GAU-8/A Avenger

GAU-8 Avenger

Okay, we usually just blog about firearms that you can actually get your hands on. Most people will never get the opportunity to get anywhere near one of these machines, but that doesn’t mean we can’t drool on it. It is what makes the A-10 so damn impressive. This is one of the most proven and effective tools in the U.S. Military’s arsenal—the venerable GAU-8/A Avenger.

GAU-8 Avenger
GAU-8 Avenger

Need something completely decimated? Sweet. You’ve come to the right place. The Avenger fires an absolutely huge 30mm projectile. Not to be confused with a .30 caliber projectile, the 30x173mm NATO makes the .50 BMG look like a dinky little .22 LR. Specifically designed for autocannons, warfighters use the 30x173mm for anti-material, armor-defeating and bunker busting roles.

General Electric developed this massive gun for the purpose of delivering an intense amount of firepower to its target. It eats leftover cold war tanks for breakfast and does it with a good amount of panache.

Fairchild-Republic used their experience from building planes in the Second World War and attempted to design a plane around the gun itself, rather than retrofitting the gun onto an existing platform. The result was a close air support asset that could fly low and slow with a huge level of survivability. It doesn’t have the sleek lines of an F-15 or the speed and stealth of an F-22 Raptor, but it decimates enemy armor and clears paths through whatever needs doing away with. It takes hits from all kinds of enemy munitions and keeps on flying. This aircraft is almost indestructible. Before Operation Desert Storm, the Pentagon considered retiring the A-10 and rolling the close air support mission into other platforms. However, the Warthog earned its place and proved absolutely invaluable during allied operations.

When Compared to a VW Beetle
When Compared to a VW Beetle

The GAU-8/A has seven barrels that spin on a hydraulic motor. It fires a variety of munitions, including depleted uranium armor-piercing and incendiary rounds. Current models allow the pilot to fire at 3,900 rounds per minute. The cannon takes about half a second to spin up, which dumps about 50 rounds in the first second. It continues to fire between 65 and 70 rounds per second thereafter. A fully loaded drum will hold 1,350 rounds of 30mm ammunition.

Oddly, the Avenger doesn’t sit in the middle of the aircraft. They mounted it slightly to one side, but put the firing barrel on the centerline of the A-10 for easier shooting. Designers used this arrangement to help minimize the effect of the gun’s massive recoil. Without this design, the spinning cannon would push the aircraft off target. The recoil measures in at about 10,000 pounds-force. This is greater than the force of its two jet engines. The gun is so powerful, it slows down the entire aircraft even when it is in a nosedive! I would never want to be on the business end of something so deadly and powerful.

Cartridge 30x173mm
Caliber 30mm
Barrels 7-barrel (progressive RH parabolic twist, 14 grooves)
Action Electric-Motor, Hydraulic-Driven
Rate of fire up to 4,200
Muzzle Velocity 3,500 ft/s (1,070 m/s)
Effective range 4,000 feet
Maximum range Over 12,000 feet
Feed system Linkless Feed System
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Comments (73)

  1. Early on in the development stage of the A10 there was a duel gun pod system expirmented with. If I remember correctly they tryed M60’s, M2’s and the short barrle GE Six Pac as close ground support options don’t know that they went beyond the test stage

  2. I was around during R&D of the Thunderbolt II. Two of the reasons the acft doesn’t slow or stall; normally fired in a nose down attitude, and the flight computers actually input a tiny bit of nose down into the flight controls when the gun is fired. Would have loved to flown and fired one of those beasts, but someone had to be on the ground turning wrenches.
    Side Note: While doing weapons upload/download training in the 3rd TFW, someone got the wild idea to hang 3 external 20mm cannons under a F-4E which already has a gun in the chin. It was just a joke and they were to be removed right after they were hung, but word spread fast and some pilot types came out to see it. Long story short, I heard somebody flew the damn thin configured that way! One in the chin, one on the centerline, and one under each wing. Must have been awesome!

  3. The A10 is really not ugly. It is beautiful. The way it moves is like a crop duster with a smart aleck pilot showing off. It is graceful – flying like no other military aircraft since WW2. It would be neat if they had a special model that carried four 50 BMG 50 pods for anti personel. Something about sending 200+ bullets (tracers all of them) downrange would create terror beyond imagination because the streaaks would appear to be almost continuous beams. The sound of the GAU8 is frightenning.

  4. We have two 30x173mm NATO on our mantel whose casings (uranium depleted with replica projectiles) were fired in battle in Iraq alone with the battle flag that flew over the A-10 attack base from which they came.

  5. Hey Bobby,
    I’m pretty sure the Brits didn’t have a 37mm anti-tank rifle. They did have a BOYS, .55 cal anti tank rifle. There were several 37mm anti tank artillery prices that could be towed by a jeep and served by a crew of as few as 3.

  6. As a former Hog Driver – there are a couple of myths that need to be dispelled -1) The gun recoil does NOT slow the airplane down. If you hold the trigger down amd fire a continuous burst, after a few seconds 3-4 the residual heat in the barrels tend to cause them to warp slightly and decreases the accuracy. 2)Each of the A-10’s engines produce 8900 lbs of thrust, so there’s no chance of stalling as a result of an extra long burst. When fired the gun spin up and recoil tends to kick the nose down slightly, but this is easily anticipated by the pilot and presents no real problems. I understand that the LASTE modified A-10’s did not experience this slight kick. Although impressive, the GAU-8 would not penetrate the front armor of the latest Soviet/Russian T-80 tanks.

