The A-10’s “flying cannon” and its 30mm shells makes it a friend to U.S. ground troops and a nightmare to the enemy.
The A-10 can carry a variety of weaponry but the plane was built as a firing platform for the General Electric GAU 8 Avenger Gatling gun. Basically, it’s a flying cannon. Hydraulically driven and featuring seven barrels, it spits out 70 rounds per second. With a loaded ammunition drum, the entire weapon weighs about 4,000 pounds.
A “combat squeeze” produces a two-second burst that delivers 112 rounds of 30mm ammunition with devastating effect. The blink-of-an-eye firing means that on most missions, the A-10 is equipped with enough ammo to make about nine strafing runs.
In addition to the fact the GAU 8 delivers a powerful punch that’s accurate, there are two other unique factors to the A-10’s main weapon.
First, it’s mounting.
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 port side of the fuselage center line, with the actively “firing” barrel in the nine o’clock position (when viewed from the front of the aircraft), so that the firing barrel lies directly on the aircraft’s center line. The firing barrel also lies just below the aircraft’s center of gravity, being bore sighted along a line 2 degrees below the aircraft’s line of flight.
Second, the sound of those two-second bursts is memorable. Instead of the rat-a-tat-tat of machine guns, the A-10’s Gatling gun sounds like … a piece of paper being ripped. It also could be analogous to … well … flatulence.
Which is probably the sound the enemy makes when they see a Warthog swooping for a strafing run.