HILL AIR FORCE BASE — Hampered by software issues and at one point rumored to be years away from becoming operational, the gun on the F-35A is ready to fire, the Pentagon says.
Joe DellaVedova, public affairs director for the Pentagon’s F-35 Program Office, said the gun on the Air Force version of the jet fired 181 rounds from its four-barrel, 25 millimeter Gatling gun during ground tests at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. in August. Practice rounds, which do not explode on impact, were used.
The F-35 test crew hopes to complete ground testing on the gun and start testing it in the air this fall, Dellavedova said.
The successful firing tests are significant, especially considering that a software problem associated with the gun was discovered in December 2014.
The news website Daily Beast reported then that a software production delay on the General Dynamics-built gun would prohibit it from firing during combat missions until 2019, making it incapable of providing close air support for troops.
Although tests did uncover a software issue in December, the Pentagon said, the discovery was part of normal development and testing and would be resolved sometime in 2015, having no impact on the F-35’s combat timeline.
DellaVedova said the recent testing saw the gun fire at full capacity, an indication the gun would be ready to go within the next two years, as previously scheduled.
“At the end of the program’s system development and demonstration phase in 2017, the F-35 will have an operational gun,” he said.
After the tests in the fall, the gun will be tested again next year on a production-line F-35 when the jet’s full avionics system is analyzed.
According to General Dynamics, the gun weighs just 40 pounds and can fire up to 3,300 shots per minute. To reduce being picked up by enemy radar, the gun on the F-35A, called the GAU-22, is kept hidden under the plane’s left wing until the trigger is engaged.
Hill Air Force Base will be home to the first three operational F-35A squadrons and will begin receiving what will ultimately be a total of 72 jets. After the first two jets arrive, the rest of Hill’s fleet will come in on a staggered basis spread out through 2019.