  7. as to comments about a 30mm bolt action rifle well the brits had a 37mm rifle called the boyds aint tank rifle as far back as the early stages of ww2 was used in the north africa desert

  8. I had personal (non lethal) encounter with a brace of A-10s. As a twenty-something farmer in the mid seventies I was driving a John Deere 3020 pulling an Iron Age potato planter through a field on a farm miles deep in the North Florida pine woods. I,m sleepily chugging through the field a 4 mph when a tremendous sound like the world ending causes me to slam on brakes trying to figure what the H is happening. My brother dove off the back of the planter and was looking for some place to hide. Two A-10s flew over our heads at tree top level from directly behind us. After I got my heart out of my throat I put the tractor back in gear, my brother climbed back onto the planter and we recommenced planting. The pilots enjoyed scaring us half to death so much 5 minutes later they did it again. This time I knew what that crashing roar was and just waved at them with one finger as they circled the field then flew away.

  9. As a retired GE employee I must clarify that the engines pulse in sync with the gun to compensate thrust vs recoil.

  10. I worked in the DC region and every year there was a military display on The Mall. I remember talking with a couple of Marine CAS Cobra pilots and just out of curiosity asked them if in the CAS realm what they thought of the A10. Their eyes lit up and said that if the wings folded for carrier ops, [the Marines] would love to have the A10 for CAS I bet they would!

  11. I spent time as a long range ground recon guy in the air force, and the a10 was one of the primary planes we controlled, not to mention my favorite. Out of every weapon the air force has, the a10 is by far the most reliable and destructive piece of firepower we have in support of boots on the ground. When the gua8 went off, you could hear it for miles, it was one of the strangest sounds ive ever heard. Controlling that aircraft was one of my most memorable experiences in the air force, and their pilots were some of the coolest guys around. The a10 was slow but it really got in there if you know what I mean, the pilots had to be alittle egdey cause they couldnt rely on speed or steath, it was a true grit kind of aircraft. ive had the opportunity to get very close to the gua8 on many occasions and its totally mindblowing what the engineers behind it were able to do. By far one of the coolest things to see and its a damn shame their slowly taking it out of service and replacing it with drones basically. One more bad decision passed down through the ranks in my opinion, im just glad I got to see it in action and the power it had, nowhere to run, nowhere to hide is what we used to say. Hoorah

  12. The GAU-8A and it’s aircraft, the fabulous A-10, are state of the art in CAS, even though the USAF brass would so dearly like to bury it because it isn’t sexy. So soon they forget.

    It really wasn’t so long ago that the United States Army Air Force was up to it’s eyeballs against the Luftwaffe over Europe. The first fighter they had that could hold its own against the Me-109 and FW-190 was the Republic P-47 (oft-mentioned earlier in this discourse). It was Thunderbolts that kicked down the doors to Festung Europa so the Mustangs could get in and finish the job. And while the P-51s were doing their thing, the Jug pilots were writing the book on close air support in the Ninth U.S. Army Air Force. Then came Korea, and the Republic F-84 Thunderjet refining JABF (Judicious Application of Brute Force). A decade and a half later it was the Republic F-105 Thunderchief, aided and abetted by the unbelievable “Able Dog” making life miserable for “Charlie” and easier for our guys. And now we have the Fairchild Republic A-10 Thunderbolt II applying the final polish.

    There’s a common thread here, and Alexander DeServersky (founder of Republic Aviation), along with Alexander Kartvelli (designer of the P-47) should be awarded every medal a civilian can receive for service “Above and Beyond.”

  13. I spent many a cold rainy night either installing ammo or downloading ammo on these systems, not to mention removing and installing them as well… Was able to see them fire when we took the planes down to Corsica on year. Amazing!
    RAF Bentwaters 82-88

  14. Watched this baby on an A-10 totally wipe out the Iraqi armored units in DS 91. As a close in support role, it is unmatched. Before DS 91′, the Air Force took a lot of crap from the Army and Marines. After the A-10 saved many a U.S. armor unit and ground troops from enemy fire, the respect level for awesome weaponry peaked in favor of the Air Force. Ah, the good ole’ days! Between the air and ground assault, coupled with naval bombardment, the Iraqi military did not have a hope in Hades. Just goes to show, just because it is an older weapons platform does not mean it had outlasted its usefulness (example: B-52 Heavy Bomber: when they retire the last B-1 and B-2 from service, there will be a B-52 crew present to fly them back to their base).

  15. Hey Dave,
    You are in the right family but you missed a step or two between the P-47 and the A10. The aircraft the A10 replaced so well was the A1E Skyraider. Known on the ground as The Sandy or Spad. This was the last, to my knowledge, of the radial engine, piston driven monster fighter bombers in the US inventory and served thru the Vietnam war and bit beyond. The A10 carried on and expanded the A1’s ability for massive weapons load outs, long loiter times in the combat envelope, and the ability to sustain heavy damage and stay in he fight and of course the GAU-8.
    If you were on the ground and calling for CAS, a position I found myself in back in the day, having a flight of Spads come up on Guard or CAP with “Woodpecker1-1, Sandy 22 with a flight of 3 inbound east to west, holding your smoke to port, heads down 1-1″ then dropping napalm or a gun run to your front on a tree line that was giving you trouble was a gift from the god of war. ” Thank you Sandy 22!” ……. ” My Pin Ly 1-1, Sandy flight holding orbit 2 klicks south your position at angles 5, call if you need us 1-1″ ……. “Roger 22” . I’m 60 now, but ill still take care of a Spad drivers bar bill if I run across one. That tradition and ground support bond continued into the A10 handoff and I would expect that relationship to go on to its last day as an operational aircraft. The question is will the powers that be have learned the lesson of CAS in the modern battlescape and provide for a purpose designed ground support airframe to replace the A10 instead of a mod for a fast mover. The name of the game in CAS is low, slow, ruggeded, massive load out, survivable, hard hitting. If the GAU-8 isn’t part of that future package or a system like or better than it then they have missed the point and lessons! It was a pleasure to watch the early A-10’s towards the end of my service time down in the desert, writing a new chapter in CAS doctron. It was good to know that the guys in the mud had a future “Sandy22” to rely on!

