F-35A starts gun tests at Edwards

In what qualifies as ‘better late than never’, the Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II has begun ground testing its four-barrel GAU-22/A Gatling gun at Edwards Air Force Base in California. The Joint Strike Fighter Integrated Test Force hopes to start airborne test in September.

The F-35A’s gun was the target of criticism earlier, as development of hardware and software appeared to be moving along anything but fast. The gun fires 25 millimeter rounds, significantly larger than for example the F-16’s and F-15’s 20 millimeter gun. The A-version of the F-35 is the only variant to carry the gun internally. The F-35B and F-35C will both have to carry the gun in a pod, similar to the GAU-12 on the AV-8 Harrier in the United States Marine Corps (USMC), the type the F-35B is replacing.

First test started on 9 June, with shots fired from development aircraft AF-2 on the ground at the Edwards Gun Harmonizing Range. The tests are performed using practice rounds which do not  explode on impact. AF-2 underwent four months of instrumentation modifications and had a line production gun installed for this project.

To protest the F-35A’s stealthy characteristics, the gun is completely built in internally. A door hides the barrel until the pilot pulls the trigger.

An operational gun capability will be added with a future block of software, which is in the beginning stages of testing at Edwards. The gun will be further tested with a line production jet sometime next year for full integration.

Source: Lockheed Martin
Featured image (top): A round is seen flying from the GAU-22/A Gatling gun (Image © Darin Russell/Lockheed Martin)