Why Is This F-35 Fighter Jet Carrying A Weird Pod On Its Belly?

Here's a cool desktop picture for you: the belly of a F-35B flying inverted. It only has one AIM-9X Sidewinder missile and some kind of pod in the middle. What is in that pod?

It contains a GAU-22, a four-barrel Gatling-type rotary cannon that spews death at 3300 25mm rounds per minute. This cannon was made especially for the F-35 and, according to General Dynamics Armament and Technical Products, is much more accurate than GAU-12/U -- its classic predecessor. The latter, which uses five barrels, can fire at 4200 rounds per minute.

But why does the F-35B carry its optional cannon in a pod on its belly, you ask? Because -- unlike the regular F-35A -- this short take off and vertical-landing variant doesn't have space inside its fuselage. Unfortunately, carrying this optional weapon reduces the stealth of this type of Lightning II, which is supposed to be one of its core strengths.

The image was taken during tests on June 14. [The Aviationist]


    And here I was thinking it was just pregnant

    If the mission calls for the gun to be carried, then I imagine that the jet is probably spending a fair bit of time low and slow, and the sort of weapons it will be vulnerable to are ground based IR and optically guided missile systems (which are usually relatively short range), so the increase in radar signature might not be a big problem, overall.
    Trying to squeeze a gatling gun into that fuselage would have made a difficult job near impossible I imagine. The Harrier doesn't have an internal gun, and it has a far simpler engine layout. So I don't think they have compromised all that much.
    If I were a pilot, I think I'd be more worried about the type of mission that needed a gun than the loss of stealth!

    Close air support variant. Doesn't need stealth.

      Yep, I think that's pretty much what I was trying to say... with far too many words.

        I always assumed the gatling gun was an air-to-air combat weapon, hence the high rate of fire.

          Air to ground is gattling work, your moving fast compared to the ground you need to put as many rounds down as quickly as possible to hit a small target, most air to air engagements now are of the guided missile variety.

          That is so 1940s.

    I don't get why a F-35 would even fly a low stealth ground attack sortie. Surely it'd be a better idea to send out F-15s or A-10s for that role.

    I was going to ask what is with all the hard points, I thought it carried its weapons inside. So only the version that can't hover has internal payload bays???

      There are 2 internal bays - one on each side of the center line - you can see the outline of the doors just behind the intake (marked by the light grey triangle).
      These bays are only suitable for a limited number of weapon sizes, and only 1 on each side. Generally an AMRAAM (medium range air-air) or HARM (radiation homing) missile. The external hardpoints would be for larger anti-ground systems - such as Mavrick or hellfire, or laser guided bombs, and of course Sidewinder (which I think it too long for the internal bay).
      I believe the hard points can be jettisoned if necessary.
      The F-22 has 2-3x more internal bay space.

        I can't imagine the hardpoints and other external weapons would do good things for it's radar signature either.

    They are clearly removable, so they'd be just like the roof racks on a car - for times when you need extra space.

    And most likely they can be jettisoned when empty and in an emergency, like holy shit we have a missile on our ass! Dump all you pods and dive into the weeds at max afterburner and out run them.

    Oh wait, that was the F-111, this plane can't do that.

    The only thing this plane will do well is kill it's own crew with toxic glue LOL!

      F-111's - Penetrate harder, deliver more load ;)

    Man I love fighter jets. Flying one of them has to be the only thing better than riding a sportbike really, really fast. =)

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