This man is a U.S. Air Force Tactical Air Control Party (TACP) member, talking about the Close Air Support (CAS) assets currently available to our ground forces fighting radical islamists in Southwest Asia. This individual is a qualified Joint Terminal Attack Controller (JTAC), which means he is the one who calls in airstrikes and rain down hate and judgment on the enemy. In short, he is a CAS expert.
What aircraft does he want providing CAS? The Fairchild Republic A-10 Thunderbolt II. Lately there has been a lot of controversy over the Department of Defense’s plan to retire the U.S. Air Force’s A-10 fleet. Lots of folks, myself included, think that’s a bad idea. Reports from Iraqi news agencies say the U.S. A-10s in specific cause “panic” among the ISIS terrorists during air strikes.
That fact definitely adds to controversy over the discussion. To fuel that fire a little bit more, let’s look at one of the reasons why JTACs like the one in the video say the A-10 dominates the CAS role: The Gun.
The Warthog is armed with a General Dynamics GAU-8/A Avenger seven-barrel 30mm cannon. Mounted in the nose of the aircraft, the A-10 is capable of disabling a main battle tank from more than 4 miles away. The cannon can fire a range of ammunition, usually uses a mix armor-piercing and high explosive ammunition.
The PGU-14/B Armor Piercing Incendiary round has a projectile weight of about 14.0 oz and PGU-13/B High Explosive Incendiary round packs a 13.3 oz projectile. The Hog’s magazine can hold up to 1,350 rounds of ammunition. Originally the pilot could select a firing rate of 2,100 or 4,200 rounds a minute. Later modification created a single rate of 3,900 rpm.
Now let’s compare The A-10’s Avenger to other CAS assets. We can skip the The Rockwell B-1B Lancer and the General Atomic MQ-1 Predator don’t have guns. The Lockheed-Martin F-16 Fighting Falcon and Boeing F-15E Strike Eagle carry a General Dynamics M61A1 six-barrel 20mm Vulcan cannon with 511 and 450 rounds respectively. This Gatling gun as been the standard U.S. military aircraft gun for the past 50 years. The typical ammo used is the PGU-28A/B SAPHEI round with a 3.61 oz projectile. This multi-purpose round uses a combination of amour-piercing incendiary high explosive capability.
What about the new Air Force version of the Lockheed-Martin F-35A Lightning II? It uses an internally mounted General Dynamics GAU-22/A four-barrel 25mm cannon. Based on the 25mm Gatling gun used in the AV-8B Harrier II and the Lockheed Martin AC-130U, it fires up to 3,300 rounds per minute. The TTL has a magazine capacity of 182 rounds. The F-35’s cannon uses PGU-20/U armor-piercing incendiary ammunition with a projectile weight of 7.4 oz or the PGU-22 and PGU-25 high explosive incendiary round with a 6.4 oz projectile. It should be noted that the F-35 won’t be able to even use it’s gun when it initially becomes operational next year. The software upgrade making it’s four-barrel cannon will be available a few years down the road.
I’m a Herc driver and I like to keep things simple, so here is some simple math:
- 1,350 rounds of 30mm @ 3,900 rpm = 20 seconds of fire (10, 2 sec bursts)
- 511 rounds of 20mm @ 6,000 rpm = 5 seconds of fire (2.5, 2 sec bursts)
- 182 rounds of 25 mm @ 3,000 rpm = 3 seconds of fire (1.5, 2 sec bursts)
Weight-wise, the A-10’s 30mm projectile is twice as big as the F-35’s 25mm projectile and over 3.5 times bigger than the 20mm projectile used in the F-16.
So my question is this, which aircraft would you want supporting you or your sons and daughters in the field? Me, I want the A-10. It provides a much greater quantity of more effective firepower than any other aircraft. The first video offers a quick glimpse of that firepower. One thing you’ll never hear U.S. ground forces say? “I wish our CAS aircraft had a smaller gun, with less ammo.”