05/21/2017: The Marine Corps Made history by shooting the F-35B’s gun pod in flight for the first time on May 15th, 2017.
As Tom Demerly wrote in The Aviationist about the gun pod:
The U.S. Marine Corps Lockheed Martin F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter has completed the test firing of its externally mounted General Dynamics GAU-22 25mm gun pod.
The final aerial test firing took place on May 8, 2017 and was conducted by The Salty Dogs of Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX) 23’s Integrated Test Force (ITF) at Naval Air Station (NAS) Patuxent River.
Of particular interest in the video just released (that includes footage from several different sorties) is the variety of additional external stores carried on the test F-35Bs.
The aircraft are shown with a version of the AIM-9X Sidewinder air-to-air missile and, in a separate flight, with what appears to be a 500lb laser guided bomb possibly a version of the GBU-12 Paveway II.
The new General Dynamics GAU-22 25mm gun pod uses a unique four-barrel configuration that was developed from the highly successful five-barrel, 25mm GAU-12/U gun also built by General Dynamics. The new GAU-22 gun, carried internally on the USAF F-35A variant and in the external pod for the U.S. Marines’ F-35B is and U.S. Navy F-35C is more than 40 pounds lighter and requires 20 percent less overall space than the earlier GAU-12, 5-barrel 25mm gun. The new GAU-22 weapon has a reported rate of fire of “up to 3,300 rounds per minute”. The rate of fire of aerial guns is often reported as “up to…” since the gun can take several seconds to achieve its maximum rate of fire because of the weight of the rotating gun barrels.
The successful in-flight test firing of the 25mm gun pod (started at the end of February), specifically on the U.S. Marine Corps F-35B, somehow addresses questions over the F-35 program’s ability to perform the close air support mission…..
Lt. General Davis, the Deputy Commandant of Aviation highlighted the flexibility of the F-35B in comments made in 2015:
The aircraft’s ability to alternate between accessing contested areas and deliverying heavy fire power based on the needs of any given sortie “I think for our adversaries will be quite worrisome, for us should be a source of great comfort,” Deputy Commandant of the Marine Corps for Aviation Lt. Gen. Jon Davis said.
“No other airplane can go from fifth to fourth and back to fifth again. I’m buying pylons for the airplane. I get the pylons in 3F software, which comes in 2017. [With the pylons] I can load up an F-35B with about 3,000 pounds more ordnance than I can put on an F-18 right now,” Davis said.
“So I can have an airplane that does fifth-generation stuff for the opening salvo of the fight.
“When I have to go to level of effort, I can load the pylons on, load ordnance on there, do level of effort, come back, sail to another part of the world, take the pylons off and go do the fifth-generation thing again. …
“It offers us tremendous capability for the Marine Corps that’s going to have one type/model/series aircraft that can go fourth and fifth gen, give us that fighter capability, give us that attack capability that we need in the out years.”
Editor’s Note: One should also note that the F-35B can operate from the sea and return to the sea base.
Try doing that with an A-10.
Video by Lance Cpl. Jamie Arzola
Headquarters Marine Corps