You’ve hit your target and steering the fighter jet in a steep right turn to evade ground fire and enemy missiles, when the unthinkable happens — you’re hit!
The cockpit display lights up like a Christmas tree with alarm bells ringing. This is not a good thing, you surmise.
Power is diminishing and you’re sinking — it’s time to eject, over enemy territory.
You hit the ground OK, and quickly locate the ejection seat … ripping open the under-seat, you find what you’re looking for. A shiny, new GAU-5A carbine rifle!
Now, at least you have a chance, to buy time before your rescuers arrive.
Fact or fictional Clint Eastwood moment? Fact — the US Air Force has developed a new assault rifle that breaks down into two pieces, allowing it to be stored in the ejection seat of modern jets, Popular Mechanics reported.
The GAU-5A carbine is designed to provide the firepower necessary for aircrew to defend themselves until rescue, the report said.
The GAU-5A was designed by the Air Force Gunsmith Shop, which, according to Military.com, was formed in 1958 to repair and refurbish all small arms for the Air Force, the report said.
The Gunsmith Shop received a requirement for the weapon with the ability to hit a “man-sized target at 200 meters,” according to Guns.com. That’s considerably farther than the effective range of the new M17 pistol, the report said.
While M-4 carbines are plentiful in the service, they’re also much larger, with an average length of approximately 33 inches and a weight of seven pounds.
The GAU-5A is a modified M-4 carbine, the same weapon used by US Army and Marine Corps personnel, as well as Air Force security personnel, the report said.
The gun is modified into a “takedown” weapon, breaking down into two major pieces for storage purposes. The gun and four 30-round magazines loaded with 5.56-millimeter ammunition are designed to fit in an ACES II ejection seat compartment, the report said.
If a pilot bails out over hostile territory, he or she simply removes the weapon case from the back of the ejection seat, folds the pistol grip forward, fits the barrel on the rifle, pops up the sights, and inserts a loaded magazine. The entire process takes 30 seconds.
Even in a non-shooting war, it could take days for search and rescue units to locate a downed pilot, and a bailout weapon provides not only a source of security but also a means to bagging small game. Ejection seats only provide so much in military rations and eventually a pilot might be forced to scavenge for food, the report said.
The Gunsmith Shop has built and shipped out 2,700 GAU-5As to Air Force units worldwide, at a total cost of US$2.7 million.