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M27 105mm Recoilless Rifle

The M27 is an 105mm breech-loaded, single-shot, man-portable, crew-served recoilless rifle. It can be used in both anti-tank and anti-personnel roles. Recoilless rifles are capable of firing artillery-type shells at velocities, and with an accuracy, comparable to those of standard guns, but counterbalances the recoil force of firing with a portion of the thrust of the projectile. In a more conventional system, the recoil force would be counterbalanced through a combination of slides, hydraulic-mechanical devices, and/or structural supports.

In February 1944, the T15 57mm recoilless rifle (which would later become the M18 recoilless rifle) was demonstrated to the US Army Infantry Board. After the demonstration, Headquarters, Army Ground Forces recommended that similar recoilless weapons in 75mm and 105mm be developed. Frankford Arsenal was tapped to develop both of the new weapons. Performance requirements were scaled up from the T15 recoilless rifle and resulted in the T18 recoilless rifle design. This weapon was intended to fire a lightweight projectile (as light as 10 pounds) at 1,000 feet per second. It was decided that the time necessary to design and manufacture the new projectile was excessive and development of the T18 was stopped.

In its place, Frankford Arsenal began development of another 105mm, the T19, which would fire an 105mm projectile already in production from a modified catridge case designed to function in the recoilless weapon. Firing a high-explosive anti-tank projectile at 1,250 feet per second and weighing 352 pounds, the T19 was comparable to the M2A1 105mm howitzer firing the M67 high-explosive anti-tank projectile. By April 1944, Frankford Arsenal had produced the first prototype T19s. In May 1944, the weapon was demonstrated to representatives of the War Department, the Army, and other services. The drawdown following the end of the Second World War saw the development of the T19 halted by Ordnance Committee Action in June 1947.

The need for heavy anti-tank weapons following the outbreak of the Korean War led to the T19 program being revived in February 1950. The weapon was eventually type classified as the M27 recoilless rifle. It was deployed in Korea and used extensively.

The nature of the restarting of the T19 program and the rapid fielding of the M27 led to the establishment of a Battalion Anti-Tank Weapon program (abbreviated BAT) in April 1950. The M27 was viewed as an interim weapon. Considerable work was done on the development of new ammunition for the weapon, most notably a fixed fin-stablized high-explosive anti-tank round. Work was also done to improve the performance of existing spin-stablized high-explosive and white phosphorus rounds available for the M27. The M27 also provided the basis for the T136 recoilless rifle, which would later become the M40 recoilless rifle. With the introduction of the M40, the M27 was removed from service.




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