  16. GAU8 is a monstrous gun with wings, fuselage, and pilot. Let us never forget the P47 Thunderbolt which proved the ability to absorb the entire gun armaments of an ME 109 in WW2. Both planes were designed to fly after being thorouhly riddled with machine gun fire and even a good complement of canon fire. The pilot in the P47 was protected by steel; that of the Warthog protected by a titanium tub.

    The difference (for the given era) is that the P47 – even with its porky weight and blunt shape – was a terror as a dogfighter. It had 8 BMG 50s and could saw an enemy aircraft into with a perfect aim. It may have been the first aircraft to go supersonic (in a dive) although most belief it only reached the transonic range where airflow may have been momnetarily supersonic in low pressure areas.

    Like the B52, the life cycle of the A10 will probably run at least 75 – 100 years. Even by modern standards the B52 is an incredible machine able to subvert enemy territory less than 100′ off the ground at 450 knots or max out over 50,000 feet.

    The warthog is ground attack to the nth degree. Nothing in our inventory comes close. Also – PLEASE DO NOT FORGET THE DOULASS SKRAIDER FROM VIETNAM. o m g.

  17. I have always been impressed with this awesome Airplane. I’ve witnessed it pounding heavy armor and sheer awe is the only way to describe the sensation. I couldn’t beleive it when they were wanting to mothball the A-10 after it had proven the most lethal air support vehicle to date. That bonehead decision was nothing but upper brass loving to blow taxpayer money on new “toys”, and that’s what they consider just about any military piece of hardware. So glad they didn’t get their way! Many more troops would have lost their lives had the done so.
    But although the A-10 and this weapon are about as near perfect as it could get, you want to see something that will invoke an even higher level of pure adrenaline awe are the Vulcan and Chapparel Weapons.
    Mounted on mainly ships, they are designed to destroy incoming planes, boats, etc, but their main purpose is anti- missile defense.
    They fire so many rounds, so fast, they build a literal wall of lead that NOTHING is going to penetrate.
    Light be some videos on YouTube, if so, make sure and check them out!
    Just once, I’d like to fly in one of these amazing warthogs while attacking a bunch of Terrorists thinking they can sit and duke it out with the A-10… One second hardened fighters, the next, an acre of lovely fertilizer-filled potting soil.

  18. While doing a summer camp in the Army Reserve at Ft. McCoy, WI, we had a simulated attack on our camp by A-10’s. Some of the guys were firing blanks at the planes to simulate ground fire. All I could think was it would have been a better move to bend over and kiss your *** goodbye.
    In Desert Storm, the first asset Stormin’ Norman wanted from the Air Force was A-10’s. They were on the chopping block at the time, and their performance saved them from extinction. Now they are regarded as one of the best assests the AF has. Love the plane, and it has proven a worthy successor to the P-47.

  19. As a former TACP from 1983 until 2007 the A-10 was the only aircraft out of all of the airframes out there in both the US and NATO aircraft that I loved to see show up on the battlefield. Mainly because of the GAU-8, but also because of the extremely well trained pilots. The training these pilots have is the best training in CAS that has ever been conceived. We would have them come out to ranges throughout the world and they would almost always find the targets in the first pass. The second aircraft always hit the target we would describe to them on a radio once the first aircraft put a small short burst in the target area as a marker and the target was hit almost every time. The best thing about the A-10 was it’s ability to have both short range and long range capabilities. It could carry all of the bombs (with the exception of nuclear weapons) that were in the US and NATO arsenals, as well as the Maverick Missiles. I remember one time at Pohakaloa Training area on the Big Island in Hawaii, I described a target (an old utility truck with the boxes on the side of the bed) to one of my old ALOs (Air Liaison Officers) and he put a 500lb MK-82 unguided bomb into the bed of that old truck. That was during my first evaluation and a newly formed ETAC (Enlisted Terminal Attack Controller). Never in all of my 25 years as a TACP did I ever have an A-10 pilot miss a target area. I cannot say that of the Fast Movers like the F-16, F-18, F-4, A-6, A-7, or F-15E pilots. The worst of them all that I tried to control in a CAS mission was the Navy F-18 and F-14 pilots. There were times when they were up to 6 Miles off from the target areas. They would call in on a target when they were that far off and I would abort their pass, they would come up on the radio asking why and I would tell them they were no where near the target area. 6 months after I had these encounters with these Navy pilots, they killed some friends of mine in the Kuwaiti Desert Range, by dropping bombs on the Observation Point. They really had no experience to do the jobs they were asked to do. They may be good at hitting another ship or a big building, but never should they have dropped any bombs on a moving or stationary target anywhere near friendly troops.
    In my opinion, the A-10 should be used until it is ready to fall apart, they are the best platform in the world for Close Air Support (CAS), bar none. The training of the pilots is the best the world has ever known. Yes, there have been some problems in Desert Shield/Desert Storm, but when the truth was found out the Ground Controllers were the problem in those friendly fire incidents, they were not properly trained and had no idea where they actually were, which in turn made the A-10s hit them instead of the actual target. I know, I was there in the area when these happened, it was not the fault of the Aircraft or the pilots. It was the Terminal Attack Controller’s on the ground that cleared them in on the wrong target.
    The GAU-8 is the best, most accurate gun in the US Air Force inventory. The weapons it can use now are the full gambit of all conventional weapons to included laser guided and GPS guided weapons. The best pilots in the USAF and bar none the best platform to do the Close Air Support Role. I thank them for getting my butt and my Army compatriots out of some very close calls.
    Chuck H. MSGT, USAF (Ret)
    CAS on Call

  20. Can’t believe I read every post. Great enjoyment, especially from those w/ 1st-hand experience. Hats off to you friends.

