The Trillion Dollar F-35 Won't Even Be Able To Shoot Its Gun Until 2019

The Trillion Dollar F-35 Won't Even Be Able to Shoot Its Gun Until 2019

Last year, Australia dramatically boosted its order of the still-in-development, problem-prone F-35 stealth fighter. Now a new report says the jet's 25mm cannon won't be operational until 2019 at the earliest. Even more laughable is that it probably doesn't even need the gun to begin with.

Unnamed US Air Force officials revealed the bad news in a Daily Beast story about the F-35. Apparently the software that will power the four-barreled rotary cannon on the Air Force version of the jet, the F-35A, won't be ready for at least four more years. The US Navy and Marine Corps version use a different cannon, but it will also be years before the software's ready for those guns.

The real kicker here is that the gun is probably just dead weight (read: a waste of taxpayer dollars) anyways. The F-35A's cannon can fire 3,300 rounds per minute but can only hold 180 rounds. "I would be lying if I said there exists any plausible tactical air-to-air scenario where the F-35 will need to employ the gun," one senior Air Force official told the Daily Beast. "Personally, I just don't see it ever happening and think they should have saved the weight [by getting rid of the gun altogether]."

The jet, which is also known as the Joint Strike Fighter, is already the most expensive weapon in American history. It's expected to cost the Pentagon well over $US1 trillion over the next 50 years. And little hiccups like this only add more taxpayer dollars to that price tag. [Daily Beast]

Image via AP

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    This kind of thing isn't even unusual. Ever heard of FOC? The U.S. has already learned it's lesson when deciding not to include a gun on its multi-role fighters with the original F-4. People need to stop bad-mouthing this aircraft and realize that such is the nature of aircraft development.

      FOC is nice if its on time

      If they learnt it why is it nessecary to put a non stealth gun pod on to the B&C models which doesn't feature a fixed internal cannon? A $12 million dollar gun pod, still with 180 rounds and a big RCS

        I'm not arguing this one, but have you seen what a trillion dollars looks like? Have a look at my link I posted below. $12 million is but a drop in the ocean in comparison.

          $12 million is twelve million, let's not detract rom it! We don't spend a trillion, let them

          We will spend $25 billion..

      Ever heard of FOC?

      Flight Of the Conchords? Free Of Charge? Fear Of Commitment? Fell Off Chair?

      I did upvote you to start with, then going back to the article I realised it said TRILLION dollars. Please take the time to look at the following infographic and allow time for the sheer WTFness to settle in on what a TRILLION dollars looks like. FOR ONE WORKING PRODUCTION plane.

      Last edited 03/01/15 1:19 am

        There are currently over one hundred F35's flying.. The trillion will purchase 2450 fightrs

      3000 rounds per minute but only holds 180 bullets..?

        yeah but when you fire you would use maybe 20 rounds at most per burst. the bullets ARE FRICKING HUGE . its a last resort for dogfighting. so that's why there is only 180 rounds, they would rather use the weapons system and shoot from 200km away with Amraams

          Thats 16 bullets per second.. 10 seconds total.. I think it would maybe be better for smaller bullets but more rounds..?

            Actually most aircraft are surprisingly resilient to small arms fire. not so much the thick skin but the layer of turbulent air blowing over the skin. Basically you need something with a bit of mass that will fly straight and true through the laminar flow and into the skin.

    Fighter aircraft never have carried many rounds of ammunition because ammunition is heavy. On variant of the WWII Supermarine Spitfire carried two canon and each canon carried 120 rounds. This model also carried 4 x .303 machine guns each of which carried 300 rounds. The 180 rounds of the F-35 carry a much larger wallop than the Spitfire canon and are capable of destroying a tank, which is why the F-35 carries the gun. It is, after all, not just a fighter but is also a ground attack aircraft and is intended to replace the A-10 Thunderbolt as well as F-16 and others.

    Certainly the F-35 is no bargain but then very few military aircraft ever have been! The F-111 was designed to 9 requirements as a multi-role fighter but it met not one of those requirements. However, for the RAAF, the FB-111 (FB = Fighter and Bomber) turned out to be a very good aircraft and it really should still be in service.

      But the aircraft you mention don't fire 3,300 rpm per gun, the F-35 can fire for 3.27 seconds total, so useless is probably a good description.
      Oh the A-10 carries 1,150 rounds, so I don't see 180 rounds being effective as ground attack.

      Last edited 02/01/15 10:14 am

        The number of rounds fired is a maximum per minute and is configurable to lesser amounts, 180 isn't much though

        I think you have misunderstood the entire point I was making. in war a pilot does not hold down the fire button for more than part of a second. What happens to the target depends on the mass and velocity of the bullets that hit it. Since it might take as few as 5 or 10 bullets from the F-35 gun to destroy or disable a tank then there is the potential to destroy 18 tanks or other armoured targets on the ground. The gun on the 'A' model of the F-35 which the RAAF has is a 4-barrel, 25mm cannon, so the weight of fire brought to bear on a target will be rather significant.

