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Lockheed Martin press release:

An F-35A fired 181 rounds from its four-barrel, 25 mm Gatling gun during a ground test at Edwards Air Force Base, California, earlier this month. The gun is embedded in the F-35A’s left wing and will provide pilots with the ability to strafe air-to-ground or air-to-air targets. The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Integrated Test Force aims to complete ground testing this month and start airborne gun testing in the fall. At the end of the program’s system development and demonstration phase in 2017, the F-35 will have an operational gun. The first phase of F-35 gun testing started June 9, when initial shots were fired from the ground at the base’s gun harmonizing range. Over the next few months, the amount of munitions fired gradually increased until the 181 rounds were fired August 14. To conduct the testing . . .

an F-35 flight sciences aircraft, AF-2, underwent instrumentation modifications and used a production version of the GAU-22/A gun. The ground tests were designed using software to replicate being in flight and the aircraft used a target practice round, PGU-23/U, which does not explode on impact. In integrating a weapon into the stealthy F-35 aircraft, the gun must be kept hidden behind closed doors, reducing its radar cross section, until the trigger is engaged. The tests certify the gun’s ability to spin up and down correctly.  The GAU-22/A system will be further tested with a line production F-35A next year for integration with the jet’s full avionics and mission systems capabilities. Test pilots will then observe qualitative effects, such as muzzle flash, human factors, and flying qualities. The F-35 test team will also monitor the GAU-22/A’s performance and ensure all systems work as designed, validating that the aircraft can withstand the loads of a firing the gun, mitigating potential effects including vibrations, acoustics and airflow.

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    • The B model the Brits are buying reportedly only holds 500 rounds. They better be good shots for the 5.0 seconds of firing time afforded by this state-of-the-art-world-beater fighter.
      This plane is a turkey. The designers made the exact same errors that were made with the F111. Organizational cultures are slow to change.

        • Come on, guys, if you’re strafing the ground, you’re shooting around 500 rpm, if you’re air-to-air is normally the only time you’d ramp up to maximum. I think the F-4 only held around 1200 20mm.

        • Alex, LarryinTX,

          About 500-600 rounds was typical for the M61 (used to be thousand-plus in early installations when it was the primary weapon, then dropped steadily with time: F-4E and F-14 had 640-650, F-16 and F-18 are about 500) but don’t forget that the F-35 is shooting 25mm, not 20mm, which buys a useful margin in lethality.

      • Actually the B and C models both carry a total of 0 rounds because they don’t have internal guns. Only the A model has an internal gun. The B and C can be equipped with a gun pod though that carries 220 rounds.

        These things are so bad, one couldn’t even best an F-16 in mock dogfights when the F-16 gave it a handicap by not jettisoning its drop tanks. The Air Force says that’s ok though, since the F-35 is designed to engage targets at long range with radar guided missiles the enemy won’t be able to get close and they won’t have to dogfight. It is the exact same story they gave for the early F-4s with “stealth” thrown in the mix as well.

  1. WOW ! ………….It’s great to be an American . That was nice and hot and would look great sitting on my property somewhere . We own this stuff folks , our tax dollars bought that , well , actually our great great great great grand children’s taxes , BUT STILL COOL !

    • Because the Air Force hates killing tanks unless they get to do it with a missile that costs more than the tank.

    • Slow, ugly, low altitude bird that does the job, but simply not glamorous enough. The AF brass doesn’t like close air support. Too messy.

      • Not to sound like a defender of the F-35, but one doesn’t need a big 30mm GAU-8 cannon to provide CAS. USAF doesn’t like exposing their aircraft to small arms and MANPADS, so they focus on ways to make things go boom from safer distances and high altitudes, and the Army seems content with AH-1s and AH-64s providing ground support. One of the biggest issues with A-10s is that their airframes are showing their age (and no one is willing to produce them anymore), and aircraft can do only so many flight hours before they need to be retired. I say this as a huge A-10 fanboy (and spent countless hours playing DCS’s A-10C module with a fancy HOTAS setup and Oculus Rift DK2), so I’m as sad as anyone to see it go.

      • The A-10 is only useful against the poorest militaries and towl heads in the desert that have next to no ability to shoot down aircraft. It’s useless against even a semi competent military.. they are flying targets for modern AA weaponry. It’s time to move on.

        • Sorry, I forgot… who are we fighting at the moment?

          Full disclosure: my ANG wing operates A-10s exclusively, and I love the sound of those birds going overhead.

        • Well, it was quite effective putting the 3rd most powerful army on the planet [Iraq] in it’s place….

          Most thought the same of the Osprey BTW….

