The F-35A has finally fired its GAU-22/A multibarreled 25mm Gatling cannon in-flight.
According to the official F-35 program website, the event actually took place on the 30th of October over California using flight test model AF-2, which was modified for the test mission. It consisted of the aircraft loosing three gunfire bursts, one of thirty rounds and two of sixty rounds apiece. The gun, officially designated as the GAU-22/A, will be used internally and externally on the F-35A and F-35B respectively; the latter in a specially-designed pod which minimizes the effect that external armament would have on the stealth fighter’s radar cross section. AF-2 was piloted by Major Charles “Flak” Trickey of the 461st Flight Test Squadron.
The test flight, originating at Edwards Air Force Base, was the culmination of three months of ground testing to properly integrate the cannon into the F-35A’s combat systems setup. The cannon is housed in a compartment on the left wing root of the aircraft, above the left engine intake. To ensure the least amount of negative effect on the F-35’s stealth profile, the front of the housing is only briefly exposed upon the pilot triggering a burst from the cockpit. The GAU-22/A, which is designed and built by General Dynamics, can fire at a rate of 3,300 shots per minute, according to the product page for the cannon. The F-35A will be able to employ the cannon against aerial and ground targets with improved munitions usage efficiency and accuracy, thanks to the gun software’s integration with the F-35’s advanced sensor suite. The F-35 Integrated Test Force expects to have the internal cannon and the software which controls it completely ready for action by 2017.