January 14, 2020
Did you know the US Air Force recently adopted a specialized carbine for pilots and aircrew members? For decades the US Air Force has wrestled with trying to find the perfect firearm solution for aircrew members who crash, or are shot down and must defend themselves, or forage for food. What makes it a difficult solution is the very limited space available combined with the need for it to be very light weight. World War II thinking consisted of a revolver chambered in .38 Special and/or a lightweight "survival gun" useful for foraging. Neither of these proved to be the right solution. The GAU-5A ASDW is a 5.56x45mm M4 based platform. The chief difference is the QD barrel/handguard and folding pistol grip. These allow for a substantially smaller foot-print. The GAU-5A utilizes a Quick Release Barrel (QBR) system from Cry Havoc Tactical and a FAB Defense AGF-43S Folding Pistol Grip. The QBR system was extensively tested before fielding to prove that an aircrew member could quickly reassemble the carbine, even in total darkness, under heavy stress or while disorientated. The compact carbine passed all military testing and was adopted in 2019. The GAU-5A is part of the ACES II survival kit and includes 4 magazines (120 rounds). It fits beneath the jet’s ejection seat, measures 16x14x3.5 inches and weighs just under 40 pounds. Each survival kit is outfitted with flares, a sidewinder flashlight, medical modules, survival modules, life raft and the GAU-5A aircrew self-defense weapon (ASDW) along with other items. The US Air Force confirmed that 2,137 ASDWs will be fielded with all combat coded A-10, B-1, B-2, B-52, F-15C, F-15E, F-16, and F-22 units. The carbines are being retrofitted at the USAF Gunsmith Shop, at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas.