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Boondoggle much? Sorry, I mean “F-35 test pilot Maj Charles ‘Flak’ Trickey fires the first aerial gun test burst of the GAU-22/A 25mm gun from F-35A aircraft AF-2. The gun will provide operational F-35A pilots the ability to engage air-to-ground or air-to-air weapon targets, in addition to beyond visual range air-to-air missiles and precision-guided air-to-ground weapons.” The official website tells us that  . . .

The 25mm gun is embedded in the F-35A’s left wing and is designed to be integrated in a way to maintain the F-35’s very low observable criteria. It will provide pilots with the ability to engage air-to-ground and air-to-air targets. The first phase of F-35 gun testing started in June, when initial shots were fired from the ground at the Edwards Air Force Flight Test Center’s gun harmonizing range.

The gun system will be further tested with a production F-35A next year for integration with the jet’s full mission systems capabilities. The test team will demonstrate the gun’s effectiveness in both air-to-air and air-to-ground employment when integrated with the next generation fighter’s sensor fusion software, which will provide targeting information to the pilot through the helmet mounted display. At the end of the program’s system development and demonstration phase in 2017, the F-35 will have an operational gun.

Anyone want to bet on that? Meanwhile, Lockheed Martin has fired a bunch of folks for problems with the fighter – the most expensive piece of military hardware ever commissioned – and the website War is Boring has another take on the aircraft’s excellence, or lack thereof.

The stealth fighter lacks the sensors, weapons and speed that allow a warplane to reliably detect and shoot down other planes in combat. Especially when those planes are shooting back.

Well that sucks.

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    • At a capacity of 182rds…it doesn’t matter what it carries once it’s above 100ish rds. Between SDBs/GBU-39, AGM-176s, and larger stuff like GBU-38/54, an F-35 formation will have plenty of ordnance to take out vehicles or personnel. The gun, even a 30mm GAU, has limited effectiveness compared to a JDAM with a laser seeker. The gun is for those moments the fight has turned ugly, and an air threat is close enough that slinging AIM-120s is no longer a factor. These guys train to be good at a distance, so we never get that close.

      • Guns are situational weapons when you’re touting a plane for everything from air combat to ground support.
        I think the problem is they put a thousand pounds of gun into this plane but gave it so little ammo that its hardly worth using in ground attack. An A-10 meanwhile carries a similar number of bombs and then another dozen attack runs in that big beast. All for a fraction of the cost.
        If you consider it a last ditch weapon for dogfighting, its hardly worth the weight for one last shot. Better to spend that on an extra missile or save it for a tighter turn.

        Someone put a gun in it because “it needs a gun” rather than because it fits into the aircraft’s gameplay.

      • uuuhhhh, wrong !

        the f-35 is supposed to take-over the ground attack role currently assigned to the much ammo-ed a-10. the air-to-air guys know 182 is pathetic for “dogfights”, 182 is just dead weight otherwise. this mystical, marvelous, dream machine will not be allowed to do the troops-in-contact mission because if a single f-35 is brought down by small arms fire, the entire air force will be humiliated. the politicians in air force leadership (and i mean the politicians in uniform) will not want to face congress over such a loss.

        • How many F-35s does it take to change a lightbulb?

          Three: One to change the criteria of changing a lightbulb, the second to undergo maintenance, and the third to tell the press the lightbulb has been changed.

        • actually, the third f-35 would call a press conference and declare that although changing light bulbs is certainly within mission parameters, full light bulb change capability will be fully integrated into the aircraft in 2039.

      • Anner – you’re playing that golden oldie from 1958 – All we is missles.

        Dump the POS and buy about new build 500ea A10 with updated avonics. The grunt’s best friend.

        • The A10 is great against people that don’t have any realistic capability of shooting back at it. Otherwise it’s complete dead weight when placed against a military with modern AA weaponry. I love the thing as much as anybody else, but the thing is useless outsize of fighting against a bunch of terrorists.

