F-35 Pilots Are Mostly Not Allowed to Fire 25mm Gun and It is Inaccurate When Used

Nextbigfuture has covered the massive amounts of problems with the F-35 Stealth fighters. There will be trillions of dollars wasted on 2000-3000 F-35 jets.

This is not a blogger griping about some perceived issues. This is early release information from the Office of the Secretary of Defense’s director for operational test and evaluation (DOT&E), Robert Behler.

The previous 2018 test and evaluation report is here.

This is government auditors and testers telling the taxpayer how bad things are with a $428 billion program. Basic capabilities for a military plane would be to have guns that are accurate. Another basic would not have cracks on gun mounts that so bad that the pilots are told to pretty much never shoot the guns. These problems go along with a still-growing list of software problems.

The F-35 was supposed to be a more affordable option than the F-22. The F-35 will be as expensive or more expensive than the F-22s. The F-35s are less capable than the F-22. We could have paid less for F-22s and got more.

There are comparisons of the F-22 versus the F-35. The F-22 has higher per unit costs but they only bought about 200 of them. The unit cost of the F-22 would have come down, just as the unit cost of the F-35 started high but came down some. The F-35 will have extra costs because all of the software and hardware problems.

The F-35 is a Lockheed Martin product. How have the two main airplane providers for the US Lockheed Martin and Boeing fallen so far? It seems if you are not accountable for delivering over-priced crappy products and lemons then you will deliver crappy products and lemons.

There should be hearings and accountability on these issues. The US has the technological capability to build quality planes and affordable military systems. However, we would have to switch to companies under the guidance of Elon Musk or other technologists.

By late September 2019, 490 F-35s had been delivered and will require extensive retrofitting. The testing office said those planes were equipped with six different versions of software, with another on the way. There are now about 1,000 planes will be in the hands of the U.S. and foreign militaries.

The 25mm gun on Air Force models of the Joint Strike Fighter has “unacceptable” accuracy in hitting ground targets and is mounted in housing that’s cracking.

The gun mounts cracking is forcing the Air Force to restrict the gun’s use. The program office has “made progress with changes to gun installation” to improve accuracy but they haven’t been tested yet, according to the report.

Let me emphasize that F-35 pilots are mostly not permitted to use the 25mm gun and if they do use then it will be highly inaccurate.

The US Air Force has tried to claim that the F-35 could replace the A-10 Warthog for close air support. Close air support would need the 25 mm gun.

* Annual Pentagon testing report also finds 873 software issues
* It cites 13 ‘must-fix’ items before $22 billion upgrade phase

42 thoughts on “F-35 Pilots Are Mostly Not Allowed to Fire 25mm Gun and It is Inaccurate When Used”

  1. The current built-in gun on the F-35A may be a joke.

    But, DARPA has made interesting progress on guided small caliber munitions for the EXACTO project and similar, effectively allowing guided 50 caliber rounds. For a CAS mission, having a slower cannon (rather than gatling) firing precision guided rounds guided by the F-35’s sensor suite would change the game significantly. One could make the argument a ventral gunpod like the one for the marines F-35B, reconfigured for a precision guided round cannon for CAS roles, would be a superior offering.

    Now the current gun sucking may be problematic for air-to-air roles though, but that’s a different problem.

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  2. 1) Its not invisible
    2) Its can only carry 4-6 internally im guessing those are sidewinders. Modern version of the f-15 can carry how many and has superior air to air performance.
    3)the F-15 didn’t cost trillions and take over 25 years to make.

    There are others but ill get back to those another time.

    Honestly they should have just gone for a bomb truck for the AF and bought more F-22.
    Navy should have gotten the tomcat 21….it was simply amazing. They were working on it (far fewer parts so it was easier to work on and more reliable…better engines etc) and also a super upgrade of the A-6 that was insane.

    Killed it for the A-12

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  3. It was designed with one mission in mind: destroy Soviet tank columns moving west in Europe.

    That’s why it has the 30mm cannon with DU rounds. That’s why it flies low and slow. That’s why it is built like a tank. That’s why it carries 7,000kg of weapons. That’s why it was designed to loiter for long periods of time. That’s why it is built to lose an engine to enemy fire and fly home.