  21. I live here in Tucson, 6 miles from Davis Monthan AFB where the A-10’s are kept. Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder, and I have been entertained by more than a few pilots who have started their careers “parked” at 35,000 in 15’s and 16’s; but have gone on till retirement doing “Real” flying in A-10s… and, loving every minute of it. Cable drives, weeds in the intakes, and mud in the jock-strap, the whole deal…

    A-10’s… fun to ride, but, would you want your friends to catch you doing it?

    With today’s technology, advanced materials, and knowledge of aerodynamics, Uncle Sam, please use some of my tax dollars to design a successor. Restore the joy of flying, recruit some wild-eyed boys, and let them kick some @$$.

  22. The GAU-8 is indeed a super round. The finished LAP on the GAU-8 is done at the Radford Army Ammunition Plant in Radford, VA. They also LAP the LW-30 and the various 25mm rounds fired in the Bradley Chain Gun. While the GAU-8 and LW-30 both fire 30mm projectiles made of various materials from the DU to Tungsten; there is a lot of difference between the two rounds. When you look at the rounds side-by-side, it’s kind of like looking at a 460 Weatherby next to a 458 Winchester. They are the same caliber, but the Light Weight (LW) 30 is a straight case like the 458 and the GAU-8 is a bottle neck like the 460 Weatherby. I am using these rounds just for visual comparison. 30mm rounds are much, much larger than any .458 round or any commercial cartridge. The GAU-8 holds a lot more powder than the LW-30. If somebody thinks they can shoulder fire a GAU-8 they are crazy. I work at the Radford AAP and have seen many of these rounds ballistic tested; they are an awsome weapon. The A-10 is one of the most feared flying platforms outthere, due to the tremendous power of the GAU-8 30mm Cartridge.

  23. Folks, as an A-10 pilot, I can assure you that the gun does NOT slow the aircraft. Yes, we shoot very large rounds, but the aircraft weighs approximately 40,000 lbs. Each engine produces about 9000 lbs of thrust. Thanks for highlighting the mighty GAU-8A – it really is a tremendous weapon – and a lot of fun to shoot.

  24. I completely agree w/ HammerOfCrom’s comments. Would like to see this weapon system developed further and used in other areas.

  25. I met the first jet pilot to shoot down an enemy helicopter in combat. He flew A10s in operation Desert Storm. He shot down a Hind attack helicopter. His A10 had a bunch of tanks, a few arty pieces and a helicopter painted in silhouette on the bird. Way cool.

  26. IIRC, Bob Stewart of Madi-Griffin ‘fame’ built at least one 30 X 173mm ‘Bullpup’ Rifle. In a conversation about it he commented, “….. we were bouncing barrels at 3000m.” It had a large muzzle brake and was claimed to have about the same recoil as the .50BMG Madi-Griffin.

    I would not doubt there are a few custom rifles out in the hands of special forces using the 30 X 173mm round. Sometimes one needs to do incredible things with only one round …. like destroy a train.


  27. I think the 30mm round use in the Navy’s MK 46 is probably higher velocity out of the barrel than the GAU-8 round. The GAU-8 takes advantage of the velocity of it’s platform, i.e., the airplane, when shooting at tanks. The effective velocity of the round from the tank’s point of view is that of the gun plus the airplane, so a close in shot would hit at 3,500 feet/second PLUS ~300-400 miles/hour.

    I can’t find velocity statistics for the Navy’s gun, but the 30 mm round looks noticeably different, and of course, the speed of a ship isn’t going to add much to the effective velocity of the projectile. The Navy claims about 3X the effective range of the GAU-8, but that probably depends a lot on how they define effective range. Effective range against a thin-skinned destroyer is a lot farther out than vs. a heavily armored tank.

    Also, the GAU-8 gets a boost in effectiveness because of common tank design. The lightest armor on almost every tank is on the top, and the GAU-8 is mostly shooting at a downward angle to the tank…most hits are on the weakest part of the tank. I don’t have modern statistics handy, but a German Panther from WWII, for example, had about 6 inches of frontal armor, and 3/8 of an inch on the top. The 50 Cal. MGs on an old P47 easily penetrated the top of a Panther, but bounced off the frontal armor like BBs.

  28. I have read the wonderful comments on the A-10 and I have gleaned some knowledge as well. The A-10 holds a special place in my heart for all things USA, MILITARY, AIRCRAFT, etc… The top AF brass may have not wanted this platform but that just shows me what they DON’T know. I bet if you ask any of the troops that have had their butts saved by the HOG you would get a resounding H@!! YEAH keep the bird. When I was in the AF in ’82 I never got close enough to a HOG but I seen the footage of what this bird could do. This is why the A-10 holds a place of honor in my opinion. LDG

  29. There’s one of these at the Air Force Armaments Museum on Egland Air Force base. These plane should be given to the Marines instead of the Air Force. The Air force killed British troops and Marines in “friendly fire” incidents in both gulf wars.

  30. I was an Air Force aircraft weapons troupie in the late 70’s stationed in the UK at RAF Bentwaters when they transitioned from F-4D’s to A-10’s. It was and is an amazing aircraft. I remember walking into the gun shop one day and seeing the GAU-8 and next to it, a SUU-23 gun pod containing a M61A1 Vulcan 20mm cannon. This is the gun that is used on most every other fighter in the US military – selectable fire between around 4000 and 6000 rounds per minute, six barrels… … makes me all squishy inside just thinking about it! Anyway, back to the story – I was stunned at the sheer size of that GAU-8 system. The M61A1 can be built very compact (look up the SUU-23 and M61 on Wikipedia). The GAU-8 is just enormous! And that 10,000 lbs of recoil? That’s PER ROUND. The actual projectile itself weighs in at around a pound, so if you think about the physics – accelerating a one point projectile to over 3500 feet/second in the length of the barrel, the amount of energy required is pretty incredible.

    One more comment about the recoil – The engines on the A-10 produce about 9,000 lbs of thrust each – about 18,000 lbs total, so firing the gun actually reduces the full thrust capability of the airplane by 50%! You probably wouldn’t want to fire the gun anywhere near stall speed!

