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Air-Launched Weapons

Update: US Air Force chief of staff unconcerned with F-35A gun inaccuracy

21 February 2019
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Key Points

  • The US Air Force chief of staff is not concerned with the F-35A gun’s inaccuracy
  • He said the aircraft’s primary task is to fuse information and adjust combat strategies on the fly

The US Air Force’s (USAF’s) top officer is not concerned with Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) conventional variant’s gun inaccuracy, an issue raised by the Pentagon’s chief weapons tester over the past two years.

“Given what we’ve built the F-35 to do, I’m not sure that the gun would be the first place I’d focus on,” General David Goldfein told an audience on 19 February at the Brookings Institution. The aircraft’s primary task is to fuse information and make changes to combat strategy on the fly, he said.

The US Air Force's top officer is unconcerned with the F-35A's gun inaccuracy. (Lockheed Martin)The US Air Force's top officer is unconcerned with the F-35A's gun inaccuracy. (Lockheed Martin)

The Pentagon’s Office of the Director, Operational Test and Evaluation (DOT&E) said in its annual report in January that F-35A gun accuracy during system design and development (SDD) failed to meet the contract specification. It is the second year in a row that the DOT&E has raised an issue over the gun’s inaccuracy.

Although corrections were made to the F-35 mission system software to improve the stability of gun aiming cues, no software or hardware corrections have been implemented to correct the gun’s accuracy. Investigations into the gun mounts of the F-35A revealed misalignments that result in muzzle alignment errors.

As a result, the true alignment of each F-35A gun is not known, so the programme is considering options for reboresighting and correcting gun alignments. The US Marine Corps’ (USMC’s) F-35B short take-off and vertical landing (STOVL) variant and the US Navy’s (USN’s) F-35C aircraft carrier variant have externally mounted guns and do not suffer similar inaccuracy issues.

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