The Air Force variant of the Joint Strike Fighter fired 181 rounds from its four-barrel, 25-mm Gatling gun this month in a ground test at Edwards AFB, Calif., the Joint Strike Fighter program office announced Aug. 20. Ground testing started June 9, using a production version of the gun and a target practice round, and is expected to be complete this month. Airborne gun testing will begin in late September, and the gun will be operational by the end of the system development and demonstration phase in 2017, according to the program office. The gun is embedded in the left wing of the F-35A and will allow pilots to strafe targets on the ground or in the air. But because the F-35 is a stealth aircraft, the gun must be hidden behind a door until the trigger is engaged. Testing is meant to certify that the door opens properly and that the gun can spin up and down correctly. The Marine Corps declared initial operational capability on its version of the F-35 on July 31; the Air Force expects to declare IOC next fall. (Watch a video of the test.)
The U.S. supports “a stronger and more capable” European defense, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III said during an Oct. 22 press conference in Brussels—but that defense should not duplicate the functions and capabilities of the NATO alliance.