The Lockheed Martin-developed F-35A has fired its four-barrel, 25mm Gatling gun system while airborne for the first time.
The three gunfire surges took place during an Oct. 30 test flight in California purposed for evaluating the in-flight operation of the internal Gun Airborne Unite (GAU), according to a press release from the military’s F-35 Joint Program Office (JPO). A series of functionality gauging test flights will follow the initial mission. During the flight, three bursts of one 30 round and two 60 rounds were emitted from the Gatling gun system.
To reach the point of airborne testing, the structure of the trial F-35A aircraft, dubbed AF-2, was comprehensively altered to a fully production-representative internal gun configuration at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. According to the F-35 JPP, the first stage of test execution entailed 13 trials in which the gun system was shot on the ground. The purpose of this phase, which took three months to complete, was to confirm that it would be appropriate to assimilate the 25mm Gatling gun with the F-35A. During the second phase, workers evaluated the gun system’s performance as well as its integration with the airframe during airborne fire in numerous conditions and aircraft configurations.
“The successful aerial gun test sortie was a culmination of several years’ planning, which intensified in the first half of 2015 at the Edwards F-35 Integrated Test Force (ITF) Flight Test Squadron with a team of Air Force, Lockheed Martin, Pratt & Whitney, General Dynamics, and Northrop Grumman personnel,“ said Mike Glass, Edwards ITF flight test director. “The results of this testing will be used in future blocks of testing, where the accuracy and mission effectiveness capabilities will be evaluated.”
When assimilating the Gatling gun to an F-35 the gun must be stored in secrecy to mitigate the system’s radar cross section until the moment where it is fired. The gun is located on the left wing of the F-35A, and is integrated such that it doesn’t make the aircraft more visible.
In 2016, the gun system will be tested with a production F-35A. The examination is intended to determine whether the system can be assimilated with the jet’s full mission systems capabilities. During this period, workers will evaluate how efficient the gun is in both air-to-air and air-to ground use when paired with the new fighter’s sensor fusion software, technology which will feed the pilot targeting information via the helmet display he or she is wearing.
Filed Under: Aerospace + defense