    One comment about whether you could fire one of these from a hand-held gun: I’m sure you could do it (at least once), but keep in mind that all of these guns (the M61A1/2 and the GAU-8) are electrically primed and require 28 volts to fire, so the firearm would need to be pretty specialized in more than just size. And you probably couldn’t use the barrel from a GAU-8 – look at the picture. That thing weighs a bunch – don’t remember exactly how much, but we used chain hoists and two or three guys to install them.

    A tiny bit of trivia for you – when I was stationed at Eglin AFB, Florida, the small museum they had there contained what they called a GAU-7. It was a 6 barrel, 25mm cannon that was intended to someday replace the M61A1. The interesting thing is that the GAU-7 was intended to use ‘caseless’ ammunition – the case was the propellant. When fired, the case was consumed eliminating the need to handle the empty cases (They don’t just drop them out of the plane – they feed back into the drum via the conveyer system). The GAU-7 was deemed a failure for one reason or another, but in 1979 the Air Force was experimenting with using caseless ammunition on the GAU-8 at Eglin and if I remember correctly, lost a couple of A-10’s on the range while firing this ammo. As I remember, the smoke from the rounds caused the engines to flame out, so the project was ultimately scrapped.

  31. I was just at the Military Vehicle Collectors of California campout at Camp Delta near Lodi. Someone had several cut sections of A-10 barrels as well as a complete barrel for sale. I estimate the breach section to be about 5 inches in diameter and it had very coarse interrupted screw type threads. I would guess the complete barrel was 9 feet long. What struck me was that there are 7 of these beasts per gun and the weight must be tremendous!

    There were tons of parts and gizmos for sale as well. Somebody had 2 of the 8 inch 55 US Naval gun brass cartridge cases there for sale. HUGE brass, biggest ever used by the USN.

    Off topic…but….. If you like anything military and live anywhere in Northern California, this show is worth a trip. They do it in April and September. See Camping American Style on youtube. Here da link

  32. Depleted Uranium – half-life is longer than the age of the Earth – dust causes cancer.

    How stupid can you be ?

  33. I have had the honor of seeing this monster fire several time including calling one in on enemy forces during Gulf War I. It is an awesome weapons platform that carries a wide variety of ordinance and can loiter on station longer than any other aircraft in this role. The pilot essentially sits in a titanium bathtub and it can take a direct hit from better than a 14.5mm. I have seen one return from multiple missile hits as well. When this was combine with other aircraft, such as the F-16, it makes a nearly perfect strike package…again, I know this from experience; GW1 versus the Tawakalna Republican Guards Division…

  34. A friend of mine has son who was an A-10 pilot in Iraq. He was called in to check out suspicious activity on a roadside. Through his optic system he observed an insurgent planting a roadside bomb. He sent a gun camera video of the encounter to his dad. A GUA 8 makes a highly effective anti-personnel weapon.

  35. The cannon in the AH-64 does not fire the same round as the A-10. The M230 of the Apache fires a 30 x 113mm and the Gau-8 fires a 30 x 173mm.

    If you beefed up the frame of a chopper to carry and fire a weapon using the 30 x 173mm it would be so slow and ponderous it would be a sitting duck.

  36. Good article – how ever as an A-10 pilot I have one exception. The aircraft does not slow down when you shoot it – not even on a long burst – I have pulled the trigger on one 500 round burst in combat…

  37. I was blessed enough to fly Hogs in the early 80’s out of Myrtle Beach SC. The accuracy and range of the GAU8 was/is amazing. Long range strafe (on a controlled air-to-ground range) had a cease fire slant range of 6000′ and close range had a cease fire of 2000′. For LR strafe 60-70% average scores were needed to compete in the monthly Top Gun completions…100%average or you weren’t a player in close range. Now they’re talking about retiring the jet again. Memories!

  38. Love the A-10 very rugged and dependable. The only issue is it sits too high which means ya need a ladder to reach some stuff. A few times crew chiefs have borrowed my ladder when I was on top of a hawg. The good ole days

  39. During Desert Storm, I was with VA-145 aboard the USS Ranger (CV-61). These are A-6’s that are all weather attack, the Navy’s work horses when it comes to bombs it can carry. Being over 30 yrs old doesn’t slow these gals down one bit. They can do straight runs, turn release or high loft release. They proved to be a royal bitch to the VC. Now, that being said, combine two or three A-6’s with two or three A-10’s and you could flatten any heavy armor column. But I will admit, hearing the A-10’s guns “burrrp” could get the blood flowing in a zombie!

  40. This weapon was not designed for the Fairchild-Republic A-10 Thunderbolt II. The A-10 was designed for the GAU-8 Avenger.

  41. Back in the 1st Gulf War, my EW Team was suddenly being approached by a couple of T-62s. We were dead, pure and simple. Then, one of theT-62s disappeared in a hail of projectiles and burst into flame. The other soon followed. A pair of A-10s happened to be on the way forward and popped those suckers. They did a roll over our position before heading off. I don’t think they could hear us cheering, but I hoped they knew how happy we were by the jumping around and arm waving…. God bless the Warthogs!

  42. Since “we the people” ( the American citizens ) still have our second ammendment and we have the right to have the equivalent firepower of OUR Government question: How does this stand up against an AR-15 ” ASSAULT RIFLE” ? And 2) If it doesn’t what catalog # is this gun and how much is the shipping charges? I have all my FFL info thanks 😉

  43. My father flew P-47s in WWII, F-84s in Korea, and F-105s during The Cuban missile crises. He always said that the Republic planes were built to take a beating and keep on ticking. He did not live to see the Warthog (Thunderbolt 2) but he would have been impressed. When I worked at China Lake in the early 1980 there was a squadron stationed at George AFB and they used to come up and use our ranges. Once when I was driving over to Death Valley I saw a couple of them flying through and around the pinnacles near Trona, CA. It was hard to believe my eyes. Later, at one of our monthly classified briefing, they showed us a video of what it looks like to be in an armored vehicle when a 30 mm DU round comes a visiting. The lesson learned is that you are a caged rat when there is a Warthog around. I have always told my friends that if you want to know if we are really prepared to go to war in a certain region just find out where the A-10s are. They are in Korea right now!