          If the F35 ever lives up to it’s billing there is NOTHING even close! Most of the technology cannot be stolen by our enemies simply because of the expense….

          And the expense is the problem……and yes, there is a ‘machine’ behind military expenditures..

        • Iraq wasn’t even close to the 3rd most powerful military.

          For the F-35 to live up to it’s billing it needs to transform into a fraking Gundam.

        • so….ISIS is more than a bunch of towelheads and have sophisticated ground to air defense systems?

    • Because the A-10 makes the F35 look like a fragile over-priced and under-performing poofta toy in Close Air Support.

    • Because if we ditch the whole fleet, we can buy half of an F-35. Instead, we should cancel one F-35 and double the A-10 fleet. I wanted that airplane so BAD! It is the best thing we have come up with since the P-51. If you actually want to FIGHT, that is your bird. In Desert Storm, they flat out kicked ass.

    • Accur81,

      Because the USAF needs to save money, and the A-10 is a one-trick pony. It can beat up ground targets *provided* there are very limited defences and no enemy fighters. Designed to stand up to 1960s threats, it’s very vulnerable to the hazards out there in 2015.

      If “someone else” can clear the skies for it then it’s a capable aircraft, but unless the Magic Money Tree has a good harvest it’s the least versatile tactical type they’ve got and the voters have said “spend less”.

      Note that the Israeli Air Force – who earned a good reputation for close air support, have gone up against layered IADS several times, and could be expected to be interested in a highly lethal tank-killer – have never expressed any interest at all in the A-10. is worth a read if you’re really interested.

  2. I still think the Comanche shouldn’t have been scrapped a decade ago, I think the versatility would have been amazing. It was shut down because of cost, too…I think total bucks kaput on the project were under a billion all said. Compare that to a single Lightning IIA stock variant costing about $200 mil/ea, IIB about $300 mil/ea and IIC about $400 mil/ea. I was reminded of it because it had a bit smaller caliber gun platform, yet no less badass…mounted on a chopper with the full 6 degrees of freedom of movement.

    • It would be nice if somehow they could pull Comanche back off the shelf. We didn’t see the stealth blackhawk until it crashed, so I have some (naive) fleeting hope there is an actual Comanche somewhere being tested… (yeah, I know… naive).

  3. All aircraft aew “dogs” when first introduced. For instance, the legendary P51 fighter, best fighter of World War II was so bad when it was introduced that nobody wanted it. The Brits finally replaced the under powered Allison engine with a Roll Royce Merlin and the legend was born. The B29 was so bad when first introduced that modifications to fix design faults were often being accomplished in flight on the way to bomb Japanese targets. The B29 actually wasn’t fully operational until after the war was won.

    In 1987, I returned in active duty with the Army and became a UH-60A Blackhawk crew chief. At the time, the Blackhawk was still working past it’s unofficial name of “lawn dart” due to all of the equipment failure accidents it was involved in.

    • Think of the time pilots have had to master the F-35, of course they will suck against technically inferior models with pilots who have trained and flown their jets a decade or more. Not that I’m saying its a wonderful jet, just that experience and tactics for the platform are still developing, even for the pilots with the most cockpit time.

      • The Finns did fine with the Buffalo. But Finn pilots were highly trained and experienced, while most Soviet pilots were cannon fodder.
        On the other hand the RAF and USMC pilots flying the Buffalo were running up against Japanese pilots with more training and combat experience than they had (and, in the Brits’ case, the wrong type of air combat experience!).
        In the end, it more about the number of hours the pilots spend in the air training and combat experience, than it is about the hardware. Right now the US has this over every other nation.

    • , the legendary P51 fighter, best fighter of World War II was so bad when it was introduced that nobody wanted it. The Brits finally replaced the under powered Allison engine with a Roll Royce Merlin and the legend was born.
      The Brits were desperate for both the Allison Mustang and the P-40 earlier in the war.
      The Mustang was a good plane with the Allison, but the limitation of the Allison in both the Mustang and the P-40 was high altitude performance. At low altitude, both the P-40 and the Allison Mustang were actually better planes than the ME-109. Both the Mustang and the P-40 were actually very good air frames.

