A video has recently surfaced showing what at first glance looks like a Mk 15 Phalanx Close-In Weapon System (CIWS) in a garage. Upon closer inspection, it turns out that the Phalanx is actually a scale model, capable of spraying airgun pellets at amazing speeds.
Yes, a guy built an airsoft phalanx in his garage.
In the video featured in the tweet below, we see a miniaturized phalanx placed on the bed of a pickup truck facing a target. Although it is not immediately clear what the target was made of, heavy paper material seems likely. The video then shows that it was no match for the airsoft phalanx. In fact, the beam of BB cannonballs easily cut the target in two.
Manufactured by Raytheon, the Mk 15 Phalanx CIWS is armed with a variant of the famous 20mm M61 Vulcan cannon and has a rate of fire of 4,500 rounds per minute. It can attack targets in manual mode or autonomously using two radars, while newer versions have electro-optical and infrared sensors.
As we have highlighted in the past, Phalanx has been in service with the US Navy since 1980, initially as a ship-launched weapon system designed to protect ships from incoming cruise missiles and aircraft. Variants of the phalanx can be found on a variety of naval vessels around the world, including the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Forces. A land-based version of the Phalanx called the Centurion was introduced around 2004, primarily to repel incoming missiles and mortar shells in Iraq and Afghanistan.
As Kurata points out in another tweet, the airsoft phalanx uses an airsoft M134 minigun manufactured by Japan-based CAW (Craft Apple Works). The real M134 minigun, firing 7.62x51mm rounds, is itself a direct relative of the Phalanx’s 20mm Vulcan cannon (both are six-barreled, electronically powered Gatling guns).
Kurata also points out that the Airsoft Phalanx dome, which houses the Phalanx CIWS search and track radars, serves as a tank for about 900,000 Airsoft BB pellets. Compared to a real phalanx, which is about 4.7 meters (15.5 feet) tall, the miniature version including the base is about 2.3 meters (just over 7.5 feet) tall.
Kurata’s ambitions to develop an airsoft phalanx date back several years. In a tweet he posted March 5, he showed components of the airsoft phalanx sitting in a garage. In a translation of the tweet, Kurata explains that his initial attempt to build the model stalled due to the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020, but that he recently restarted work on it.
Various tweets Kurata has posted since then show the miniaturized phalanx in various stages of completion, starting with its core structure.
From there, Kurata revealed the installation of the CAW minigun and hydraulic systems to rotate the Phalanx scale model’s base and move the weapon vertically.
To create a faithful reproduction of the CIWS, Kurata also installed a “camera” similar to the side-mounted Forward Looking Infrared (FLIR) camera first seen on the Block 1B variant of the Phalanx.
Phalanx CIWS Block 1B mounted on the Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigate, USS Elrod (FFG-55), 2019. Chuck Homler d/b/a FocusOnWildlife via Wikimedia Commons
After assembly, the airsoft phalanx was then transported onto the loading area of a pickup.
More broadly, the real-life phalanx occupies a unique, if not somewhat odd, place in popular culture. Comparisons have often been made between the shape of the weapon and famous fictional characters from the big screen, including Minions and even R2-D2. Recently, even sailors were filmed “talking” to a phalanx as they appeared to be pursuing a 737 over a Harpers Ferry-class or Whidbey Island-class amphibious dock landing ship.
In the past, the JMSDF has also used models to poke fun at the use of Phalanxes (albeit ones that don’t use BB rifle rounds).
Still, Kurata’s airsoft phalanx is definitely something special. And with the prospect of further tests of its capabilities in a “bigger place” coming in the future, according to Kurata’s Twitter, we’ll be keeping our eyes peeled (and protected!) to see what it’s up to next.