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General Electrics A-10 30mm Gatling Gun

General Electrics A-10 30mm Gatling Gun

The U.S. Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt Armed with the Deadly and A-10 30mm Gatling Gun…

Here is a great article we received in an email from one of our readers. It is one of the only few anti-tank aircraft ever made and one of the only two still in service today. You gotta love the aircraft and the weapons. What a beast! The General Electric GAU-8/A Avenger is a 30 mm, hydraulically-driven seven-barrel Gatling-type rotary cannon that is mounted on the United States Air Force’s Fairchild Republic A-10 Thunderbolt II. It is among the largest, heaviest and most powerful aircraft cannons in the United States military. Designed specifically for the anti-tank role, the Avenger delivers very powerful rounds at a high rate of fire.

First there was this gun …

a-30mm gatlin gun

A-30mm Gatlin Gun

It was developed by General Electric, the “We bring good things to life” people. It’s one of the modern-day Gatling guns. It shoots very big bullets. It shoots them very quickly.

Someone said, “Let’s put it in an airplane.”

Someone else said, “Better still, let’s build an airplane around it.”

a-10 thunderbolt

A-10 Thunderbolt

So they did. And “they” were the Fairchild-Republic airplane people.

And they had done such a good job with an airplane they developed back in WWII …

…called the P-47 Thunderbolt, they decided to call it the A10 Thunderbolt.

They made it so it was very good at flying low and slow and shooting things with that fabulous gun.

But since it did fly low and slow, they made it bulletproof, or almost so. A lot of bad guys have found you can shoot an A10 with anything from a pistol to a 23mm Soviet cannon and it just keeps on flying and shooting.

When they got through, it looked like this …

a-10 thunderbolts

Formation Of A-10 Thunderbolts

It’s not sleek and sexy like an F18 or the stealthy Raptors and such, but I think it’s such a great airplane because it does what it does better than any other plane in the world.

It kills tanks.

Not only tanks, as Sadam Hussein’s boys found out to their horror, but armored personnel carriers, radar stations, locomotives, bunkers, fuel depots … just about anything the bad guys thought was bulletproof turned out to be easy pickings for this beast.

a-10 thunderbolt

A-10 Thunderbolt In Flight

See those engines. One of them alone will fly this puppy. The pilot sits in a very thick titanium alloy “bathtub.”

That’s typical of the design.

They were smart enough to make every part the same whether mounted on the left side or right side of the plane, like landing gear, for instance.

Because the engines are mounted so high (away from ground debris) and the landing gear uses such low pressure tires, it can operate from a damaged airport, interstate highway, plowed field, or dirt road.

Everything is redundant. They have two of almost everything. Sometimes they have three of something. Like flight controls. There’s triple redundancy of those, and even if there is a total failure of the double hydraulic system, there is a set of manual flying controls.

damaged but functional a-10 thunderbolt

Damaged Sutained To Still Functional A-10 Thunderbolt

Capt. Kim Campbell sustained this damage over Bagdad and flew for another hour before
she returned to base. But, back to that gun …

It’s so hard to grasp just how powerful it is.

.50 browning and 20mm cannon rounds

.50 Browning and 20mm Cannon Rounds

This is the closest I could find to showing you just what this cartridge is all about. What the guy is holding is NOT the 30mm round, but a “little” .50 Browing machinegun round and the 20mm cannon round which has been around for a long time.

The 30mm is MUCH bigger.

20mm - 30mm comparison

20mm - 30mm Comparison

Down at the bottom are the .50 BMG and 20×102 Vulcan the fellow was holding. At the bottom right is the bad boy we’re discussing.

Let’s get some perspective here: The .223 Rem (M16 rifle round) is fast. It shoots a 55 or so grain bullet at about 3300 feet/sec, give or take. It’s the fastest of all those rounds shown (except one). When you move up to the ..30 caliber rounds, the bullets jump up in weight to 160-200 grains. Speeds run from about 2600 to 3000 fps or so.

The .338 Lapua is the king of the sniper rifles these days and shoots a 350 grain bullet at 2800 fps or so. They kill bad guys at over a mile with that one.

The .50 BMG is really big. It’s really huge with a bullet that weighs 750 grains and goes as fast the Lapua.

I don’t have data on the Vulcan, but hang on to your hat.

The bullet for the 30×173 Avenger has an aluminum jacket around a spent uranium core and weighs 6560 grains (yes, over 100 times as heavy as the M16 bullet, and flies through the air at 3500 fps (which is faster than the M16 as well).

The gun shoots at a rate of 4200 rounds per minute. Yes, four thousand. Pilots typically shoot either one- or two-second burst which set loose 70 to 150 rounds. The system is optimized for shooting at 4,000 feet.

OK, the best for last.

You’ve got a pretty good idea of how big that cartridge is, but I’ll bet you’re like me and you don’t fully appreciate how big the GA GAU-8 Avenger really is.

Take a look …

gau-8 a-30mm gatlin gun vw beetle comparison

A-30mm Avenger Cannon

Each of those seven barrels is 112″ long. That’s almost ten feet. The entire gun is 19-1/2 feet long.

Think how impressive it would look set up in your living room.

Oh, by the way, it doesn’t eject the empty shells but runs them back into the storage drum. There’s just so dang many flying out, they felt it might damage the aircraft.

a-10 thunderbolt 2

A-10 Thunderbolt

Oh yeah, I forgot, they can hang those bomb and rocket things on em too, just in case. After all, it is an airplane!
Like I said, this is a beautiful design.



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10 Comments

  1. wow. it’s wonderful. I haven’t seen upto now, how it is inbuilt.

  2. The A10 is an awesome aircraft.  I recently got to see an A10 demo at our local airshow.   It was just amazing,  how nimble this aircraft is and how quickly it can turn. They were stating a single A-10 can engage a target, turn around, and re-enage that target every 30-40 secs,  two A10s working together can terrorize a target every 10-15 secs.

  3. It’s GATLING gun. gatlinG gun. NOT GATLIN.

    Such a small but massive error.

  4. Ahoy:
      I like to have two A-10 on flots.

  5. Ahoy:

              One of the A-10  with a 17 Rem with spent uraniun core ammo or a 338 Larua.

  6. We should honor the memory of Dr. Richard J. Gatling by spelling his name correctly.

  7. HELL!! we will be needing these gadgets to OBLITERATE those Damn Islamists Terrorists in the island of Mindanao!!!

  8. During the Mexican revolution, the hand cranked Gatling gun was used to obliterate huge crowds of civilians lined up next to ditches dug up by Caterpillar tractors.
    God bless Gatling and Caterpillar…The southwest would already be lost if that self ethnic cleansing had not occurred!

  9. hi,if can you please forward email for me with photo and animation of design gatling new gan.tank you very much

  10. These Gun and also these planes look like they are used for the wrong thing, however it is things like these that keep America on top. things like these planes and these kind of tanks is what keeps states concurred and under fear. If these got in to the wrong hands there would not be much that could stop them.

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