US Air Force fighter pilots get GAU-5A carbine in ejection seat survival kits

The U.S. Air Force is now issuing new survival rifles, the GAU-5/A Aircrew Self Defense Weapon, to at least some units, The Drive reports. It offers more firepower to fighter jet crews in case of ejection above enemy territory.

US Air Force fighter pilots get GAU 5A carbine in ejection seat survival kits Troy GAU-5/A Aircrew Self Defense Weapon (Picture source: Troy)

On May 9, 2019, the public affairs office for the 366th Fighter Wing, which flies F-15E Strike Eagles, published a news item showing that the GAU-5/As are in service with its aircraft. In April 2019, a Facebook post showed that F-22 Raptor pilots with the 3rd Wing at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Alaska had also begun to fly with the Aircrew Self Defense Weapons (ASDW).

In June 2018, the Air Force had revealed it was converting standard 5.56x45mm M4 carbines in-house to the new configuration at a rate of 100 per week, with a goal of producing 2,100 guns for distribution to combat-coded squadrons flying both fighter jets and bombers.

The GAU-5/A is a variant of the M4 carbine with specialized features so it can break apart and fit compactly into the standard survival kit in an aviator's ejection seat. Based on the M4 carbine, the GAU-5A features Cry Havoc Tactical’s Quick Release Barrel, the Air Force Times reported. It’s designed to fit into the standard survival kit under the ejection seat for downed fighter and bomber crews". The main difference between the ASDW and its M4 cousin is the redesign of the upper receiver to include a specialized locking system from Cry Havoc Tactical. With this lock in place, a user can attach or detach the barrel assembly from the rest of the gun without special tools. With proper training, a shooter can put the weapon together and be ready to fire within 60 seconds.

“The [GAU-5A] and four full magazines, 30 rounds [each], must all fit in the ejection seat survival kit,” said Maj. Docleia Gibson, Air Combat Command spokeswoman. Gibson added that the GAU-5A is “capable of firing a 3-round burst. It uses standard 5.56mm ammunition with an effective range beyond 200 meters.” The complete kit weighs less than 40 pounds and also includes signal flares, a flashlight, a medical kit, survival tools, and a life raft.

The development of the carbine from start apparently began with a requirement from F-15E pilots out of Mountain Home AFB. F-15E Strike Eagle pilots from the 366th Fighter Wing heavily engaged in Iraq and Syria had demanded additional firepower over their 9mm M9 Beretta pistols in the event they had to bail out after witnessing what happened to Jordanian F-16 pilot Moaz Al Kasasbeh in December 2014: ISIS terrorists had quickly captured Al Kasasbeh after he crashed and they subsequently burned him alive in January 2015.