New U.S. Stealth Jet Can’t Fire Its Gun Until 2019
Another year’s Defense Budget, another attempt by the Obama Administration and the USAF to kill the A–10 Warthog. The “plan” is to replace with the trouble plagued and over budget F–35. The F–35 is inferior as a ground support platform. Firepower; survivability; loiter time on the battlefield. The A–10 is superior in every important way. This post compares the firepower and battlefield capability of the gatling guns employed by each warplane. The Warthog’s 30mm GAU-8/A Avenger cannon is clearly superior to the Lightning’s 25mm GAU-22/A gatling gun. 1,174 rounds vs. 181. The A-10 is capable of ten (10) strafing gun runs vs. 1 or 2 for the F-35. An Air Force official familiar with the F–35 confirmed that the jet won’t have the software to fire its gun until sometime in 2019. What do our ground troops do between now and then? You gotta be kidding me!
John Mueller – Armored Column
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America’s $400 billion Joint Strike Fighter, or F–35, is slated to join fighter squadrons next year—but missing software will render its 25mm cannon useless.
Even though the Joint Strike Fighter, or F–35, is supposed to join frontline U.S. Marine Corps fighter squadrons next year and Air Force units in 2016, the jet’s software does not yet have the ability to shoot its 25mm cannon. But even when the jet will be able to shoot its gun, the F–35 barely carries enough ammunition to make the weapon useful.
The GAU–22/A, a four-barrel version of the 25mm GAU–12/U Equalizer rotary cannon found on the Marine Corps’ AV–8B Harrier II jump set, is designed to be internally mounted on the Air Force’s F–35A version of the aircraft and hold only 181 rounds.
The GAU–22/A is lighter and more accurate than its predecessor, but with a reduced rate of fire of 3,300 rounds per minute. At that rate, the F–35 would be out of ammunition in about three to four seconds, or one or two bursts of fire.
By comparison, the 30mm, seven-barrel GAU–8/A Avenger in the nose of the venerable Warthog attack aircraft can hold as many as 1,174 rounds. It’s configured to fire at a fixed rate of fire of 3,900 rounds per minute. That gives the A–10 pilot ten (10) two second bursts, ten (10) gun runs vs. one (1) or two (2) at best for the F–35.
The Obama Administration has been trying to kill the A-10 since 2013 . . . this video from 2013.
“There will be no gun until [the Joint Strike Fighter’s Block] 3F [software], there is no software to support it now or for the next four-ish years,” said one Air Force official affiliated with the F–35 program. “Block 3F is slated for release in 2019, but who knows how much that will slip?”
The F–35 has been plagued with massive delays and cost overruns—mostly due to design defects and software issues. There have also been problems with the jet’s engine. An F–35 was destroyed on takeoff earlier in the year when a design flaw in its Pratt & Whitney F135 engine sparked a fire.
Another Air Force official familiar with the F–35 confirmed that the jet won’t have the software to fire its gun until the Block 3F software is released to frontline squadrons sometime in 2019. Neither Lockheed nor the F–35 Joint Program Office responded to inquiries about the status of the jet’s gun.
Right now, the F–35’s software doesn’t support the use of the aircraft’s GAU–22/A four-barreled rotary cannon. The weapon was developed from the U.S. Marine Corps’ AV–8B Harrier II jump-jet’s GAU–12/U cannon, but it has one fewer barrel and weighs less.
The lack of a cannon is a particular problem, as the F–35 is being counted on to help out infantrymen under fire. (This is known as close air support, or CAS, in military jargon.) The F–35 will lack the ability to mark a target or attack enemy forces in “danger close” situations, said one highly experienced Air Force fighter pilot.
“Lack of forward firing ordnance in a CAS supporting aircraft is a major handicap,” he added. “CAS fights are more fluid than air interdiction, friendlies and targets move… Oftentimes quickly. The ability to mark the target with rockets and attack the same target 10 seconds later is crucial.”
Typically, aircraft will work in pairs where the flight lead will make an initial pass to mark a target with rockets. A second aircraft will then attack with its guns. Incidentally, the F–35 won’t be armed with rockets, either, sources said.
The reason pilots would choose to use guns over a bomb or a missile is simple. Basically, a pilot might not want to drop a bomb near ground troops in situations where the enemy has gotten in very close to those friendly forces. Even a relatively small 250-pound bomb could kill or injure friendly troops who are within 650 feet of the explosion.
By contrast, a gun will allow a pilot to attack hostile forces that are less than 300 feet from friendly ground forces.
Proponents of the F–35 within the Air Force leadership argue that the jet’s sensors and ability to display information intuitively will allow the stealthy new fighter to do the close air-support mission from high altitudes using satellite-guided weapons. But there are situations where that won’t work.
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