The only gun on baord the Joint Strike Fighter will be a 4-barreled Gatling cannon. The 25mm GAU-22 will carry about 200 rounds and will fire at a rate of 3300 rounds per minute. This means that although the gun will have extremely rapid and powerful firing capabilities, the entire stock of ammunition will be used up in less than four seconds. This will be less of a problem for the F-35 than it would be for fourth generation aircraft because the F-35 relies on its missiles so heavily for offense and will avoid dogfights as much as possible. The gun would only be used for defense in the projected rare case that a dogfight does occur. When missile technology first came about, experts believed that dogfights would become extinct. The first new planes in the missile era, like the F-4 Phantom, carried no gun and were outmatched when the inevitable close range battle broke out. The aviation community has since learned its lesson as all modern American fighters carry a gun or cannon. The F-35A conventional fighter will carry its gun internally mounted over the pilot’s left shoulder, similar to the mounting on the F-22. The B and C will carry the gun in an attached pod under the aircraft that will allow for slightly more rounds or the option to detach the gun and carry extra fuel, missiles, or whatever the mission calls for. The GAU-22 is designed and manufactured by General Dynamics and is based on the companies successful GAU-12 used on the Harrier. The main difference between the two is that the newer gun has only four barrels to the GAU-12’s five. This will make the gun significantly lighter and more compact. This change will also reportedly make the gun more accurate while maintaining a similar muzzle velocity.
To see a History Channel “Dogfights” episode on the F-4 Phantom and the onset of the missile age, please visit the F-35C Forum.