POLSTEN AAA Story

As the Swiss made 20mm Oerlikon automatic cannon (details elsewhere on this site) proved to be effective for many before WWII (1939-1945), but for some global operators its Manufacturing is a complex and expensive weapon. A team of engineers in Poland was tasked with redesigning the weapon system into a more economical product, resulting in the weapon known as "POLSTEN".

While its core was primarily Polish development, its main operators and manufacturers became Canada and the United Kingdom during the conflict.

The name POLSTEN is thought to come from a combination of "Polish" and "STEN".

The POLSTEN project was drawing to a close in September 1939 when German troops occupied the Polish border. Before failing, the engineering team fled their work to the relative safety of England, where they continued the project, now with the support of local talent and the help of relocated Czechs.

Modifications to the Oerlikon design include a substantial reduction in parts - up to 47% - which not only simplifies production, maintenance and repair, but also reduces procurement costs. In addition to supporting 20mm cartridges (60 rounds), POLSTEN is also capable of feeding from a 30 round top mount box magazine (double stack).

The main benefit of the modification work is that the weapons in this field have not lost the effectiveness of the Oerlikon.

After completion of the project and evaluation, POLSTEN was quickly put into service in the spring of 1944, with a Canadian factory participating in its series production (John Inglis, Inc., Ontario). While the Allies abandoned Oerlikon production in favor of the cheaper and simpler POLSTEN, the Polish artillery never replaced the original in terms of usable numbers and battlefield range. In use, POLSTEN has been used as a local anti-aircraft weapon against low-altitude aircraft, and has been used as a towable light anti-aircraft gun system, as well as twin, triple, and quad guns on military trucks and trailers.

Some British Federal tanks also had artillery as a secondary weapon.

On its lightweight "universal stand", POLSTEN has an overall length of 7 feet and weighs 121 pounds. Mounting hardware allows a height range of -5 to +85 degrees. The traversal is a full 360 degrees. The 20mm shell fired the gun at a muzzle velocity of 2,725 feet per second.

The rate of fire reaches 450 rounds per minute. The weapon has a range of up to 6,630 feet.

In this field, the efficiency and effectiveness of Oerlikon's Polish derivatives are not reduced, and their versatility is demonstrated through their many applications. Still, Oerlikon never adopted it globally, simply because of the availability of Swiss guns.

POLSTEN AAA Specification

Basic

Year:
1944
Staff:
3
Manufacturing:
20mm anti-aircraft gun
Production:
3,000 units

Dimensions

Length:

7.15 ft (2.178 m)

Weight:

0t (55kg; 121lb)

Performance

Maximum range:

1 mile (2 km)

Armor

1 x 20mm main barrel (some versions mount two, three or four guns in total).

Ammo:

1 x 30-round detachable magazine (top mount) or 1 x 60-round detachable drum.

Changes

POLSTEN - name of the basic series

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