Rheinmetall Supplies Ammunition for USAF F-35s: Working to Expand to RAAF


In 2017, Rheinmetall announced that they had won a contract to supply ammunition for the USAF’s F-35s. In a March 6, 2017 press release, the company announced the contract.

Rheinmetall has just booked an order from the US Air Force to supply ammunition for the F-35 stealth multirole fighter. The contract, worth over US$6.5 million (6.2 € million), encompasses the supply of several ten thousand rounds in four lots. Delivery starts in December 2017. 

The order is of major strategic significance to Rheinmetall for two reasons. For one thing, the US Air Force is currently procuring the F-35 on a large scale, with 1,200 planes on order. Numerous other nations have opted for the new aircraft as well, among them Denmark, the United Kingdom, Italy, Canada, the Netherlands, Turkey and Japan. For another, the ammunition selected – the new 25mm x 137 Frangible Armour Piercing (FAP) – complements Rheinmetall’s existing array of high-performance aircraft ammunition, allowing the Düsseldorf, Germany-based Group to bring its full expertise to bear in the field of aircraft armament. This means that further major orders can be expected, especially since the first user nations are already ordering smaller amounts of this advanced ammunition for testing purposes. 

The FAP round was specifically developed by Rheinmetall for, and in conjunction with, NATO air forces to provide the F-35 with superior lethality against modern Infantry Fighting Vehicles (IFVs) at extreme slant ranges while still remaining deadly against enemy aircraft in air-to-air engagements. The 25mm x 137 FAP is a true all-purpose cartridge that is already in service with the F-35s of two NATO nations. 

Manufacture of the ammunition for the US Air Force will take place at Rheinmetall Switzerland. Rheinmetall intends to have the ammunition of possible follow-up contracts assembled in the USA by Rheinmetall Day & Zimmermann Munitions (RDZM), a joint venture that operates out of Rosslyn, Virginia. American Rheinmetall Munitions and Day & Zimmermann established the joint venture in autumn 2016. Other potential customers will be supplied from locations belonging to Rheinmetall Waffe Munition Schweiz AG.

Now the company is working to expand its engagement with the global F-35 program.

In an article by Andrew McLaughlin published in the Australian Defence Business Review on February 25, 2019, the efforts of the company in Australia were highlighted.

Rheinmetall Defence Australia has offered a new 25mm munition specifically designed for the F-35 Lightning II JSF to Australia.

Rheinmetall says the 25mm frangible armour piercing (FAP) ammunition designed for the F-35’s GAU-22/A gun is already in service with the USAF with the PGU-48/B designation. It offers superior lethality against air and ground targets by combining high penetration performance, versatility, reliability, low dispersion and handling safety. 

“The 25mm FAP is a true all-purpose munition for the 21st century,” Rheinmetall Defence Australia Managing Director Gary Stewart said in a statement. “Importantly, the FAP technology contains no explosives, ensuring maximum safety in the aircraft or in storage and transportation, as well as enabling it to be used in training.” 

If adopted by the RAAF and manufactured in Australia, the 25mm FAP ammunition would further expand Rheinmetall’s local munitions activities. The company is working with its munitions partner NIOA to establish and operate a $60 million, 155mm artillery shell forging facility, in Queensland. 

The FAP round was specifically developed by Rheinmetall for NATO F-35 operators to provide a non-depleted uranium and non-high explosive cartridge with superior lethality against armoured vehicles at extreme slant ranges, while still remaining effective against aircraft in air-to-air engagements.