ShKAS and Ultra-ShKAS 7.62mm machine gun

Shpital'nyj-Komaritskij Aviatsionnyj Skorostel'nyj - rapid-fire aircraft machine gun designed by B.G. Shpitalnyj and I.A. Komaritskij.


25k b/w photo of ShKAS machine gun (for flexible installation as denoted by the grip handles) from "Sowjetische Jagdflugzeuge" ("Soviet Fighters") by W. Kopenhagen.

The design of this weapon started in 1930 and a prototype was ready at the end of the year. On February 13, 1932 the Artillery Committee decided to perform trials with seven pre-production weapons. Same year (October 11) RVS adopted first in the world specialized aviation cartridges for ShKAS machinegun: Incendiary, combined armor-piercing/incendiary and tracers.

To achieve the highest possible rate of fire, the designers used new construction principles: A large proportion of the powder gases was drained via lateral holes drilled in the barrel and the use of a very strong shock-absorbing bumper enabled the breech-block to move back and forward with an extremely high speed. Additionally, the cartridges were fed by a special drum-type mechanism, thus reducing to a minimum the movements of the cartridges within the gun itself. This led to a rate of fire of 1,800rpm, which was exceptionally high for that time (the best contemporary foreign constructions achieved no more than 1,100rpm).

At the end of 1932 the variant for synchronized firing through the propeller disc was ready for production and in February 1934 the versions for fixed installation in the wings and for flexible mounting followed. At first there were different opinions about a weapon with such a high rate of fire. Due to this fact, it was not before 1936 that the final decision was made to install this gun in all modern Soviet aircraft types.

24k b/w photo of ShKAS (top) and Ultra-ShKAS at the Monino collection from "Sowjetische Jagdflugzeuge" ("Soviet Fighters") by W. Kopenhagen.

According to official Soviet documents, the following numbers of this gun were available in the years between 1933 and 1940:

At the end of the 1930s the improved Ultra-ShKAS appeared. Its rate of fire had been further improved. But in the meantime it had become obvious that rifle-caliber machine guns were becoming increasingly ineffective in aerial combat and larger calibers would be needed in future. So this variant was only built in relatively small numbers.


Model ShKAS Ultra-ShKAS
Year 1932 1937
Caliber 7.62mm
Projectile 9.6g
Rate of fire 1,800rpm 2,500-3,000rpm
Muzzle velocity 825m/s ?m/s
Weight 10.6kg 18kg(?)
Overall length 650mm ?mm
Barrel length ?mm

Modified May 5, 2000
by Thomas Heinz;
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