        • dude,

          the a-10 was designed solely to go against soviet tanks and zsu-23 AAA. the designers and flyers wanted a flying tank to go into a bullet intensive battle line. never intended to do anything other than close air support. did it depend on air superiority? that was never a given on the plains of europe with fast-moving soviet armor units. could it be destroyed? absolutely. but it was a “cheap” plane to build and maintain. against soviet-trained armies in iraq, it did pretty well. can it go up against the russians today? maybe, given the overall sad state of russian military capability. can it ever survive in air-to-air combat? not designed for the mission, but every fighter faces the possibility of being out numbered, out gunned, out missiled, flat out nothing left to work with. the very idea of throwing a $250M aircraft at ground targest is ludicrous, and the air force knows it. the gun was designed to let the air force convince congress there was money to be saved by having a swiss army knife airplane would allow putting the rest of the air battle equipment in the graveyard. instead, air force now claims they must, must i tell you, scrap the a-10 so the ‘savings’ can be spend saving the f-35.

        • A-10 was designed as a Soviet tank buster, but it was never actually used in that role, and so how effective it would be remains to be seen. It did bust plenty of tanks in Iraq, but that was after taking out most of AA that they have, and it wasn’t exactly state of the art to begin with. If it goes up against, say, Russian or Chinese forces in a large-scale conventional war, it’s just all speculation about how well it would actually do, and I doubt it would do all that well.

          Having said that, realistically speaking, 1) Right now US is mostly fighting wars against low-tech opponents, and so something like A-10 should absolutely be in the inventory as a cost-efficient way of doing things, and 2) F-35 has proven to be such a clusterfuck that I’m not sure it would actually fare much better in a conventional role, anyway.

  1. Hate to be the grammer/spelling guy, but “Aerial”, not “Arial”. One is in the air, the other is the little mermaid.

  2. Perhaps these companies should build the equipment THEN sell it to the government. That way it (should) work before tax payer money is flushed down the toilet.

    • “Perhaps these companies should build the equipment THEN sell it to the government. That way it (should) work before tax payer money is flushed down the toilet.”

      On first blush, I’d like to agree with that.

      Unfortunately, it’s simply unaffordable due to the unique engineering requirements of low-observable aircraft.

      About the only practical way to deal with this nowadays is to use manufacturers who have proven ‘chops’ in stealth design.

      It’s not nice, but it’s reality…

      • The idea is unaffordable, but this F-35 is a bargain! The whole military, constant wars, and empire is unaffordable. Entitlements are not the only bottomless pit DC throws down. Backing mythical moderates in Syria. Ignoring Saudi ties to 9/11 and Pakistani ties to the Taliban. Overthrowing legitimately elected governments just because they side with their country’s interest instead of the US’s. A down right bargain.

    • Northrop tried that with the F-20. Basically, an F-16 in an F-5 airframe. The USAF said “Thanks, but no thanks.”, even after years of development and tacit encouragement. Some money but it was mostly company funded. If the USAF wasn’t interested, that pretty much killed any chance at foreign sales. Everybody else figured if the USAF wants F-16s, so do we.

      After that, why would any of the few remaining aircraft manufacturers risk a back-breaking investment.

  3. The F-35 is a 2nd Amendment lesson as well. Technically, you have the right to keep and bear GAU 22, and even F-35. . . IF YOU CAN AFFORD ONE.

    Affordability is just another way that satan’s evil blue house of liberal (D) minus a-holes are trying to infringe on your RTKABA.

    If I cannot have a GAU 22 or an F-35, I at least want everyone to have their own gun harmonizing range. ; P

  4. F-35 the rainbows and unicorns dream of our military a do all be good at nothing invention. Similar to antigunner utopian dreams.

  5. Still trying to polish a turd. I am all for a deadly plane but come one. The A10 makes people shit their pants before it even fires.

  6. Still trying to polish a turd. I am all for a deadly plane but come one. The A10 makes people shit their pants before it even fires. The F35 is a joke.

    • The F-35 may well turn out to be a dog, but it’s still too early to call it. Every new aircraft has problems during development and initial deployment. The B-1 and F-111 were notorious, and received a lot of bad press that greatly exaggerated the problems. Both turned out to be very effective.

      • Exactly. Take a look at B-52A and B model flight tests in the 1950’s. Lots of crews died proving the platform, and it’s progged out to serve until the 2040/50’s. If aircrew were dying at historical rates during modern flight testing, or systems were failing as badly as happened during the development of Gen 2-3 fighters, you’d hear about it.