  44. I flew the Hawg for many years. The Gun was great and much fun to use, but we had MANY more munitions hanging on the wings. The biggest problem with the A-10 is that there are no two seat versions. One was built but the Air Force never officially bought it. There is a rumor out there that two were built and one crashed, not true. Go look at the official list of tail numbers and disposition. Anyway, reason that is a problem (no family models) is that you can’t take anyone out to see how it looks and feels from the pilot’s aspect. No politician who wants to get rid of it, no Air Force boss-type who doesn’t really understand the capability of the airframe. Nobody knows who has not gone through pilot training and everything that leads up to gettting to strap an A-10 on your butt and going out to use those capabilities.

  45. We lived in Tucson ten years and attended two Davis Monthan AFB open houses/air shows. One of the most exciting times for our family of wife and three impressionable sons. Of course the Thunderbirds were great, the C5As, the fighters, but DM is the training base for the Warthog and all the boys could talk about was the A-5 flight demo. They could do a complete circle in what seemed to be 25 feet and with the lower wingtip pointing straight down. The Warthog stole the shows!

    We went to the Pima Air Museum many times, it was privately owned then, but it was glorious all the great planes of the Cold War and more. The B-58 is still one of the baddest looking planes ever and it’s a bomber.

    DM is the graveyard for all our old Warcraft. Miles and miles of mothballed aircraft from all ages are there partially shrink wrapped in that super low desert humidity. It’s a sight to fly over, and always impressive.

  46. The design of the feed system was that of a Swiss watch movement. The ammo feed system is a conveyor type that returns the spent cases back into the drum mag. after firing. I had the opportunity to work on these cannons as well as others at GE Burlington. This GAU-8 cannon was also fitted into a turret system as a close-in weapons systems for missile and aircraft defense on war ships. It is called the “GoalKeeper”. The US did not buy any of these systems but our main customers were the Royal Netherlands Navy and the UK Royal Navy. This system is far superior to the 20 mm Phalanx used on US war ships in accuracy, range, threat priority, and response. I was in a test crew that tested the GAU-8 along with other 30 mm, 25 mm, 20 mm cannons and minigun spares.

  47. I got the chance to view the ground firing of a gau-8 in early 80’s. To stand 10 feet away from one in a bunker was indescribable. The concrete floor vibrated. Watched it through a window and. I was in awe. Got a dummy round from the lead technician.

  48. There are a few other 30mm projectile military guns out there, but the Hawg round has an “oversize” casing~35mm I believe so it has a lot more punch than any other 30mm around!

  49. The DU round is manufactured by Aerojet Ordinance, a division of Gencorp. The plant is less than a mile from my home.
    I have seen the milling first hand. These rounds are constructed to incredibly tight tolerances, and then are shipped elsewhere where
    They are assembled into magazines. I understand we went through 1.1 million of these in the first Iraq war. Aerojet also makes a
    Pure tungsten round for this same gun.

  50. The euro version of our phalanx CIWS that uses the GAU-8 in its mount is called the Goalkeeper CIWS.

    From what I understand, and I may be wrong, Goalkeeper has an override that can put the gun under local control, just in case they want to shred another ship or offending fast boats instead of shooting down missiles. But wiping out flying targets is Goalkeeper’s main mission.

    There is not a Hog driver alive that doesn’t enjoy shooting the big gun – even at maximum effective range it will put all of its shells into a 40ft circle, just the size of a tank, and only one hit in the right spot can grease a tank, often the shots just pulverize the target.

    I think it was maybe Desert Storm where a hog driver was coming back from a CAS mission and an iraqi helo popped up ahead of him from where it had been hiding – doing recon. The Iraqi never saw what hit him as the pilot said he just put the chopper in the lead of his gunsight and gave him a burst.

    Considering what that cannon does to main battle tanks, one can only imagine what it did to the Iraqi chopper.

  51. The 30mm round that is fired out of the GAU-8/A on an A10 IS NOT the same as the 30mm round fired out of the M-230A1 Chain Gun on an AH-64 Apache.
    The difference between those two rounds is like comparing a .300 Win Mag to a .30 Carbine round. The A-10 30mm is MUCH more powerful than the Apache 30mm.
    The 30 mm used on the A-10 is a 173mm long bottle-neck case. The Apache 30mm is a 113mm long straight case.
    Personally, I wouldn’t want to fire either round from a bolt action shoulder fired rifle.

  52. As a former A-10 combat pilot, I can tell you that the recoil of the GAU-8 does NOT slow down the airplane — at least not enough that you would notice it at all. We only held the trigger down for 1-2 seconds at most, due to round dispersion as the gun barrels heated up. Also, the quoted “effective range” of 4000 feet is a bit of a mystery to me — we routinely destroyed armored vehicles at slant-ranges of 6000-7000′ and knocked turrets off tanks at ranges of 10,000′ and greater. The GAU-8 was great fun to fire. It vibrated the cockpit enough to “peg” the aircraft’s G-meter at +10G and -10G, and the faint smell of gun gas that wafted into the oxygen system every time you fired made you remember the deadly serious reality of what was coming out the muzzle down below. I only had one gun malfunction in over three years of flying the A-10 — a feed failure that the gun actually cleared by itself, by automatically reversing and cycling itself several times. I miss the plane and that gun! Nothing I ever shoot will be that manly again.

