‘Firing the GAU-8 Avenger 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,’ Lynn Taylor, former A-10 Warthog Pilot.
The General Electric GAU-8/A Avenger is a 30 mm hydraulically driven seven-barrel Gatling-style autocannon mounted in the US Air Force’s Fairchild Republic A-10 Warthog. Designed specifically for the anti-tank role, the Avenger delivers very powerful rounds at a high rate of fire. The GAU-8/A is extremely accurate and can fire up to 3,900 rounds per minute without complications. The 30-mm shell has twice the range, half the time to target, and three times the mass of projectiles fired by guns mounted in comparable close air support (CAS) aircraft.
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