The M71 Scythe is a powerful pneumatically powered, air-cooled anti-aircraft weapon that performs reliably against many hostile aircraft. It is specifically designed to fire the powerful 20x102mm high-explosive incendiary/armor piercing cartridge from a 100,000-round drum; using its six barrels, the Scythe can fire at a rate of 6,000 rounds per minute, though some Scythes are fed by 1,000-round drums and consequently maintain lower rates of fire. This high rate of fire allows the Scythe to strip away the armor of Covenant aircraft with relative impunity, especially when the craft fly at low altitudes, such as the Type-25 Spirit and Type-52 Phantom and the Type-26 Banshee. The Scythe can even quickly disable the shields of low-flying Seraph fighters. Scythe emplacements are also armed with an M41 rocket launcher to complement the main cannon.
The M71's tetrapodal base allows the emplacement to be deployed on varied types of terrain. It is usually synchronized with an automated tracking system or a defense-control artificial intelligence. The weapon's control panel is located on the body of the platform; this panel allows an operator to activate or deactivate the weapon, as well as to modify targeting parameters. The base of the weapon can also be used to employ the M95 Lance missile launcher instead, replacing the rotary cannon mount.
Several Scythe turrets were placed around the Office of Naval Intelligence's SWORD and CASTLE Bases on Reach. One such turret was located at Airview Base, just outside Sword Base. On July 26, 2552, Kat-B320 and SPARTAN-B312 of Noble Team were ordered to Airview Base to reactivate this turret, which assisted in repelling the Covenant's raid on the base. A few weeks later, a group of M71s was later used to defend the Sabre Program Launch/Research Range on Farkas Lake from Seraphs and Spirits.
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