines. The Heinkel's descendant continued in service until 1973.

Heinkel He 112

The Heinkel He 112 is a German fighter aircraft designed by Walter and Siegfried Günter. It was one of four aircraft designed to compete for the 1933 fighter contract of the Luftwaffe, in which it came second behind the Messerschmitt Bf 109. Small numbers were used for a short time by the Luftwaffe and some were built for other countries, around 100 being completed.

Heinkel He 113

The Heinkel He 113 was a fictitious German fighter aircraft of World War II, invented as a propaganda and possibly disinformation exercise.

Kampfgeschwader 40

Kampfgeschwader 40 (KG 40) was a Luftwaffe medium and heavy bomber wing of World War II, and the primary maritime patrol unit of any size within the World War II Luftwaffe. It is best remembered as the unit operating a majority of the four-engine Focke-Wulf Fw 200 Condor maritime patrol bombers. The unit suffered from the poor serviceability and low production rates of the Fw 200 bombers, and from repeated diversion of its long-haul capability aircraft to undertake transport duties in various theatres, especially for the airlift operations to supply encircled forces in the Battle of Stalingrad. Later in the war, KG 40 became one of several Luftwaffe bomber wings to use the Heinkel He 177A heavy bomber.

List of aircraft weapons

This is a list of weapons (aircraft ordnance) carried by aircraft.

List of autocannon

Autocannon are automatic guns with calibers of 20mm or more. There are many types including chain guns, gast guns, revolver cannon, and rotary cannon. They are being used as military aircraft main guns, warship guns and anti-aircraft weapons.

MG 151 cannon

The MG 151 (MG 151/15) was a 15 mm aircraft-mounted autocannon produced by Waffenfabrik Mauser during World War II. Its 20mm variant, the 20 mm MG 151/20 cannon, was widely used on German Luftwaffe fighters, night fighters, fighter-bombers, bombers and ground-attack aircraft. Salvaged guns saw post-war use by other nations.

Mine shell (projectile)

A mine shell (directly translated from the german term minengeschoß) is an shell type consisting of a very high-capacity high explosive shell. Originally an anti-fortification shell, it is today mainly used for aircraft and anti-aircraft weaponry.

Oerlikon 20 mm cannon

The Oerlikon 20 mm cannon is a series of autocannons, based on an original German 20 mm Becker design that appeared very early in World War I. It was widely produced by Oerlikon Contraves and others, with various models employed by both Allied and Axis forces during World War II, and many versions are still in use today.

Volkov-Yartsev VYa-23

Volkov-Yartsev VYa-23 (Волков-Ярцев ВЯ-23) is a 23 mm (0.91 in) autocannon used on Soviet aircraft during World War II.

German Aerial Weapons of World War II
Anti-tank autocannons
Unguided rockets
Guided bombs and Missiles
Anti-personnel bombs
Armor-piercing bombs
Cluster bombs
High-explosive bombs
Experimental weapons


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