Newly released footage shows the U.S. Air Force F-35 stealth fighter firing its Gatling gun during a ground test on August 14 at California’s Edwards Air Force Base.
According to a release by the military authorities, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Integrated Test Force — the test team consisting of Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps officials — conducted ground tests of an F-35A on August 14, firing a total of 181 rounds from the aircraft’s four-barrel 25 mm Gatling gun.
The footage demonstrates the awesome firepower of the stealth fighter convincingly. The GAU-22/A Gatling gun is able to fire 3,000 rounds per minute.
The gun port is designed to enhance the stealth configuration of the jet fighter by embedding the weapon in the wing. A little door pops open on the jet’s left wing to allow the gun to fire. Keeping the gun hidden behind closed doors until it is needed reduces its radar cross section.
The gun is able to strafe air-to-ground, as well as air-to-air targets.
The ground gun testing began on June 9. The amount of ammunition fired during tests was increased gradually until the August 14 test during which 181 rounds were fired. The tests are designed to ensure that all relevant systems work as intended and to ensure that the jet can withstand the stress of firing the cannon mid-flight.
The ground tests were conducted using software that replicated real-life flight and the F-35A flight sciences aircraft with modified instruments equipped with a production version of the GAU-22/A Gatling gun.
The test team hopes to complete ground testing in August and commence the first phase of airborne gun testing before winter. Tests will continue next year with the goal of integrating the GAU-22/A system with the jet’s avionics and other mission systems.
The team hopes to complete the program’s system development and demonstration phase in 2017 and equip the fighter with a fully operational gun.
The program for the development of the Lockheed stealth fighter has been the subject of controversy due to production setbacks resulting in escalating costs.
The fifth generation jet, touted by its designers as the most sophisticated multirole jet ever, faced heavy criticism after it gave a disappointing performance in July when matched in a dogfight against the reliable, old F-16.
The F-35, which has cost about $350 million, was outperformed by an F-16 developed in the 1970s.
But Pentagon has defended the aircraft as a multirole fighter, while lauding its advanced computer systems and unmatched stealth capability, combined with the speed and maneuverability of a fighter jet.
“The F-35 is designed with the entire battlespace in mind, bringing new flexibility and capability to the United States and its allies. Reliance on any single capability – electronic attack, stealth, etc – is not sufficient for success and survivability in the future.”
Major allies of the U.S., including the U.K. and Israel, have placed orders for the jets, but it is still unclear how soon it will enter service.