      • Exactly. A significant portion of the increased unit price on the program has been due to the gov’t reducing the total number of units ordered from the original contract. So all the fixed development costs are now spread out over few units. Additionally, a lot of the cost savings wont ever be realized until the airframe has been in service for many years. While the shared development of the different versions/roles has caused a lot of the problems seen so far (trying to make a one-size-fits-all aircraft and all the difficulties and compromises that come with that) it will show MAJOR cost reductions over the life of the program. It will eventually replace several different entire airframes in multiple branches of service. So instead of having techs and maintenance folks trained on 6 different powerplants and 7 airframes and 4 avionics packages, etc, they will have to be trained on one. Ditto for supplies/logistics. So while the unit cost is VERY high for this program, in the long run a lot of that may very well be made up for in reduced overall lifetime-of-product costs. As you say it’s too early to tell. But that’s a nuanced shades-of-grey interpretation that goes against the online circlejerk by all the overnight experts on combat aircraft and gov’t procurement. So of course its wrong.

        Just to be clear, I’m not saying it’s a wonder plane, and worth every penny. I’m not saying there hasn’t been “scope-creep” on a major scale with this program. I’m saying its a lot more complex situation than “its a total waste of money! A-10 is bettar!!” and its too early to make any sort of call as to its final cost and combat effectiveness.

    • The A10, while very effective, cannot fly where we don’t already own the airspace. It would be a sitting duck for even 40-plus-year-old fighter-aircraft designs. Heck, I think a helicopter gunship could probably put down an A10 if it got the jump on it.

      The F35 is supposed to be the new tool used to take and hold that airspace. Directed by satellites sensors or AWACS, it can kill stuff that will never “see” it. Without the F35 or something like it flying CAP, the A10 can’t do sh!t.

      • It’s not primarily the aerial threat that made A-10 toxic, but the increasing lethality of MANPADs and the relatively easy availability of regiment-level air defence, such as Tor, and object defence like Pantsir. Note that I even presume that theater defence systems are suppressed by the time A-10 goes into action. I think we were lucky that Serbs didn’t bag an A-10, although one of them had to make an emergency landing in Montenegro.

  7. And the string of comments about how this is all a boondoggle and a waste of money starts in 3…. 2…. oh wait I’m too late they’re here already.

  8. RF, stick to something you know. Explain to me a complex IADS takedown, a datalink network, how an SA-10 target tracking radar works, what effect MALD has on a strike package, AESA radar capes, EM diagrams of 5th gen assets…then, and only then will your [insert whatever latest DoD acquisitions program you wish] bashing have any merit.

    Assets such as this are the key to taking down an existential threat. Killing shitheads in the desert (ISIS, boko haram, whatever JV group pops up tomorrow) is well and good, but the true threat to your soft, pink body is much larger, exponentially more lethal, and developing/stealing better weapon systems everyday.

      • I was commenting on technology in relation to defeating/dominating the current and future threat. To that end, America is doing quite well with the 35.

        Your comment is about the F-35 platform specifically, and I didn’t directly comment on that. So here goes:

        The traditional view of a fighter as a highly maneuverable shooter is a small part of today’s outlook. Sensors, data sharing, and standoff weapons are the key to dominance. In that regard, the F-22 and 35 are rock stars. Sensors example: The A-10 relies on radio comms and visual ops for target acquisition; the radar of the 35 paints a picture that would make Lemay roll over in his grave, and it does it from many miles away.

        Data sharing example: AWACS is our bread and butter air traffic control/C2 platform, yet in instances where no AWACS was available the F-22, with a single pilot, did a better job than the entire crew of AWACS controllers. The 35 can do the exact same thing.

        These are the generalized capes that the F-35 brings. Now to the criticism found in articles such as this: the mechanics of the platform itself. If a cracked turbine blade, a program behind schedule, and avionics suites fielded after flight training has commenced are an indictment of the entire program, then we never would have fielded half the weapon systems in the inventory.

        We’re incorporating such new technology into this platform that there will be growing pains. The entire maintenance structure behind the plane is a new concept; data sharing maintenance issues so the crew chiefs are ready to swap parts as soon as the plane lands. That’s normally a 12-36hr process for traditional maintenance, whereas here it can be cut down (I don’t have numbers for how much, but it’s significant).

