F-35A Using the Internal Cannon For The First Time

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On Aug. 13, the U.S. Air Force has announced that the first operational F-35A fighter jet successfully tested its 25 mm internal cannon for the first time.

According to the USAF’s report, pilots from the 388th Fighter Wing’s 4th Fighter Squadron were the first operational unit to fire the F-35A’s 25 mm cannon in a strafing run during training.

The two-ship formation fired on two sets of ground targets on the Utah Test and Training range Aug. 13. Loading and firing the cannon was one of the few capabilities Airmen in the 388th and 419th FWs had yet to demonstrate.

The F-35A’s internal cannon allows the aircraft to maintain stealth against air adversaries as well as fire more accurately on ground targets, giving pilots more tactical flexibility.

The internal cannon fires 25-millimeter rounds that can be used to target enemies in both air-to-air and air-to-ground combat.

Photo by Todd Cromar

According toGuns.com, the F-35 cannon can fire 55 rounds per second, but it must fire relatively slowly to conserve ammunition. That conservation is important for the F-35, as the plane can hold only a 220-round magazine. If fired at 55 rounds per second continuously, the F-35 would run out of ammunition within four seconds.

The F-35’s GAU-22/A is based on the proven GAU-12/A 25mm cannon, used by the AV-8B Harrier, the LAV-AD amphibious vehicle and AC-130U Gunship, but has one less barrel than its predecessor. This means it’s lighter and can fit into the F-35A’s left shoulder above the air intake. The gun can fire at about 3,300 rounds per minute: considered the A model can hold 181 rounds only, this equals to a continuous 4 seconds burst or, more realistic, multiple short ones.

Photo by Todd Cromar

While the F-35A will be equipped with an embedded GAU-22/A gun, the B (STOVL – Short Take Off Vertical Landing) and C (CV – Carrier Variant) variants carry it inside an external pod capable to hold 220 rounds.

According to the 388th FW’s website “Loading and firing the cannon was one of the few capabilities Airmen in the 388th and 419th FWs had yet to demonstrate. The F-35A’s internal cannon allows the aircraft to maintain stealth against air adversaries as well as fire more accurately on ground targets, giving pilots more tactical flexibility.”

On June the 9th 2015, a test F-35A shot its first salvos from its four-barrel GAU-22/A Gatling gun.

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