Search
Close this search box.
Search
Close this search box.

Do Fighter Planes Like the F-35 and F-22 Have Guns That Shoot Bullets or Are They Missiles-Only Platforms?

Do Fighter Planes Like the F-35 and F-22 Have Guns That Shoot Bullets or Are They Missiles-Only Platforms?

Modern Military

U.S. Air Force F-35A Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters from the 58th Fighter Squadron, 33rd Fighter Wing, Eglin AFB, Fla. perform an aerial refueling mission with a KC-135 Stratotanker from the 336th Air Refueling Squadron from March ARB, Calif., May 14, 2013 off the coast of Northwest Florida. The 33rd Fighter Wing is a joint graduate flying and maintenance training wing that trains Air Force, Marine, Navy and international partner operators and maintainers of the F-35 Lightning II. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Donald R. Allen/Released)

When discussing modern fighter jets, particularly advanced models like the F-22 Raptor and the F-35 Lightning II, a common question arises: Do these sophisticated aircraft rely solely on missiles, or are they also equipped with traditional guns that shoot bullets? Despite the advanced missile capabilities of these jets, both the F-22 and F-35 are indeed armed with rotary cannons, which are essentially very rapid-firing guns.

F-22 Raptor: A Stealthy Powerhouse

The F-22 Raptor, developed by Lockheed Martin for the United States Air Force, is a fifth-generation, single-seat, twin-engine, all-weather stealth tactical fighter aircraft. Its primary role includes air superiority, but it is also capable of ground attack, electronic warfare, and signal intelligence.

One of the defining features of the F-22 is its emphasis on stealth. To maintain its low radar signature, the aircraft’s M61A2 Vulcan 20mm cannon is cleverly hidden behind a retractable panel. The M61A2 Vulcan is a six-barrel rotary cannon capable of firing 6,000 rounds per minute, making it extremely effective for close-in dogfighting and strafing runs. This integration ensures that the Raptor can engage in air-to-air combat using its gun when missiles are either expended or not practical for the engagement scenario.

F-35 Lightning II: Versatile and Lethal

The F-35 Lightning II, also developed by Lockheed Martin, is another fifth-generation fighter jet, distinguished by its versatility. It comes in three variants: the F-35A (conventional takeoff and landing), the F-35B (short takeoff and vertical landing), and the F-35C (carrier-based). Each variant is designed to fulfill different roles for the Air Force, Marine Corps, and Navy, respectively.

The F-35 is equipped with a GAU-22/A, a four-barrel 25mm Gatling gun. The implementation of this gun varies across the different F-35 variants:

  • F-35A: The gun is housed internally, preserving the aircraft’s stealth profile. This internal placement is similar to the F-22’s approach, ensuring that the aircraft can remain undetected by radar while still being able to deploy its gun when necessary.
  • F-35B and F-35C: For these variants, the GAU-22/A is carried in an external pod. While this configuration slightly compromises the aircraft’s stealth when the gun pod is attached, it provides the Marine Corps and Navy with the flexibility to choose when to mount the gun based on the mission requirements.

The GAU-22/A(pictured below) is designed to provide effective air-to-ground support and air-to-air engagement capabilities, firing at a rate of approximately 3,300 rounds per minute. This makes it a formidable tool for engaging targets that are either too close or too agile for missile engagement.

In conclusion, both the F-22 Raptor and the F-35 Lightning II are equipped with guns that shoot bullets, in addition to their advanced missile systems. These rotary cannons are integral to the aircraft’s design, providing a crucial capability for close-in combat and situations where missiles are not suitable. The integration of these guns demonstrates that even in an era dominated by advanced missile technology, traditional guns remain a vital component of a fighter jet’s arsenal.