  53. DU, depleted uranium, is not depleted in a reactor.
    It is the byproduct of enriching natural uranium for use in reactors. Spend fuel rods are stored onsite at reactors as they are too radioactive to move off-site. In fact, the uranium in reactors is converted into new elements as part of the fission reaction and is permanently lost.
    Though, it is radioactive, the main health concern is from inhalation of Uranium Dioxide dust released from the projectiles after impact. The dust causes respiratory conditions up to and including death.
    As a side note: the US government does not track shipments of aluminum tubing to keep tabs on uranium enrichment programs in foreign nations, as I have seen some major news outlets report. Uranium Hexaflouride would eat through AL tubing like an A10 through a MIG.

  54. Hi HammerOfCrom, As far as the DU “environmental” goes it’s not so much of a blanket environmental hazard as it is a health hazard if you get any of it, even a tiny amount, in your body. That means any through cuts or wounds, ingested, breathed, however it gets in to you, once it’s in you it will stay there and and most likely kill or severely disable you. Why? Because although it’s not very radioactive if it’s in you your body gets every bit of radioactive emissions that it puts out from thence on. So sitting in a tank with DU penetrator rounds in the magazine won’t hurt, but even the tiniest bit inside your body will.

  55. @HammerofCrom — The Navy still uses the Phalanx system in conjunction with Sea Sparrow and RAM (Rolling Airframe Missile) setups. The missile systems have considerably longer range, so they are the primary and secondary layers of anti-missile defense, but the CIWS is still very much in operation fleet-wide for multiple purposes.

    They also started shipping Phalanx systems to Iraq and Afghanistan a number of years ago to serve as perimeter defense against mortar and rocket attacks, though I don’t know how successful they were.

  56. Remember reading an article way back about a retired Soviet Army general that was the commander of their Western Front and he had mentioned in all manly Soviet bravado that he was fully prepared, willing and able to initiate a full scale invasion of Europe but said that they would never make it to Hamburg and expected 80% or so losses to his armor not because of the western tanks, TOW, Apache other weapons.. He specifically pointed out the A-10. Plainly said that that was the only thing he was afraid of on a battle field.

  57. The memory is still vivid in my mind. It was spring 2006 about 100 kilometers from bagram Afghanistan. Breach failed on a known terrorist training camp front gate, and combatants poured out over the walls. Our jtac called in all assets and included was a pair of a-10’s. I can still hear the wine of the gun and the ground rumble under me as I lay behind my mk48.
    Just thought I’d share.

  58. Well, if the AF decides to ditch it, the Army should field it.

    Close air support has always been a job the Army requires, demands the AF perform, and that the AF hates doing. The Army already does quite a bit with rotary wing aircraft, taking on the fixed wing role would only be a rational evolution.

    The Hog and US Army aviation would be a perfect fit.

  59. There’s one of these, sans magazine, on display (as in walk up and run your sweaty palms over it) at the Pima Air and Space museum in Tucson, AZ.

    It’s gorgeous, as is the rest of the museum, which can easily eat up a couple of days if you take your time and see everything.

    I highly advise a visit, if you can manage it.

  60. It wasn’t so much the AF brass that hated this aircraft, although it ad its detractors there, congressional appropriations wasn’t a fan either.. It was in great part to the fact that it was so low tech . . . Just wasn’t sexy enough . . .and of course they wanted to have new contracts for other aircraft, aircraft variants, new weapons, and the like to up the budgets and spread more money in he districts to gain more congressional support to ……. Well you get the idea. Fact is that every time they thought hey had the program by the balls an a knife ready to cut them off something would come along that only the Hog could do! The modifications finally caught up with the airframe and now they can’t consider any type of ground action, SpecOps to full assaults , that it isn’t an integral part of the OpsPlan! As we all know BACON IS LIFE! Long live the HOG!

  61. I was stationed at Ft Bragg in the 80’s, and we used to watch the A-10’s do their firing runs all the time. Yes it really does slow the plane down, and if the pilots tried to empty the magazine in one pass it literally would put the plane into a stall. The noise at even several miles away in unbelievable. The AF brass HATE this plane because they HATE close air support. They have always tried to kill it from day one.

  62. Well HOC, there appends to be a navel system that incorporates the 30 mm and here it is:


    The MK 46 GWS is a remotely operated naval gun system that uses a 30mm high velocity cannon, a forward looking infrared sensor, a low light television camera, and a laser rangefinder for shipboard self defense against small, high speed surface targets. The gun can be operated locally at the gun turret or remotely at the Remote Operating Console in the Combat Information Center (LPD 17 class)/Mission Control Center (LCS class).

    The requirements documents for the LPD 17 and LCS ship programs included the need for weapons systems capable of defeating small, fast, highly maneuverable surface craft. The MK 46 GWS was selected to provide these ships a capability against small surface craft. The MK 46 GWS is permanently installed aboard LPD 17 class ships. It is part of the Surface Warfare (SuW) mission module for LCS class ships.

    The MK 46 Mod 2 GWS incorporates new open architecture, fault isolation software and an embedded trainer. The Navy is installing the MK 46 Mod 2 GWS aboard LPD 17 class ships during construction. The Navy designed and developed the SuW mission module for LCS class ships. When equipped, the LCS class ships will have two SuW mission modules (each including one MK 46 Mod 2 GWS).

    Pasted and copied from the web.