        The nuts and bolts of the plane are solid. We’ve been building jet engines for decades; if a couple of them had issues, those issues will be fixed and permanent changes incorporated into later models.

        I listened to a brief from the previous ACC commander on 35 capes, as he compared it to both emerging threats and the low-intensity conflicts we see in Iraq and Syria. I walked away impressed. I have no direct connection to the 35 community, except a couple buddies that fly it, but I’m a fan. When it’s kicking ass in the next conflict and all these negative reports subside, hopefully the majority will agree with me. If it ends up being a pile of garbage I’ll eat my hat.

        • Okay, so you praise the tech and advanced information techs we can shove in a plane, but riddle me this; Why are we shoving it in a middle of the road aircraft that does a mediocre job of everything? We’ve proven specialization works, repattern the A10 to incorporate thesee advances, and then push the F35 to fight the air war. You’ll give up less, end up with pilots that don’t have to be jacks of all trades, and come out with a fighter that can blow the shit out of the competition (when they catch up in 10 years).

  9. The F-35 is a plane that was designed by accountants. It NEVER should have been given serious consideration as a replacement for…well pretty much everything currently flying.

  10. how much money was sank into the Bradley project? they never learn do they?
    Meanwhile an effective but not sexy aircraft ( A10) are being retired

  11. Holy Boondoggle Batman!
    182 rounds is a fraction of a second at the F-35’s rate of fire. So, it has a chance at one air to ground gun run with no margin for error and insufficient ammo. How is this supposed to replace the A-10 again?

    • “…Brewster Buffalo”

      Finland racked up a 35:1 kill-loss-ratio against the Soviets with the F-2A Brewster Buffalo.

      Greg ‘Pappy’ Boyington had this to say about them:

      “But the early models, before they weighed it all down with armorplate, radios and other ****, they were pretty sweet little ships. Not real fast, but the little f**ks could turn and roll in a phonebooth. Oh yeah–sweet little ship; but some engineer went and f****d it up.”

      (Interview with Rick West Ford in 1977)

  12. What about the F-14 Tomcat? We chucked that one because it put hotels on Boardwalk and everyone else gave up playing the air superiority game.

    I don’t think a fighter yet hatched beats it’s radar / weapons system.

    From the Grumman Canoe, to the AG-Cat on up: GO GRUMMAN OR GO HOME.

  13. The F-35 Boondoggle will never replace the A-10 Warthog, its operational speeds are too high for ground support. To be effective in battle field support one must be over the battle field, duh.

  14. Please stop reading War is Boring. That guy has been proven countless times by many people who actually know what they are talking about to be full of shit. He hates the F-35 with a burning passion because he is some deep bowl intestine fart that can’t accept the fact that his type of war is long gone since the invention of massively sophisticafed, ground based missile defenses and drones.

  15. Putting a pod on what is essentially an air superiority fighter and adding “strike” in front of its name does not a CAS asset make.

  16. The website War Is Boring has no inside information about this aircraft and even if they did, not enough to formulate their own conclusions. Every aircraft we’ve ever developed has had plenty of naysayers. When those aircraft went into operational service, they silenced all their opponents.

    I was working on the CV-22 when the MH-53 naysayers dared us to come to a combat exercise with them. We stomped them. Then the naysayers were silenced.

    For all those that don’t believe, I offer a very simple challenge: go to Eglin AFB where the F-35 is being tested, at an airshow. Ask people who work on it and fly it how well it does. Be prepared for them to shoot down all your faulty beliefs about it.

  17. Didn’t the F-22 have a superior capability in speed and maneuverability over the F-35? The sad deal is that the ’22 program was halted with only a small quantity built….all the hype over the 35 and a timid pentagon let the ’22 die.

    I believe that was the bigger folly; going away from the -22 so quickly

  18. Humans should be generalists, their tools should be specialized, not the other way around.

    Here’s a quick question for all the F-35 fanboys: how many of you use one gun with one optic for everything (self defense, plinking, small game, big game, birds, target shooting)?

    As for saving money down the road, what happens when the various arms of the military decide the next gen of aircraft outclass the F-35 and / or need to replace it for some specific function?


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