Spewing out 25mm rounds at three times the speed of sound, this is the Gatling gun which will be fitted to the UK Fleet Air Arm’s new stealth fighter firing a concerted burst.
The four-barrel gun – which will be used to strafe targets on the ground or in aerial dogfights – let rip with 181 rounds on the harmonising range at Edwards Air Force Base in California.
The gun was tested on the F-35A, the model being bought by the US Air Force; the weapon is hidden until it’s needed – it pops up Thunderbirds-style on the left side of the fuselage when the pilot presses the trigger.
On the jump jet version of the Anglo-American aircraft, which is being bought by the UK, the same gun is being installed – but it will be fitted externally, on the F-35’s centreline.
Either way, the cannon can loose 3,000 rounds of high explosive or armour-piercing ammunition a minute, each shell leaving the barrel at 3,400 feet per second – 2,318 mph.
The ground tests were designed using software to replicate being in flight and the aircraft fired practice rounds which do not explode on impact. This autumn the gunnery tests shifts to the skies of California.
Experts from the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Integrated Test Force will study the results of the firings – how it affects the jet’s handling, muzzle flash, recoil, aerodynamics and other factors.
The gun is due to be declared ready for action in 2017 – a year before the F-35 begins trials with the Royal Navy’s new flagship HMS Queen Elizabeth.
Image: Royal Navy