  63. Being a curious sort I spent a bit of time looking to see if such a beastly experiment as a bolt 30mm firing an A10 GAU round was 1) considered possible. 2) that there is actually a human in existence that could fire one if made. 3) well, . . . Why?
    So this is what I found that may or may not be true . . .
    1) of course its possible! A single shot bolt action might be manufactured in any caliber really. If one was to stretch the definition one might include the man portable, shoulder aimed and fired, single shot recoilless rifles. I know there was at least a 37mm version of this weapon that was shoulder mounted. These weapons evolved into current man portable missile systems. There seem to be many countries still using this weapons tech very effectively.
    2) I don’t know if there is actually a human that would WANT to fire a shoulder mount, bolt, GAU 30mm, single shot. If that human exists I don’t know or be heard of them.
    3) Why? Is always a question we ask of things that even we find somewhat on the fringe of even our American idea of pushing the edge of an envelope! The two normal American responses seem to be either “just not worth it” or “why not!”. It also seems that more often than not “just not worth it” turners into “why not” and someone builds one just to see I they can!!!
    Given this path of logic it might be presumed that at some point, someone, with nothing to do on a Saturday afternoon, will be in his or her garage shop and come up with the idea that they need to build the largest bolt gun that can be built. I’m sure well see it on You Tube!

    So, this is what I found , took longer to write this than to look it up. . . .but, that’s part of the fun sometimes, isn’t it!

  64. John Browning, yes it is officially named the Thunderbolt II.
    I’ve often wondered why the GAU-8 cannon has not been expanded into other roles. I remember seeing it discussed in the 80’s/90’s for anti-missile defense roles (presumably for ships). I believe the Brits have just deployed a 30mm based weapon for anti ship missile defense, apparently an improvement from the Phalanx system (20mm) that our navy just ditched in favor of the Sea Sparrow anti-missile missile. To me, that’s a bad idea, as the carriers are only carrying one or two dozen, when a few batteries of the 30mm system would be more cost effective and provide a better defense if a swarm of anti ship missiles were launched against one of our multi billion dollar sitting ducks, ahem, I mean “SuperCarriers”. (yes I realize they travel with a carrier group, but the Aegis destroyers can only fire so many missiles from 1 ship. In addition, anti-missile missiles don’t have a 100% hit rate, or anywhere NEAR it, while these cannons are capable of putting up a wall of lead from 4000 feet to the target. In fact, if money were no concern, it would make the most sense to sail with Aegis destroyers as first-tier layer, Sea Sparrow as Second Tier and GUA 8 or the brit platform as the third tier. (Of course the GAU-8 would have to be mated with a high speed rotation ad elevation system and the BAE or Phalanx radar system.)
    It was also mentioned in the article, that the GAU 8 is deployed against “Cold war era tanks” which is true in the conflicts we’ve fought, but is not the LIMITATION of the weapon. A variety of rounds can be fitted on the 30MM including the DU round, which will pierce any known tank armor. Even the most modern battle tank can be pierced with the DU rounds, because even the highest classof tank armor money can buy is still composed of a combination of DU, ceramic (boron carbide), steel, and kevlar layers, (kevlar mostly being used to prevent disintegration of ceramic plates and spalling, the tendency of metal fragments to richochet around a tank interior upon a high energy impact.) “Chaubaum armor”, first invented by the brits and employed on all the versions of the US main battle tank, the M1 si constructed this way. I believe that if you look up the composition of chaubam armor, it still lists as “classified”, but with the HUNDREDS of M1 tanks we just GAVE to the Muslim brotherhood, I mean the Egyptian government, It damn sure ain’t a secret no more, although admittedly, that probably lost its secrecy the moment we donated to the Saudis in the 80’s.
    So if you can’t tell I am a BIG fan of the GAU-8 system and am strongly in favor of developing other roles for it, as it is a HIGHLY effective, reliable, and time-tested weapon. If you havent had the privilege of seeing 30MM rounds do damage, check out some youtube videos of AH-64 Apache or A-10 Thunderbolt II attacks. Different cannons, but they fire the same 30mm NATO round. Note that the sparks you will sometimes see in daylight and FLIR displays are usually due to the pyrophoric nature of DU; not only does it go through armor like butter, but it sparks and ignites powder magazines, fuel, and ammunition. Good stuff, and despite the many complaints about enviromental effects, DU is not significantly radioactive. (That’s why its called “depleted”: DEPLETED of nuetron radiation after it was used up as fuel in nuclear reactors). ANY argument to the contrary is not scientific, and simply plays on the fear of the word “radioactive”. (You recieve insignificant radiation every second of every day from cosmic rays and natural radioactive elements found within the earth including unrefined uranium.)

  65. There is a custom built 25mm out there I believe. Single shot, bolt if I heard correctly. . . . .

  66. From the folks that brought you the P47 Thunderbolt(Republic), which also absorbed a lot of damage during the Second World War and flew on. Pretty sure the A10 is the Thunderbolt II but the Airforce dubbed it Warthog.

  67. Some years ago I was at Edwards AFB, maintance TDY with the SR71, doing testing of a new camera system. While we were there I rotated to Nellis for a week as a fast response maintaince team for the Habu and support of our tankers that were mission support there. At Nellis they were testing the A10 on the gun range using old armor. It was very impressive. What sticks in my mind was somebody asking one of the pilots what he would like to see the Hogs mission expanded to. I remember him looking at he gentelman and replying ” I’d really like to go head to head with a Mig 21. That would be interesting!” I bet it would have been too. 50 to 75 round burst per sec of 30mm at head on not a pleasant thought for the receiver. Expand the concept to attacking helo’s or transports or other fighters in the low and slow envelope ans it kinda make you want to smile. It looks like the parts of six different model kits put togather by a ten year old with brush on glue. Pretty or good looking are not words used in the same sentence with this aircraft. Wonderful, brute, flying tank, force multiplayer, ground pounders friend, these are the ters found in explaining what the A10 does. Back in the day we called for the Spad, or Sandy, nick names for the A1 Skyraider in its verious forms. When we needed CAS. When they, A1’s, were retired that slot was filled, expanded, and added chapters to the history of Close Air Support by the A10. High tech does not always trump low tech solutions and the Hog isn’t so low tech ny more given the load out that’ she is able to carry. Would have been criminal o have taken her out of service back then, glad they saw the light!

  68. Things like this make me proud to be an American ….10,000 recoil? Wow, just Wow

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