    All those aspects apart from the cannon make it excellent for CAS. Again, design a 30mm HE round to make the cannon excellent for CAS. Of course this won’t happen because the A-10 is managed by the Air Force and they don’t want to admit that helping ground pounders is “a thing”.

    Congress should recreate the Army air corps and give them CAS duties.

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  4. At the time they developed weapons to deal with plate armour.
    Maces, warhammers and various pole arms like halberds and pole axes. All had the ability to hit a lot harder than a sword, and either rely on percussion to crush the plate or concentrate the blow on a spike that could piece the armour.
    And naturally, plate armour was further developed to defend against exactly these weapons, though at the expense of greater weight, less ease of movement, and greater cost.

    Of course plate armour was eventually defeated with powerful firearms where it was fairly straightforward to increase the power to the point where fully protective armour would be too heavy to function in.

    And yes, I see the point that all of these, even a big stick, would be more effective than a swiss army knife. Which is why the Swiss army also had pole weapons.

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  5. I am not a ordinance engineer but it sure seems possible to me to make a 30mm HE round that is intentionally inaccurate(ish) so that you accomplish dispersal for ground targets.

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  6. The A-10 was designed around the gun. Hard to beat a purpose built aircraft with one that tries to be a bunch of things. Heptathletes never set the world record for any of their events.

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  7. It seems to me that plate mail protects against everything: pointed weapons, slashing weapons, blunt
    weapons, arrows. Perhaps a heavy mace, boiling oil
    if possible.

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  8. That gun can still wreak havoc on the supply columns, behind the front lines
    and can do so economically, Hellfire missiles are not cheap. Further, the Hog
    is rugged, one big hit sends it back, not down. The F-35 should render
    permissive what is not.

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  9. Well… except for the huge numbers of countries, especially the sort of the countries the USA is likely to get into a war with, who are still using T-62s, or the Chinese/North Korean equivalents.
    Or Toyota Hilux with a machine gun.

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  10. My understanding is that

    The A-10 is basically the most perfect aircraft devised by humanity.

    is akin to saying that

    The Lamborghini Countach is basically the most perfect supercar devised by humanity.

    For it’s time (the 1970s) it was spectacularly good, and has an amazing aesthetic appeal that still holds lots of fans. But up against a modern equivalent it wouldn’t have a chance.

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  11. If I had to list the weapons I would choose to use against plate mail armour, in decreasing order of preference, a two-handed sword wouldn’t even be on the first page.

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  12. Using aircraft guns against light ground targets like trucks, machine guns or trenches works very well then you integrated the autopilot and the targeting system for the gun. It has been used to shoot trough windows.

    No its not something you want to do then fighting an serious enemy with lots of air defense but realistically and hopefully it will be fighting terrorists and doing peacekeeping.

    However that happens if two stealth planes fight each other. Say you are on air patrol in an F-35 and you get an report of an nearby bombing by an stealth plane.

    But integrating the VTOL in the same air-frame was probably an mistake.
    Make an VTOL based on the F-35, share engine, stealth and software but use an modified airframe for vtol.

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  13. WE need major reform on how these giant contracts are handled. Cost+ needs to die as well. The F-35 is still a great aircraft, but Lockheed must step it up to have a shot at any future contracts. I don’t really care about the 25mm gun, as its pointless, the F-22 should also not have had a gun. Which was one thing the YF-23 had correct, guns on modern fighter jets is absurd.

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  14. Starting over would just be more expensive. If you stop production then you will have to engineer new planes. As painful as it is moving forward is best.

    BTW, if a F-35 needs its gun then a lot of other things had to have gone wrong first. The entire idea of the F-35 is for it to kill you without you ever noticing it was in the area. If it can’t do that then that’s when it is truly a failure.

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  15. And the P-51 was a dud until the Merlin engine…
    And the F-15 had dozens of grounding in it’s first decade, some for a simple inspection, others for major component replacement
    And if the F-35 needs to use it’s cannon in air to air, he’s already lost…
    Find us an F-35 pilot who says the aircraft is a POS…you won’t. They enjoy sitting up there at angels 50+, invisible, shooting down aerial targets like clay pigeons.

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  16. Did the ghost of your dead boyfriend, the indefeatable Saurman Soleimani tell you all that?

    Dont hold your breath waiting on all that stuff bozo!

