Guy Built An Airsoft Phalanx CIWS In His Garage

A video has recently emerged showing what, at first glance, seems to be a Mk 15 Phalanx Close-In Weapon System, or CIWS, in someone’s garage. On closer inspection, it turns out the Phalanx is actually a scale model which can spray BB gun pellets at an astonishing rate.

Yes, a guy built an airsoft Phalanx in his garage.

In the video, which can be viewed in the Tweet below, we see a miniaturized Phalanx placed on the back of a pickup truck facing a target. While it’s not immediately clear what the target was made from, heavy paper material seems likely. The video then shows it was no match for the airsoft Phalanx. Indeed, the spray of the BB gun pellets easily cut the target in two.

The Mk 15 Phalanx CIWS, which is produced by Raytheon, is armed with a variant of the famous M61 Vulcan 20mm cannon and has a rate of fire of 4,500 rounds per minute. It can engage targets in manual mode or autonomously, via the use of two radars, while recent versions have include electro-optical and infrared sensors.

As we have highlighted in the past, Phalanx has been in operational use with the U.S. Navy since 1980, initially as a ship-based weapon system intended to protect vessels against incoming cruise missiles and aircraft. Variants of the Phalanx are found on a wide variety of Naval vessels around the world, including in the Japan Maritime Self Defense Forces. A land-based version of Phalanx called Centurion was introduced around 2004, primarily in order to down incoming rockets and mortar rounds in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The man behind the mini-Phalanx is Kogoro Kurata, CEO of the Japan-based robotics company Suidobashi Heavy Industry. The company shot to fame over a decade ago when Kurata, along with roboticist Wataru Yoshizaki, developed a four-meter (13 feet) tall Kuratas robot prototype, which also sprays BB gun pellets. Kuratas famously took part in a Megabots robot fight in 2017, which it ended up winning. Kuratas robots can be custom ordered for as little as $1.35 million, as of 2013. The company also makes other airsoft-related products.  

As Kurata highlights in another Tweet, the airsoft Phalanx uses an airsoft M134 Minigun manufactured by the Japan-based CAW (Craft Apple Works). The real-life M134 Minigun, which fires 7.62x51mm rounds, is itself a direct cousin of the 20mm Vulcan cannon found on the Phalanx (and both are six-barrel, electronically-powered Gatling-type guns).

Kurata also indicates that the airsoft Phalanx’s dome, where the Phalanx CIWS’ search and tracking radars are housed, serves as a tank holding in the region of 900,000 airsoft BB pellets. Compared to an actual Phalanx, which stands at around 4.7 meters (15.5 feet) high, the miniature version stands at around 2.3 meters (just over 7.5 feet) high, which includes its pedestal. 

Kurata’s ambitions to create an airsoft Phalanx stretch back several years. In a Tweet he posted on March 5, he showed components of the airsoft Phalanx sitting in a garage. In a translation of the Tweet, Kurata explains that his initial drive to build the model had stalled due to the onset of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020, but that he had recently resumed working on it.

Various Tweets Kurata posted since then show the miniaturized Phalanx in different states of completion, starting with its core structure.

From there, Kurata revealed the installation of the CAW Minigun and hydraulic systems to rotate the base of the scale model Phalanx and to move the gun vertically.

Aiming to create a faithful reproduction of the CIWS, Kurata also installed a “camera,” designed to resemble 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

Once assembled, the airsoft Phalanx was subsequently moved onto the back of a pickup truck. 

More broadly, the real-world Phalanx holds a unique, if not slightly odd, place within popular culture. Comparisons have often been made between the weapon’s shape and famous fictional characters from the big screen, including Minions and even R2-D2. Most recently, sailors were even filmed ‘speaking’ to a Phalanx as it appeared to track a 737 over a Harpers Ferry or Whidbey Island class amphibious dock landing ship.

Fun has also been poked in the past at the use of Phalanxs by the JMSDF with the aid of models (albeit ones that don’t use BB gun pellets).

With that said, Kurata’s airsoft Phalanx is certainly something to behold. And with the promise of further tests of its capabilities in a “wider place,” to come in the future according to Kurata’s Twitter, we’ll be keeping our eyes peeled (and protected!) to see what it gets up to next.

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Oliver Parken Avatar

Oliver Parken

Associate Editor

Oli’s background is in the cultural and military history of twentieth-century Britain. Before joining The War Zone team in early in 2022, he was Assistant Lecturer at the University of Kent's Center for the History of War, Media and Society in the U.K., where he completed his PhD in 2021. Alongside his contributions to The War Zone's military history catalog, he also covers contemporary topics and breaking news.