General Electric GAU-8/A Avenger
A10 Tank Buster
Airborne Machine Gun
Davis-Monthan Air Force Base near Tucson, Arizona is the home of the A10 Tank Buster (Warthog) Aircraft. It's armed with one of the most terrifying weapons in modern warfare - the GAU-8 Avenger.
Major Mike Young is an A10 pilot and a combat veteran of the war in Afghanistan. The GAU-8 dominates his aircraft, he's not so much flying a plane, he's flying a machine gun.
With magazine and drive mechanism the GAU-8 weighs 1.8 tonnes. 21 feet of barrel makes the gun accurate at more than three and a half miles. The entire length of the barrels have internal rifling grooves to impart a spin on the bullets, stabilising them in flight. The gun is so massive, the nose-wheel of the A10 has to be mounted off line to make room on the central axis of the aircraft.
A full load of ammunition is around 1200 rounds and it's so heavy that a motorised loader has to be employed by the ground crew.
The weapon devours ammunition, but pilots are careful to make their rounds count. Even a short burst of the GAU-8 is lethal to anyone or any thing. A single round of ammunition is 12 inches long and weighs more than a pound and the GAU-8 can fire 4,200 rounds per minute. The secret is multiple barrels. The GAU-8 owes it's origins to the 19th century machine gun that started it all. It's a descendant of The Gatling Gun.
The GAU-8 Avenger
The GAU-8 Avenger is the Gatling Gun reborn. This is Dr Richard Jordan Gatling's 19th century dream come true, a single rapid-fire weapon doing the work of a battlefield regiment of troops.
The gun's motor is powered directly from the aircraft's hydraulics. To aim the weapon, the pilot aligns the entire aircraft using the heads-up display. The GAU-8 must be activated just before the final firing line is reached.
In a battle situation the effect on the enemy is devastating, even one armour piercing bullet, on target, can destroy a battle tank. Enemy troops refer to the GAU-8 as the silent gun. The victims of the supersonic ammunition never hear it coming. Because the bullet is travelling faster than the speed of sound, The noise of the approaching bullet does not reach the victim until it is too late for the victim to hear it.
If necessary the GAU-8 can fire all 1200 of it's rounds in just seven seconds.
The ammunition used in the GAU-8 uses a four-to-one mix of PGU/14B armour piercing incendiary (API) and PGU/13B high explosive incendiary (HEI). The PGU/14B rounds contain a depleted uranium penetrator which is controversial and has been implicated in a rise in birth defects in Iraq following the Gulf War.
A10 Tank Buster
CREDITS: All of the above information was taken from the UK's Channel Five "Inventions of War" documentary series.