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  17. The A-10 would be roadkill in a non-permissive environment. I love
    the Warthog, have a model on my shelf, it has passed its prime.

    The plan with the 35 is to use superior sensors to allow CAS at a safe stand-off distance where it won’t get shredded by manpads, small sams and short range radar guided cannons like found on a Tunguska.

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  18. In before someone complains that the F-4 needed guns 55 years ago because missiles suck. And we know electronics haven’t improved one iota in 55 years.

    And Brian, the 30mm cannon on the Warthog is the most worthless thing nowadays for CAS. You need something with HE to hit dispersed people, the 30 was designed to penetrate the top armor on a T-62. We have better weapons to take out tanks now.

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  19. Against plate mail armor, I would rather fight with a two-handed sword.
    That gatling gun put on the tip of the Starship could well make the first
    space warship. If something can stand it, it is too heavy to be put in orbit.

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  20. Exactly. Saying the gun is subpar is an understatement. It was added to assuage the delicate stomachs of the Air Force generals.

    It isn’t a dog fighter. It can’t maneuver like a dog fighter, it can’t shoot like one either. It is meant to shoot missiles and to be mostly invisible.

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  21. This is called finding out the hard way that they need to make 3 different fighter jet models For each branch of DOD instead of one Jet that’s good at nothing… the hard lesson is learning what parts are common to all three … it’s like a vent diagram… they tried to make Just one circle with all 3 circles on top of each other…

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  22. All the differences between F-22 and F-35 can be reduced to two key ones: F-22 was designed during war time (requirements in 1981, YF-22 first flight in 1990), while F-35 is a post-war make-work project (requirements in 1994, F-35A first flight in 2006); F-22 was designed by Adults (programmed in Ada), while F-35 was designed by monkeys (and programmed in monkey code). That is why, in particular, it is suddenly a great problem to make a gun shoot straight, while grandfathers had aircraft bristling with guns, and they all worked well and completely code-free.

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  23. F-35 is multi-purpose, but its primary mission is not as a general purpose aircraft. It will be replacing the F-117 in the first wave of the air war. F-22s will do most of the hot dogging, while F-35 will be the data hub for the electronic battlespace while shepherding drones. In this role the gun is a wasted feature that brass felt needed to be added. It may be needed later in some other role, but any pilot who allows themselves to be drawn into a dogfight needs to have his/her wings revoked.

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  24. Because there are no lasers to equip it with right now and there won’t be for a long time because, at a minimum, there’s a large power supply and regulator needed to go along with that laser.

    And because the USAF isn’t going to want to relearn the Vietnam lesson when we started dropping cannons before the missiles were ready for primetime and then we got into dogfights we couldn’t do anything in because the missiles didn’t work right and the cannon wasn’t there.

    And the F-35 is an *all-purpose* craft. Its not an air superiority fighter. Its multi-role and one of those roles is CAS.

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  25. This could be expected. When you have all your military contractors merge, you have no competition. Winner takes all contracts are also stupid. We should have ordered both competing aircraft for both the programs that resulted in the F-22 and F-35. The maker making more faster and better gets to sell more. The other would sell less…but continue to sell some.
    We make the F-35 because we needed a fighter we could export that was modern enough that allies would want it, and the F-22 was deemed just too critical to export. The F-22 is a larger 2-engine aircraft. You can put more F-35s on a carrier.
    Drones are the future anyway. We don’t need to keep making these for the US. We need new more capable drones. Sad, I know. But just as there are no more horses used by the Army…

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  26. Yes and they are nuts. The A-10 is basically the most perfect aircraft devised by humanity.

    The “F-35 will replace the A-10” was a byproduct of budget issues that are no longer in place. There is no political way to eliminate the A-10. Every congressman who was in the Army or Marines will vote to keep it due to it having saved their lives more than once and some (McSally) are Warthog pilots.

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  27. some in the US air force have tried to push the F-35 as close air support replacement for the A-10 Warthog. They have said that the -F35 is a swiss army knife for all kinds of uses.

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  28. Why does the F-35 have a cannon? Will it still have its cannon when it is equipped with a laser?

    Future air combat isn’t thought to involve old-school dogfights. The future of air to air combat is missiles and lasers, not cannons and maneuverability.

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