        I wonder how many of you know that the RAAF has taken delivery of 2 x F35s so far? They will remain in the US for a few years yet as they have been assigned to train RAAF pilots along with US, British, Japanese and Dutch pilots on the aircraft.

          Would've been nice to have received them In Australia, in 2012 as promised when we paid for them back in 2004... I'm guessing not many know that in that time we've paid over $2B thus far, the equivalent of a full acquisition of ten LRIP aircraft

          Being a development partner just seems to mean 'pay early so the US can use the capital funds' to avoid the early U.S. congress oversight

          All that and they still cry poor on the A10

            Yes, it would have been nice to have had them according to the original schedule, or better yet, to have never ordered them in the first place! Australia could have had Eurofighter Typhoon IIs in service for some years now...

          Go and watch how many rounds an A10 takes to destroy a tank it is not 5 or 10 and it was built to optimise hitting a ground target.

          A fighter uses short bursts in air to air but it usually takes a lot more that one burst to actually hit the target.

          Then again the f35 is so slow I suppose it may well need close in weapons, on the flip side its G force rating is so low since being revise down significantly that it will most likely be out maneuvered anyway defeating the purpose of the gun.

          Last edited 03/01/15 11:36 am

            I tried but was unable to find an A-10 attacking a tank, so I will have to take your word for it. On the other hand, there is a lot of difference between the weapons on the A-10, a very basic aeroplane and the much more sophisticated F-35, so maybe fewer rounds will need to be fired by the latter?

            Maximum speed of the F-35 is far above that of the A-10, not that I can see how it is relevant to ground attack!

              The speed was mentioned after the air to air and with no mention of speed related to ground attack.

              The A-10 had a massive tech update not long ago so it targeting etc. is pretty current.

                A10 airframe design is a 1950's one so it inherently is never going to be a modern fighter equivalent, you are correct in that it's without doubt more suited to CAS, the F35 is not really CAS anyway though is questionably more suited to ground strike, questionably with emphasis.


                That tech upgrade probably brings their targeting to F35 standard though with zero real time networking

                I can't speak for intended results but Iraqi T72's during Desert Sheild were put out of action by as little as ONE DU round from A10's (top turret, crew fried), and the first air to air victory was an Iraqi chopper during top cover no fly zones in 1994 was a badly aimed six round warning shot

      all fair points, though in comparison to the world standard, the F111 was a subpar interceptor/fighter fortunately serving in a region that back then had even lesser fighter craft

      Cost, duration and continuity are the core issues with the F35 program

        "Cost, duration and continuity are the core issues with the F35 program" These are the same issues that dog every military project, aircraft, ships, tanks, whatever.

        The F-111 in the USAF and the FB-111 were used in war and proved themselves to be very capable. The problems with the F-111 in particular was that it was supposed to a replacement for far to many aircraft types performing far too many different roles. Very similar to what is taking place with the F-35.

          The F111/TFX didn't take 19 years to still keep having these issues

          It'll be a good plane though let's not sugarcoat it into being an F16 like success

            I do think that the F-35 has the potential to be a very good aircraft for the RAAF, particularly in combination with the Wedgetail AWACS aircraft and the Airbus MRTT aircraft, and supported by the Wild Weasel F/A 18 Super Hornets.

    From what I've seen and read, this thing isn't designed to be a brawler, it's designed for killing shit that is kilometers away..! Please... Please, can someone talk the Government into not buying these complete money sinks..! :(

      Not an expert, but I kinda figure the cannon's likely there in the same role as a soldier might strap a boot-knife. A lot of things have to have gone wrong one after the other for you to be in a situation where you need it, but you'll sure as hell be thankful you had it when that moment comes. At a guess, the engineers who designed it as a requirement were more thinking of their weight allocation than the amount of money it would cost to implement.

        Gun on a plane touted as a solution to ground attack is nearly mandatory

        GAU-8 avenger cannon is considered the gold standard in CAS weapons selection

          The F-35A gun is the GAU-12. The gun for the F-35B and C models is mounted in a removable pod.

            Correct though a gun nowadays is about CAS, the best CAS weapon is a GAU8, regardless of plane its mounted on.

      The F-35A is intended to destroy targets beyond visual range. If it can actually and reliably do that task it will be a decent warplane. The real question is whether or not it will be capable of doing what it is expected to do!

        Based on that description a 747 fitted with advanced radar and missiles would be a decent warplane :)

    Could Abbot cancel the order (and restore funding to all the programs and services he cut) to bring the budget into surplus?

    The ignorance of the average commentator on this acquisition program is monumental.

      Yes though more misinformed than ignorance

      The USAF and Lckheer Martin haven't helped the issue

      The fact that they have had to lower the required specifications repeatedly, delay delivery for years, cost well lets just say its getting silly along with operating costs.

