Air Force pilots are finally getting collapsible rifles to defend themselves if they eject in hostile territory

Military Tech

After decades with nothing but pistols to defend themselves with in the event of a successful ejection over enemy territory, Air Force pilots are officially rocking compact versions of a rifle that the U.S. military has used since Vietnam.

In the last month, airmen have started receiving the GAU-5A Aircrew Self Defense Weapon, a heavily-modified version of the shortened 5.56mm M16 derivative that U.S. service members once brandished in the 1960s as the CAR-15 or "Colt Commando"


The new ASDW, which comes with four 30-round magazines, is based on Colt's current M4 platform and outfitted with a "modified quick-release barrel" designed by tactical firearms company Cry Havoc for an effective range beyond 200 meters, as Air Force Times reported in June 2018.

Produced explicitly for inclusion in the new new ACES II survival kit, the GAU-5A ASDW measures just under 16 x 14 x 3.5 inches and was to be assembled by hand in under a minute, Air Combat Command officials told Air Force Times.

The GAU-5A Aircrew Self Defense Weapon(U.S. Air Force/3rd Wing via Facebook)

The Air Force first announced its intent to arm pilots with the new ASDW back in June 2018, and a handful of lucky airmen finally managed to get their hands on the new rifle this spring.

An April 2019 Facebook post from the 3r Wing showed F-22 Raptor pilots at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Alaska getting up close and personal with their new rifles.

A few weeks later the 366th Fighter Wing at Mountain Home Air Force Base in Idaho showed personnel readying the new GAU-5 rifles for including in ACES II survival kits for F-15E Strike Eagle pilots.

Airman First Class Zack Day, 366th Operation Support Squadron aircrew flight equipment apprentice, assembles a GUA-5A May 6, 2019, at Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho(U.S. Air Force/Airman First Class Andrew Kobialka)

While the [GAU-5A] was designed "for all combat-coded ejection aircraft," as Air Combat Command spokeswoman Maj. Docleia Gibson previously told Air Force Times, it's worth noting that Air Force pilots will likely have a backup pistol handy as well.

As Task & Purpose previously reported, the Air Force was eyeing the Army's new Modular Handgun System as a potential replacement for the Beretta M9 and SIG Sauer P226 pistols as pilot sidearms, separate from the firearm included in the ACES II survival kit.

Back in December 2017, Air Force's operational testing and evaluation officials at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio outfitted a test dummy with two M17 pistols holstered across his chest before slamming it into the bottom of a vertical deceleration tower at the 711th Human Performance Wing to ensure the new handgun doesn't cause issues during an ejection.

Either way, the GAU-5A ASDW will certainly add a much-needed firepower boost for airmen shot down behind enemy lines — at least, until their Ubers arrives.

WATCH NEXT: The Army's New Modular Handgun System

The GAU-5A Aircrew Self Defense Weapon (U.S. Air Force/3rd Wing via Facebook)
(AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

Moments before Army Staff Sgt. David Bellavia went back into the house, journalist Michael Ware said he was "pacing like a caged tiger ... almost like he was talking to himself."

"I distinctly remember while everybody else had taken cover temporarily, there out in the open on the street — still exposed to the fire from the roof — was David Bellavia," Ware told Task & Purpose on Monday. "David stopped pacing, he looked up and sees that the only person still there on the street is me. And I'm just standing there with my arms folded.

"He looked up from the pacing, stared straight into my eyes, and said 'Fuck it.' And I stared straight back at him and said 'Fuck it,'" Ware said. "And that's when I knew, we were both going back in that house."

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(Photo courtesy of Philip Stackhouse)

Former Army Special Forces Maj. Matthew Golsteyn will plead not guilty to a charge of murder for allegedly shooting an unarmed Afghan man whom a tribal leader had identified as a Taliban bomb maker, his attorney said.

Golsteyn will be arraigned on Thursday morning at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, Phillip Stackhouse told Task & Purpose.

No date has been set for his trial yet, said Lt. Col. Loren Bymer, a spokesman for U.S. Army Special Operations Command.

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Taran Tactical Innovations

John Wick is back, and he's here to stay. It doesn't matter how many bad guys show up to try to collect on that bounty.

With John Wick: Chapter 3 — Parabellum, the titular hitman, played by 54-year-old Keanu Reeves, continues on a blood-soaked hyper-stylized odyssey of revenge: first for his slain dog, then his wrecked car, then his destroyed house, then ... well, honestly it's hard to keep track of exactly what Wick is avenging by this point, or the body count he's racked up in the process.

Though we do know that the franchise has raked in plenty of success at the box office: just a week after it's May 17 release, the third installment in director Chad Stahleski's series took in roughly $181 million, making it even more successful than its two wildly popular prequels 2014's John Wick, and 2017's John Wick: Chapter 2.

And, more importantly, Reeves' hitman is well on his way to becoming one of the greatest action movie heroes in recent memory. Few (if any) other action flicks have succeeded in creating a mind-blowing avant garde ballet out of a dozen well-dressed gunmen who get shot, choked, or stabbed with a pencil by a pissed off hitman who just wants to return to retirement.

But for all the over-the-top acrobatics, fight sequences, and gun-porn (see: the sommelier), what makes the series so enthralling, especially for the service members and vets in the audience, is that there are some refreshing moments of realism nestled under all of that gun fu. Wrack your brain and try to remember the last time you saw an action hero do a press check during a shootout, clear a jam, or actually, you know, reload, instead of just hip-firing 300 rounds from an M16 nonstop. It's cool, we'll wait.

As it turns out, there's a good reason for the caliber of gun-play in John Wick. One of the franchise's secret weapons is a professional three-gun shooter named Taran Butler, who told Task & Purpose he can draw and hit three targets in 0.67 seconds from 10 yards. And if you've watched any of the scores of videos he's uploaded to social media over the years, it's pretty clear that this isn't idle boasting.

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The Navy's electromagnetic railgun is undergoing what officials described as "essentially a shakedown" of critical systems before finally installing a tactical demonstrator aboard a surface warship, the latest sign that the once-beleaguered supergun may actually end up seeing combat.

That pretty much means this is could be the last set of tests before actually slapping this bad boy onto a warship, for once.

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(AP Photo/Denis Poroy)

The Justice Department has accused Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) of illegally using campaign funds to pay for extramarital affairs with five women.

Hunter, who fought in the Iraq War as a Marine artillery officer, and his wife Margaret were indicated by a federal jury on Aug. 21, 2018 for allegedly using up to $250,000 in campaign funds for personal use.

In a recent court filing, federal prosecutors accused Hunter of using campaign money to pay for a variety of expenses involved with his affairs, ranging from a $1,008 hotel bill to $7 for a Sam Adams beer.

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