Joint Strike Fighter ITF Ground Testing F-35 Gun
The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Integrated
Test Force is in the process of testing the F-35A's newest munitions
asset - the GAU-22/A. The gun is a four-barrel Gatling gun that fires 25
Unlike the Marine Corps and Navy variants,
the GAU-22/A is integrated internally to the F-35A. In the other
variants, the gun is mounted to the outside as a pod. A similar weapon,
GAU-12, has been used on the AV-8B Harrier Jump Jet.
The first phase of testing started June 9, when the first shots were fired from tail number AF-2 on the ground at the Edwards Gun Harmonizing Range. The test team hopes to finish ground testing sometime during August and start the airborne phase late September. An operational gun capability will be added with a future block of software, which is in the beginning stages of testing at Edwards.
The tests are done using a target practice round, PGU-23/U, which fires from the gun, but does not explode on impact.
The tricky part about this test phase is that the gun will never operationally fire on the ground. To conduct the test, they have to use software to bypass interlocks and "fool the aircraft to make it think it's in the air."
"As an Air Force pilot, it's going to be one more thing that I can select to either strafe air-to-ground targets or shoot as an air-to-air weapon," said Maj. Andrew Rollins, 461st Flight Test Squadron, assistant director of operations.
Rollins is the test pilot on the project. While deployed, Rollins "used a gun often." He said it's particularly useful in an air-to-ground role when enemy targets are in a close proximity to friendlies and dropping a bomb is not prudent.
"The GAU-22/A uses a 25mm shell, which is significantly more powerful than what I've been used to in legacy aircraft, the F-16 the F-15E, F-15C - all those aircraft use a 20mm shell," said Rollins.