The F-35's GAU-22/A
25mm cannon has been tested on the ground at Edwards Air Force Base, with the General Dynamics-designed weapon having been developed for both internal and external gun systems of the Joint Strike Fighter
. The cannon is mounted on an external pod for the F-35B and C variants, with the Air Force's F-35A variant positioning the weapon internally. The four-barrel system allows the fighter to let loose just 180 rounds per reload, allowing for three short passes at best. That last problem featured heavily in criticism of the Air Force for floating the idea - since backtracked - that the F-35A could serve as the main ground forces protection platform. The program has been busy testing other weapons in recent weeks, including the Marines testing live JDAM
bombs in early July
. The Pentagon has been mulling
what to include in future F-35 weapon tranches, with options including the Small Diameter Bomb II
and Joint Strike Missile
, as well as several others.
The $400 billion F-35 Joint Strike fighter program may well be the largest single global defense program in history. This major multinational program is intended to produce an “affordably stealthy” multi-role fighter that will have 3 variants: the F-35A conventional version for the US Air Force et. al.; the F-35B Short Take-Off, Vertical Landing for the US Marines, British Royal Navy, et. al.; and the F-35C conventional carrier-launched version for the US Navy.
This article will serve as DID’s central repository explaining and contrasting all 3 F-35 variants, detailing the fighter family’s core technologies and features, and laying out the core industrial framework whose “political engineering” has made the program almost impossible to kill. It will also summarize the core arguments that swirl around the fighter’s future capability, and provide useful background links regarding the program and its key technologies.