Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Now that's a gun

EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. - You have your guns and then you have your guns. And one of the guns tested at Eglin Air Force Base is the GAU-8/A - a rather non-descript name for a cannon that's so big and bad, it accounts for 16 percent of an A-10's weight.

Here's some details, according to a story by Eglin's public affairs office: Mounted on an A-10 Thunderbolt II, the cannon can fire 4,000 rounds per minute with a muzzle velocity of 3,500 feet per second. The percussion is so loud that two sets of ear protection must be worn during testing, which rattles the doors of the facility.

The GAU-8/A is nearly 20 feet long and weighs about two tons – some 16 percent of the A-10’s weight. It's one of the largest, heaviest and most powerful aircraft cannon in the U.S. military.

The Air Force buys the 30 mm ammunition from two vendors, which bid for each year's order. Before a purchase, a 500-round batch of the ammo must be tested to ensure there are no flaws. That's done by a team of engineers at the Gun and Ammunition test facility on Range A-22 at Eglin Air Force Base.

The team fires the weapon in bursts of 2.3 seconds, pumping out more than 150 rounds, and checks for fragmentation of the rounds with high-speed cameras. Bullet velocity and dispersion is another aspect of testing.

Once all the data is collected, the team sends the information to analysts at Hill Air Force Base, Utah. Upon approval, the ammunition is then introduced to the supply system.

Big and bad seems to be a favorite at Eglin. This is the same base that tested the "mother of all bombs" back in 2003. The MOAB (Massive Ordnance Air Blast) was dropped from a C-130.

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