The U.S. Air Force is equipping its airmen with a new carbine: the GAU-5A Aircrew Self Defense Weapon.
Based on the M4 carbine, the GAU-5A features Cry Havoc Tactical’s Quick Release Barrel, the Air Force Times reports. It’s designed to fit into the standard survival kit under the ejection seat for downed fighter and bomber crews.
“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. “This has driven the dimension of 16 x 14 x 3.5 inches.”
In a separate statement to The Firearm Blog, 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 200m. The weapon can be assembled/disassembled in 60 seconds without tools.”
Gibson told Military.com that the rifle will not replace anything in the USAF survival pack.
“This is just an addition to the current capability that they already have,” she said.
Interestingly, as The Drive points out, the Air Force already used the GAU-5A designation back in the Vietnam War for a M16 rifle variant. That particular model was equipped with a 10-inch barrel, shorter than the 14.5-inch barrel found on today’s M4s. In addition, the GAU-5A/A was the service’s version of the XM177E2 rifle used by MACV-SOG soldiers. Furthermore, beginning in the ’90s, both of these rifles were modified into a configuration called the GUU-5/P. If the USAF wanted the GAU-5A Aircrew Self Defense Weapon to be a GAU-5A variant, it would have been designated the GAU-5B/A.
In any event, the new GAU-5A is being made at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland in Texas at a rate of 100 per week. Air Combat Command expects 2,137 in total to be fielded to combat-coded A-10, B-1, B-2, B-52, F-15C, F-15E, F-16, and F-22 aircraft.
“The ASDW will be given to all combat-coded ejection aircraft,” said Gibson. “There are continuous evaluations of Air Force programs and policies. The ASDW allows aircrew to have a longer stand-off range.”
Prior to the new GAU-5A Aircrew Self Defense Weapon, crews used a knife or a personal sidearm for self defense.