The gun was tested for the first time last year. (Image © US Air Force)

Calling the shots: F-35 fires gun in the air

The Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II met a lot of criticism for not being able to fire a gun in the air. That changed on Saturday 30 October, as an F-35A fired its internal  (GAU)-22/A 25mm Gatling gun system during a test flight. The test was the first in a series to test functionally and evaluate the in-flight operation of the F-35A’s internal 25mm gun. The trial was performed in the skies over Edwards Air Force Base in California.

Three bursts of 30 to 60 rounds each were fired from the aircraft’s four-barrel, 25-millimeter Gatling gun. Test aircraft AF-2, a loads-instrumented jet, underwent an extensive structural modification at Edwards to a fully production representative internal gun configuration. The first phase of tests consisted of 13 ground gunfire events over a three month period to check the integration of the gun into the F-35A.

With tests on terra firma completed, the team was cleared to begin the second phase of testing, with the goal of evaluating the gun’s performance and integration with the airframe during airborne gunfire in various flight conditions and aircraft configurations.

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 stealthy characteristics. It is said to provide pilots with the ability to engage air-to-ground and air-to-air targets. The F-35B Short Take Off and Vertical Landing (STOVL) version will carry the gun in an external pod, designed to remain stealthy as well.

The gun system will be further tested with a production F-35A next year for integration with the jet’s full mission systems capabilities. According to the F-35 Joint Program Office, the F-35 should have an operational gun in 2017.

Source: F-35 Joint Program Office, with additional reporting by editor Elmer van Hest
Featured image: Captured on camera: the F-35 fires its gun. (Image © Chad Bellay, Edwards F-35 Integrated Test Force)