While it might sound cool, the GAU-8 Avenger rotary cannon might not ring a bell with firearms enthusiasts right off the bat — even those with a military bent. But it is fair to say it might be one of the most recognizable Gatling Gun-style weapon systems of modern times when it's mounted and ready for action.
That is because the cannon is the primary weapon system of one of the most iconic military aircraft of the 20th and 21st centuries — the A-10 Thunderbolt II.
Better and affectionately known as the “Warthog,” the close-support aircraft has struck terror into the hearts of its adversaries for going on 40 years. The above video from FUNKER530's You Tube channel shows exactly why.
The clip gives a quick look at the cannon being put through its paces in a test facility and on an A-10. One of the more striking scenes is the ground-eye's view of the aircraft's strafing runs — it's some real fireworks.
The Avenger has an insane rate of fire, with the ability to throw 30mm projectiles down range to the tune of 70 rounds per second. That is enough firepower to gain even the most pigheaded individuals’ attention. The Avenger’s adoption, however, did not come without challenges.
One of the greatest was the weapon system’s recoil:
Because the gun's recoil forces could push the entire plane off target during firing, the weapon itself is mounted laterally off-center, slightly to the portside of the fuselage centerline… with the actively “firing” barrel in the 3 o'clock position, so that the firing barrel lies directly on the aircraft's center line.
Weight was another issue with the General Electric built, seven-barreled, hydraulically driven beast. Tipping the scales at 619 pounds, the cannon composes a considerable amount of the A-10's overall weight. The tail of the plane actually has to have a support place under if the cannon is removed to stop it from tipping back.
It’s fair to say this heft rules the GAU-8 out as a candidate for concealed-carry. However, if you happen to have a column of Soviet T-72 battle tanks or the like staring you down, well the old Avenger might be your shooting iron of choice.