  4. Well……don’t that knock yer hat in the creek?

    181rds. Wod. BTW, that is the full capacity of the aircraft. The Air Force scheduled a test for October to determine if the F-35 is as capable at close air support as the A-10. The idea is the Air Force has somehow suspended physics so that a multi-role fighter is superior in a dedicated mission to an aircraft designed specifically for fighting and SURVIVING in the close air support role. Even if the F-35 with is monster ammo capacity proves “superior” in attacking targets (wanna bet there are no people willing to be in the impact area to judge just how good the F-35 is?), the cost of loss is enormous compared to the A-10. Warthogs could actually be replaced far cheaper than buying a new F-35 (even accounting for start-up costs to re-open the production line). When the public learns the dollar value of an F-35 trying to get down in the dirt (where you need to be low and slow) and being destroyed the production of F-35s will likely be ended. Actually, when the public learns the F-35 will be protected from combat just as the F-22 is, there just might be enough outrage to end the F-35. Then the cost of maintaining/sustaining one or two squadrons will be so prohibitive, the birds might be scrapped all together.

      • Wow. Didn’t know that. Now I wonder what they’ll buy for their carrier? For that matter, I wonder if the Japanese are wondering about the viability of the B model for the new carriers.
        Is anyone else making VTOL shipboard fighters? Bueller . . .? Bueller . . .?

        If somebody (like maybe the Swedes) comes up with a cheap, agile VTOL fighter, the F35 is toast.

        • Australia never ordered the F-35 to begin with. They briefly considered it but decided it wasn’t worth it. Even though the Canberra-class LHDs have the ski-jumps, they are only there because they were already in hull design (shared with the Juan Carlos I of the Spanish Navy) that Australia ordered from Navantia and they didn’t want to spend money redesigning them. There was never any intention of them being used for fixed wing aircraft when they were ordered.

    • Now, correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t the F-35’s actual replacement role taking over for the F-16? I want to say the master plan was the F-35 was going to take the F-16’s air superiority (snicker) and strike fighter role, and the F-16s were going to take over the A-10’s CAS role.
      I actually don’t know what would be worse. The F-16 is a plenty capable bird, but they are not built for heavy-load low altitude attack.
      Either way, the first time we go up against an enemy with any kind of organized AA, it’s going to be F-105s over Vietnam part 2, with even more dead pilots.

        • Love ’em. but they are not very survivable compared to an A-10, and their effectiveness against tanks, in Vietnam, really sucked. IIRC, one report I got was 95 rounds expended (105) five hits, one tank stopped. The stopped tank had been driven away the next morning. Probably better now, but when the A-10 shoots a tank, it stays shot. The A-10 airframe will never be obsolete.

          They were about to be discarded in 1990, here comes Desert Storm, and there was nothing else in the air which could do the job. We should build a thousand new ones.

  5. Not impressive. F35 is a series of compromises and is unfortunately not really good at any one particular thing… let alone great. Like A10 is at CAS, or F-22 or F-15 is at air to air, etc. Reminds me of the Bradley AFV a little in that regard, which turned out ohh kay (i guess), but way too expensive and vulnerable and not really great at any one thing either (being aluminum, etc). Very cost prohibitive. We would have been much better doing something else in both instances. You think they would have learned by now. If they are worried about the gun on F-35, they are going down the same path/stretching to make their expensive frankenstein do-it-all creation find something to do. The future of combat is not direct fire from a ‘fighter’ jet (either air to air or air to ground). A cannon on a fast jet is like a pistol on a solider – strictly a back up… something went wrong if you can’t use your primary weapon and have to pull your pistol. (the handguns suck principle). in A-10’s case, the cannon IS it’s primary weapon and the air frame is built and optimized around that use case. It’s built like a tank, cheap, very practical, employable and survivable. I really hope we have some other secret development program somewhere that will make this irrelevant (like at area 51, etc lol) cause man, this is not worth dumping all of our money in to.

    • F35 is a series of compromises and is unfortunately not really good at any one particular thing… let alone great.
      The F-35 is being torn in several different mission objectives and the plane has become an overpriced pooch at all of them. Stealth technology is not an absolute, and counter measures are being developed to track the electronic systems on a plane. This plane is probably obsolete and may be replaced by drone technology in the future.

    • Solution has been obvious for a long time, to everyone but congressional slime. A few more F-22s to assure air superiority, with bombers, F-16s, etc for ground attack against fixed targets, A-10s for everything else. F-35s? The Marines need a Harrier replacement, otherwise, why?

  6. Military hardware has been messed (not the word I wanted to use) up since George and the boys had a campout at Valley Forge.

    Any time a committee gets involved in concept and design, the product is going to suck.

    One man designed the Spitfire fighter, R.J. Mitchell and he fought off committees of folks who wanted to improve his design right up until the Battle of britain in the late summer of 1940.

    It’s true of any weapon system. Look at the M16. Stoner and Armalite designed it, then a committee of experts re-designed it by changing the cartridge components and the first rifles designed sucked (that’s a technical term that means sucked real bad) But it’s been around for almost fifty years now. But that’s not as long as the B-52 which was first deployed in 1952 and has just been extended again and it is believed it will still be in service in the 2040s.

