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F-35A gun struggles with accuracy

29 January 2018

Key Points

  • The gun on the F-35A has a long and to-the-right aiming bias
  • This issue is a hurdle to the programme moving from development to initial operational testing

The gun on the Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) conventional variant consistently has a long and to-the-right aiming bias, according to the Pentagon’s chief weapons tester.

The fiscal year 2017 (FY 2017) report by the Office of the Director, Operational Test and Evaluation (DOT&E), said that initial accuracy testing of the podded gun on the Marine Corps’ (USMC’s) F-35B short take-off and vertical landing (STOVL) and the navy’s F-35C aircraft carrier variant showed their guns also exhibit the same right aiming bias as with the A-model. However, the report said, the long bias is not manifested in the podded gun systems. The report also said initial accuracy testing on the B- and C-models demonstrated better results than the gun on the A-model.

The Pentagon's weapons tester said the gun on the F-35A consistently has a long and to-the-right bias. (Lockheed Martin)The Pentagon's weapons tester said the gun on the F-35A consistently has a long and to-the-right bias. (Lockheed Martin)

General Dynamics provides its GAU-22/A four-barrel 25 mm gun for the F-35A. The company provides a ‘missionised’ GAU-12 25 mm cannon for the F-35B and F-35C.

Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics, and the Pentagon’s F-35 Joint Program Office (JPO) did not respond to requests for comment by press time on 26 January.

All three F-35 models add gun capability with Block 3F. The A-model gun is internal while the B- and C-models each use an external gun pod. Differences in the outer mould-line fairing mounting make the gun pods unique to a specific variant. For example, an F-35B gun pod can not be mounted on an F-35C aircraft.

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