‘In short… yes. Mechanically, it still works great upside down, but it would be a rare situation when you’d want to try it,’ Lynn Taylor, former A-10 Warthog Pilot.
Installed in all production A-10 attack aircraft as well as in both YA-10As (in which was retrofitted replacing the Vulcan cannon originally installed), the seven-barrel GAU-8/A Avenger 30 mm Gatling gun is the primary Warthog weapon for close air support (CAS) missions.
The GAU-8 itself weighs 620 pounds (280 kg), but the complete weapon, with feed system and drum, weighs 4,029 pounds (1,828 kg) with a maximum ammunition load.
It measures 19 ft 5 1⁄2 in (5.931 m) from the muzzle to the rearmost point of the ammunition system, and the ammunition drum alone is 34.5 inches (88 cm) in diameter and 71.5 inches (1.82 m) long.
Power for operating the gun is provided by twin hydraulic motors pressurized from two independent hydraulic systems.
The magazine can hold 1,174 rounds, although 1,150 is the typical load due to the 575-round capacity of the loading cart. Muzzle velocity when firing Armor-Piercing Incendiary rounds is 1,013 m/s, almost the same as the substantially lighter M61 Vulcan’s 20 mm round.
Does the A-10’s GAU-8 Avenger work even while the aircraft is upside down?
‘That said, there is a bit of finesse required when firing The Gun. Even with the help of the fancy green magic in the HUD, the pilot still needs to point The Gun “just so” in order to deliver its little bundles of joy to the intended recipient.
‘Accurate delivery means following some fundamental rules of shooting. For example, “track, shoot, track.” That means you line up your shot, squeeze the trigger, and stay lined up after you let off the trigger. To an outside observer, the time between the first “track” and second “track” before the jet pulls off target may seem nonexistent. But to the pilot in the cockpit, fractions of a second can seem tortuously long.
‘There’s also the matter of training and practicing to shoot well, and the muscle memory involved. If you’ve ever fired a handgun or a rifle, imagine how different it would be if you tried it again while hanging upside down. It’s certainly possible, but there are some adjustments you’d have to make, especially if your target is over a mile away.
‘All of that means that firing while upside down is a tricky proposition. In most cases, you’re going to lose both accuracy and safety trying to line up a shot while looking up at the rocks.’
‘So, in short… yes. Mechanically, it still works great upside down, but it would be a rare situation when you’d want to try it.’
Photo credit: U.S. Air Force