While stealth, speed, and overall aerial capability are really important factors for any fighter jet, we don’t talk about the guns on combat jets as much as we should. One thing is clear: they do have a lot of power and can do some serious damage if in the right situation: Although guns haven’t been a focus in air combat for decades, American jets can still sling lead with the very best of them. But unless you’ve got first-hand experience with the massive cannons stuffed into the fuselages of aircraft like the F-15, F-16, or the A-10 Warthog, you’ll probably be downright shocked at just how big the rounds that their guns fire actually are.
In the video above, we compare the 9mm rounds fired by American service pistols like the M17 and M18 to the NATO 5.56 rounds fired by service rifles like the M16 and M4, before moving up to the big dogs like the .50 caliber rounds fired by the M2 machine gun.
But it only gets crazier from there. Next, we compared those rounds to bullets fired by the guns in America’s jets. First up is the 20mm round fired by the M61 Vulcan series of guns leveraged by a number of American fighters, including the F-15, F-16, F/A-18, and F-22.
But as big as the M61’s 20mm rounds really are, they’re still practically tiny compared to the absolutely massive 30mm rounds fired by the A-10’s gun, the GAU-8 Avenger.
At almost 20 feet long and nearly 620 pounds, this hydraulically driven seven-barrel Gatling-style autocannon could originally fire at 2,100 rounds per minute in a low setting and 4,200 rounds in a high setting, but was eventually shifted to a steady 3,900 rounds per minute at all times. To put that another way, the A-10’s massive weapon fires 65 rounds per second… and we’re not talking about just any rounds.
We’re talking about 65 of these rounds per second.