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A Cannon is any piece of artillery that uses gunpowder or another usually explosive-based propellant to launch a projectile. The real-life basis for the in-game cannon are muzzle-loaded European coastal artillery dating back to the Colonial era. These cannon were designed specifically for the purpose of fort defense against naval forces, being mounted directly to the fort superstructure along a swiveling rail system.
The Old Cannon is a weapon emplacement featured on Operation Mortar in the Naval Strike expansion pack. The Flag B Fort features four cannons all around the base. They have a low rate of fire but deal high damage to any target struck (usually instant vehicle-disable for light-vehicles and choppers, and instant kills against infantry). It is worth noting that the cannon's projectiles seem to have an extreme drop-off, making long-range engagements difficult.
Obtaining a kill with a cannon will award players with the "No Parley" achievement/trophy.