GAU-8/A Avenger

By CTD Rob published on in Firearms, General, History, Technology

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.

GAU-8
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)

  • sheldon padawer

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    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.

    Reply

  • Phantom Phixer

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    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!

    Reply

  • Pete in Alaska

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    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

    Reply

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