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What is a Gun Camera?

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  • Written By: Lori Kilchermann
  • Edited By: Lauren Fritsky
  • Images By: V. Zhuravlev, Codex41, Alexander Maksimov
  • Last Modified Date: 07 September 2016
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A gun camera is a device used on military aircraft. The camera is mounted in line with the aircraft's guns and is controlled by a gun trigger in the cockpit, hence the term gun camera. The purpose of a gun camera is to record air battles and ground targets for confirmation of destruction or damage resulting in an attack. Other uses for the gun camera are to study tactics of enemy pilots while engaged in battle and obtain reconnaissance mission data. Film from gun camera action is typically studied by fighter groups as well as military intelligence to better prepare and plan for future missions.

Typically mounted in place of a gun on an airplane or helicopter, the gun camera is activated when the gun trigger is pulled and continues to take pictures or record the entire time the trigger is held. Often, the guns are not loaded or are switched off to allow the gun camera to record images without firing the guns. This allows the pilot to infiltrate enemy air space and take reconnaissance photos of military targets. These photos are often studied and used to plan attacks or simply to monitor movement or progress of enemy military actions.

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The quality of these military cameras is considered top notch. Legend has it that cameras on the original US spy planes could take a photograph of a vehicle from 5 miles (8.05 km) up in the sky that produced a clearly readable license plate. Add to it that this is accomplished while the gun camera is traveling at the speed of sound. While the typical gun camera takes a standard type of picture, some versions are also able to take infrared photographs. These photos record the level of heat present on a target and are useful for determining the operational status of a missile base or launcher.

Since the first camera was taken airborne in World War I, the camera has been designed into military fighter aircraft all around the world. Pilots study film from the gun camera in order to perfect military tactics. Commanders study film taken while on bombing raids to decipher the amount of destruction imposed on enemy targets as well as to plan future strikes needed on the same target. This film is also used to identify casualties of friendly fire and to identify the reason for the mishap.

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