    Some designs work out great, like the A-10 Thunderbolt II (WartHog). But it’s name predecessor, the P-47, worked out pretty well also and ended up fulfilling much of the same role.

    The F35 will work out or maybe not. It wouldn’t be the first failure. Look at the F-104 and what a disaster it became.

    The important thing concerning the F-35 is it’s a test bed for new ideas and designs. Some will work and others will suck. The ones that work will be utilized in a different airftrame and some of the others will be lead to better technology.

    • “But that’s not as long as the B-52 which was first deployed in 1952 and has just been extended again and it is believed it will still be in service in the 2040s.”

      Saw an article where a B-52 pilot was a third generation BUFF driver.

      Yep, that pilot’s father and *grandfather* were BUFF drivers.

      • When the B-1 was being approved, subsonic and with near zero range, the question was asked “why not just build more B-52H models, able to strike anywhere in the world unrefueled?” The answer came back, because they would cost so much more.

  7. F-35 — in it’s VSTOL configuration — is a modest improvement over the Harrier. That’s it. Niche weapon. Expensive, vulnerable. Only need a few and use them only if you can’t get anything else there quick enough. They tried to offset that cost by using it to replace F-16/FA-18 and everything else, but it does not excel at any of that and is basically little or no better, and at what cost? The Whiz Kids strike again.

    • Finally the correct answer. The original VSTOL design worked well enough, but hamstrung the other versions. “Ya canna change th’ Laws of Physics!”

  8. I don’t know if it’s the same M61A1 Gatling gun they’ve been putting in fighter aircraft for decades but I used to hear it tested (never saw it) on the F-14s when I worked for Grumman. The sound is hard to describe. The first time I heard it, it sounded to me like an elephant roar as the “pitch” of the barrels spin up and and down. You can’t really distinguish the individual rounds.

    • I only heard the high rate of the Vulcan in the F-4 once, and it was in combat. Sounded like somebody ripping a rug. Similar time, a B-52 strike seemed like an earthquake from 20 miles away or so.

        • Not initally. Doctrine at the time thought guns were unnecessary due to the whizz-bang new-fangled air-air missiles.

          That proved unacceptably reliable.

          Guns were standard on the ‘E’ models.

  9. That 19 years sure went by fast. Seems like Clinton was still in his first term when they started this. Twister still seems like a new movie too.

  10. “F35A gun fires 181 rounds…”

    …then jams repeatedly?

    …then the plane is shot down because it only holds 181 rounds?

    Oh, sorry, thought this was a caption contest.

  11. It’s a good thing they didn’t go with 22 rim fire, instead of the 25MM. That 181 rounds would have been a whole months supply!

  12. There sure seem to be plenty of bugs to work out on the F-35. Like it should have been a test bed and proved the tech first, before trying to produce them. What about a robust if scruffy aircraft instead which would fly and not do things like fail to provide oxygen to the pilot, need cooled fuel, etc, like the F-35 had done? “Chrome don’t get you home” as they says in motorcycle circles. Keep it simple and make it supremely functional.

  13. YOOO !!! It’s an effing plane it suppose to do this while flying. Total waste of our money,for what this load if junk costs should do this and card tricks at the same time

    • I can believe that. The F-22 was cancelled after 100 because it would cost 350, the F-35 would be cheaper (and from different congressional districts), of course the price went up. The F-22 build was originally going to be like 750, F-35 would have been unnecessary. Especially if we had 1000 A-10s.

  14. Defeat the stealth technology with an advance, in something like signal detection and anti-air missile tech, that inevitably comes in response to the stealth tech- and what you have left is a too-expensive do it all platform that does no single mission well, nor better than an existing airframe at 1/10 the cost, already in inventory. These will become too valuable to risk, or too complicated to fix hangar queens, just like the B-1, and F111s.

    This is another boondoggle for every corrupt Congress-Critter to bring home the bacon to show they did something for their district, that will put our forces at risk, by superior technology and superior numbers, when the ballon goes up.

    • that will put our forces at risk, by superior technology and superior numbers, when the ballon goes up.
      Such as a Sopwith Tripehound.

  15. What is it with the DOD and these damn do-it-all whizbang machines? First they sent that hokey Striker on tank missions, which got a few of my friends killed. Then they spent billions on that Mickey Mouse Littoral Combat Ship, which can’t do anything well. Now they’re dumping billions into this useless money pit of an airframe. At what point does enough become enough?

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