The 30 mm General Electric GAU-8/A Avenger rotary canon first entered into service in 1977. The 619 pound monster Gatling gun measured just shy of 2 feet wide and 20 feet long when completed, but more than compensating for its gargantuan size by boasting a terrifying fire rate of 3,900 rounds per minute, fired from its rotating array of seven barrels. That means the GAU-8/A releases a whopping 65 rounds per second when unleashed onto a target.
Oh, and just in case that wasn’t impressive enough, each of those rounds in its shell measures nearly a foot in length.
A 30mm round fired from the GAU-8/A Avenger rotary canon as compared to a standard NATO 5.56 mm round.
Of course, you may be more familiar with the GAU-8/A Avenger rotary canon thanks to the air frame engineers wrapped around it in order to get this massive weapon platform aloft: the legendary Fairchild Republic A-10 Thunderbolt II, affectionately known to many as the A-10 Warthog, or just “Hog” for short.
The A-10 has since proven itself a favorite among war fighters who have been relying on the aircraft’s long loiter capabilities coupled with its massive firepower and ability to put rounds on target with high levels of accuracy. When it comes to the Warthog’s abilities as a close air support aircraft in the U.S. Military, the A-10 is sort of like Kevin Bacon. No matter who you ask, they’re likely within six degrees of separation of someone that credits the A-10 with saving their life in a firefight.
Of course, it isn’t just that massive cannon that makes the A-10 such a valuable asset in air support missions, because the A-10 tends to engage America’s enemies from distances that range from a speck in the distance to “up close and personal,” meaning it’s also got to be capable of absorbing a good deal of punishment.
“We shoot really close to people. We do it 50-meters away from people … I can sometimes see hands and people waving. If I get close enough and low enough I can see the difference between good guys and bad guys and shoot,” A-10 pilot Lt. Col. Ryan Haden, 23rd Fighter Group Deputy said of his time in the A-10 cockpit.
“It is built to withstand more damage than any other frame that I know of. It’s known for its ruggedness,” he added.
Capt. Kim Campbell stands next to her A-10 that received significant ground fire on an air support mission, and still brought he home safely. (U.S. Air Force)
While there are plenty of videos floating around the internet of the A-10 Warthog in action from the vantage point of the pilot and even from that of the American troops receiving support, rarely does one get the opportunity to see what it’s like to be on the receiving end of an A-10 strafing run and live to tell the tale — that is, until SOCOM released this video.
The video below shows exactly what it’s like to be on the business end of the A-10’s massive 30mm GAU-8/A Avenger rotary canon — courtesy of U.S. Special Operations Command:
— USSOCOM (@USSOCOM) January 20, 2018
Image courtesy of the Dept. of Defense.