DEFA cannon

The DEFA cannon (Direction des Études et Fabrications d'Armement) is a family of widely used French-made aircraft revolver cannon firing standard 30 mm caliber NATO rounds.

DEFA cannon
DEFA cannon of a Mirage III in twin mount.
DEFA cannon of a Mirage III in twin mount.
TypeRevolver cannon
Place of originFrance
Service history
In service1954–present
Used byFrance, Switzerland, Israel, Italy, South Africa and others.
Production history
DesignedLate 1940s
ManufacturerCASA, Dassault Aviation, Matra, AEi Systems.
Mass85 kg (187 lb)
Length1.66 m (5 ft 5 in)

Shell30 × 113 mm
Calibre30 mm NATO (1.18 inch)
ActionFive-chamber revolver
Rate of fire1,300 rpm
Muzzle velocity815 m/s (2,670 ft/s)

Design historyEdit

The initial DEFA 551 was developed in the late 1940s. It is based on the German Mauser MG 213C, an experimental revolver cannon developed for the Luftwaffe. The MG 213 never reached production, but inspired the DEFA, the very similar British ADEN cannon, and the smaller American M39 cannon. As the DEFA 552 it entered production in 1954. In 1968 an upgraded version, Canon 550-F3, was developed, entering production in 1971 as the DEFA 553. The new version provided a new feed system, nitro-chrome plated steel barrel, forged drum casing, and improved electrical reliability.


Cut-away model of a DEFA cannon for instruction

The DEFA 553 is a gas-operated five-chamber revolver cannon using pyrotechnic cocking and electrical ignition. It fires a range of 30 mm ammunition of various types, and is capable of continuous fire or 0.5-second or 1-second bursts.

The 553 was superseded by the DEFA 554, which incorporates a number of detail improvements. The DEFA 554 uses three, rather than two, of the chambers for reloading, increasing the rate of fire. Barrel life and mechanical reliability are improved, and an electrical control unit allows the pilot to select two rates of fire: 1,800 rounds per minute for air-to-air use or 1,200 rounds per minute for air-to-ground attacks. The 554 also provides three pyrotechnic cartridges rather than one, allowing the pilot to cock the weapon only after take-off while still having two cartridges to recock in flight.


DEFA cannon of a Mirage III in twin mount

The DEFA 550 series was the standard cannon armament of all gun-armed French fighters from 1954 until the advent of the Dassault Rafale in the 1980s. A pair of these weapons, with 125–135 rounds per gun, is standard fit on the Brazilian ground-attack aircraft AMX International, the French Dassault MD 450 Ouragan, Dassault Mystere, Mirage III/V, Dassault Étendard and Dassault Super Étendard, Sud Aviation Vautour, Mirage F1, SEPECAT Jaguars, and the Mirage 2000 series. It was also used on the Israeli A-4E/F/H/N Skyhawk, IAI Nesher, IAI Kfir, and IAI Lavi, the Italian Fiat G.91Y and Aermacchi MB-326K, the Indonesian A-4, and the South African Atlas Cheetah and Impala Mk.II. Various gun pod installations are available from CASA, Dassault Aviation, and Matra.

The DEFA 550 is very similar to the British ADEN cannon, and can use the same ammunition.

The DEFA 550 series has given way to the GIAT 30 series used on the Dassault Rafale, although it is likely to remain in widespread use for many years.


  • DEFA 551
  • DEFA 552
  • DEFA 553
  • DEFA 554

See alsoEdit

External linksEdit

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