Military Aviation

Here’s how A-10 Warthog’s 30 mike-mike GAU-8/A Avenger cannon maintenance is performed

Functionality inspections are meticulous processes: in fact one small oversight can lead to weapon failure or worse

The A-10 Thunderbolt II is the first U.S. Air Force (USAF) aircraft specially designed for close air support (CAS) of ground forces.

Its combination of large and varied ordnance load, long loiter time, accurate weapons delivery, austere field capability, and survivability has proven invaluable to the United States and its allies.

For this reason when CAS is called to battle, there is no margin for the A-10C Thunderbolt II weapon systems to fail.

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Clay Thomas, 355th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron load crew member, loosens paneling screws from an A-10C Thunderbolt II at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz.. The panels are removed to perform maintenance on the A-10’s GAU-8/A Gatling gun.

That’s were the 355th Equipment Maintenance Squadrons (EMS) armament flight comes into play: the unit in fact, being responsible for loading ammunition and disassembling weapon systems for inspection and cleaning, has to ensure that all systems have to be fully functional and ready for action in order for the A-10’s mission to run smoothly.

“Our jobs as weapons personnel means we cover everything weapon related including working on the gun system, bomb systems and loading the jet with live ammunition,” explained Staff Sgt. Justin Fuller, 355th EMS gun section supervisor.

The Hog primary weapon, the 30 mm GAU-8/A Avenger Gatling gun, has scheduled cleaning and inspections based on time and use. Weapons Airmen start by removing panels from the A-10’s nose to the underbelly, completely exposing the gun and its components.

U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Michael Sherwood, 355th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron load crew member, ensures that a GAU-8/A Gatling gun is securely fastened before being transported to the armament shop to be disassembled, cleaned, inspected and reassembled.

“The 30 mm gun system consists of three components, the Gatling gun itself, the hydraulic drive motor and the drum which holds up to 1,500 rounds of ammunition,” Fuller pointed out.

After all bolts have been loosened and certain parts removed, the gun is taken off and brought to the armament flight for inspection and cleaning, as explained by Master Sgt. Jerrime Williams 355th EMS armament flight NCOIC, who said: “We inspect it after every 25,000 rounds fired or 36 months. The system comes in, we do a clean, lube it, and change out certain parts.”

The armament flight breaks down the system to its smallest components and washes off the grease and lube, which leaves behind a silver skeleton of a gun. Before reassembly, fresh grease gears and other moving parts to ensure friction is minimal. Then a final inspection is performed.

“We go over every part to ensure there [are] no cracks, rust, or wear and tear,” Williams said.

U.S. Airmen from the 355th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron’s armament flight, remove the forward rotator from a GAU-8/A Gatling gun for cleaning and inspection.

Functionality inspections are meticulous processes: in fact one small oversight can lead to weapon failure or worse. “If an inspection isn’t performed correctly, it could put not only our pilots, but our sister services and ground troops in danger,” Williams said.

Once the final inspections are complete, the gun returns to its rightful place and the A-10 is ready for its next mission, whether it is in training or combat.

Noteworthy, the Hog wide combat radius and short takeoff and landing capability permit operations in and out of locations near front lines. Thanks to this unique features the A-10 can loiter near battle areas for extended periods of time.

“The A-10 is mainly [used for] ground support which means it is used when our troops are getting shot at,” Fuller said. “When I fully load a jet with bombs and ammo and it comes back with nothing, I feel proud, because I know that what I did was directly involved with saving lives.”

U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Joel Balmforth, 355th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron armament member, removes the mid-barrel support assembly from a GAU-8/A Gatling gun for cleaning and inspection.

Source: Gunning for SuccessAirman 1st Class Ashley Steffen, 355th Fighter Wing and U.S. Air Force; Photo credit: Airman 1st Class Ashley N. Steffen and Master Sgt. Scott Thompson / U.S. Air Force

Artwork courtesy of

Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

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