      The F111 it is replacing has around 2,500km greater max. range, is .9 mach faster and was developed in the 60's.
      I know it was a different type of aircracft but well suited to our requirements.

      There has to be a better and more effective (and cost effective) solution.

      Last edited 02/01/15 1:54 pm

        Many people believe that the Eurofighter Typhoon II was and remains a better option and on anticipation of receiving the order the manufacturer actually designed and produced external conformal fuel tanks to provide the Eurofighter with range similar to the F-111. The Typhoon II has 2 engines, a nice feature for the RAAF where our aircraft spend a lot of time over the ocean.

        It is worth remembering when talking about the range of the F-111 is that when the RAAF operated it there was not much in the way of air-to-air refuelling capability in Australia, just some converted B707-338 aircraft. These days the RAAF operates 5 of the most capable tanker transports available today, the Airbus MRRT.

          Correct tho the Typhoon production line is already being looked at being shut down, no point buying planes that can't be supported in the future

          Also that latest upgrade to include BACN will send the cost over the price of an F35A, Typhoons and Rafaele are damn expensive, same with an F15SE or GE

          MRRT is new international standard amd the yanks will pay for the KC46, the 767 airframe is as redundant as a 707's was

            We are in agreement, particularly your third para.

    I think the question is why is it going to take 4 years to create software to fire a Gun? Are the programmers first going to learn how to program?

    With the rise of Unmanned drones I am wondering if some one will develop a unmanned drone that could literally fly circles around the F-35.

      Won't e long... I'd say ten years, maybe... :)

    Part of me believes that there is simply a massive misinformation program employed to make people (and enemies) think that this plane has constant problems.

    None of this is unusual. The M61 Vulcan carried by the Super Hornet is capable of something in the order of 6000 rounds per minute but only carries 578 rounds. As others have mentioned, bullets are heavy and you only fire short bursts.

    It strikes me as really weird that the US makes the F-35, what they consider the most superior fighter ever built, and they sell it to other countries. Granted they are Allied countries but still. This bullshit about 4years of development for a gun sounds like them stalling so they can say they had the F-35 for 4 years before giving Australia ours.

      Australia has taken delivery of 2 F-35s in December of 2014. Your claim is therefore nonsense.

        But does delivery actually mean delivery, are they stationed at RAAF Williamtown ATM?

        (No Idea myself, I am one of those who must be staggeringly ignorant -in these matters-).

        Probably the next 4 years are for proving the equipment meets spec. before it can be signed off as a prototype.

        Need a few customers and theatres to prove the concept in the field.. Ready for more carnage.

      For the US, the F-22 is their air superiority fighter and they will not sell it to anyone (Australia has asked). To be the best air superiority fighter though, sacrifices were made in areas such as air to ground and marine interdiction missions (which Australia would be interested in). The F-35 is supposed to be a mass produced multi-role fighter that can do the air to ground mission as well as air to air and do so in large numbers (due to the comparitively cheap price). The price tag on the F-22 is so high that the US would only ever have a few of them in-theatre to establish air superiority, it would be the F-35s who would come in afterward to win the war.

        Actually the price on the F35's feilded thus far is MORE than the F22! Morons

    And what exactly is Australia going to do with these lemons when they do eventually arrive, assuming they work? Shoot the boat people? Rabbits (yes, including the Mad Monk)? Or use them to fight the USA's wars at Australian tax payers' expense?

    At the rate this is going and this government is wasting money, Australia will be in recession or bankrupt by the time they arrive.

      Fighting wars for and on behalf of the US is all that Australia does these days, militarily. Our governments are so far up the US' arsehole that they can no longer see any light whatsoever.

        So you believe that the people of Afghanistan deserved to be oppressed by the Taliban?

          Don't ascribe to me beliefs that I do not hold! Afghanistan is supposed to now be able to look out for itself, after 10 years of foreign intervention and war. Should Australia be involved in a war that was started by the US based on a lie and after foreign forces have withdrawn? I have some Afghani friends and some family members who fought in the recent war there; I know how much they appreciate what Australia did for them but they do not care much for what the US did to them.

            So you believe that the Taliban were good guys and shouldn't have been removed from power in Afghanistan?

            That is the war I'm reffering to. You seem to be reffering to Iraq which at the time appeared to be a lie but with reports now of ISIS finding caches of mustard gas shells perhaps not so much of a lie.

    Hey -
    Haters... like most government-industry programs, the F-35 / Strike Fighter family has achieved its original goals many times over.
    Employment for thousands of development team members, companies afloat, and it's kept politicians faces in the media.
    What else is it expected to do?

    This should bankrupt Lockheed Martin. It's so wrong that the government just keeps paying and paying.

    Can't we just keep our F-18s? We kept our F-111s way past their expiry date and did ok. Seems like a huge waste of money for something we don't need.

      The F-18s are too far behind technology wise.

      We should be trying for the F-15 Silent Eagles. Same G4.5 tech. longer range, faster speed, heavier weapon load, cheaper and proven air frame.

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