Tag Archives: gunship

AC-235 Gunship Lite

One of our longstanding frustrations with the way the US purchases airpower is that it has so often sought the comprehensive solution to a perceived problem, and not the 80% solution at 20% cost.  Rather than buying low cost platforms for low threat environments (such as Iraq and Afghanistan) in modest numbers, the Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps insist on flying their dwindling number of strike fighters. An airframe has a finite number of flying hours available. And they’re being wasted droning over virtually secure airspace. The only push in the US for low cost solutions is coming from the Special Operations community, and they are getting pushback from the mainstream services.

The AC-130U is the definitive gunship conversion of a transport aircraft. But there will only ever be a handful of them. They’re such good aircraft because they are so lavishly equipped. They’re astonishingly expensive. I’ve seen quotes of a flyaway cost of about $190 million dollars!

The C-27J program looked at building a low cost roll-on package for the Spartan to provide top cover.  That dream died when the Air Force smothered the program in its crib.

But the idea of putting some weapons and sensors onto a converted transport has merit. Witness the Marine Corps deployment of C-130J Harvest Hawks.

And other nations are catching on as well. The latest is Jordan. Jordan teamed with ATK to field a conversion of the popular CN-235 light transport into the AC-235 gunship.

That’s actually a pretty robust capability. As Think Defence notes, integrating the APKWS guided 70mm rocket is a no-brainer as well. With very good sensors (the SAR/GMTI radar is quite handy), and presumably a system similar to our ROVER that allows sensor video to be shared with troop units on the ground, the long endurance of an AC-235 allows much more than merely providing supporting fires. The top down view can allow a commander to exercise much better control over his forces, as well as providing a better picture of the enemy.

The US Coast Guard is buying a handful of CN-235s for Search and Rescue. They were going to buy more, but instead they’re taking delivery of a handful of C-27Js that were intended for Army and Air Force use. Would it be so hard for the services to buy a few more and convert them to AC-235s*?

*The  Air Force quietly operates a pair of vanilla CN-235s for unknown purposes. My supposition is they are used to quietly move Special Forces troops around in Africa or other places that operations aren’t secret, but where a discrete footprint is desired.

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Filed under Air Force

Harvest Hawk Herc

We’ve mentioned the Marine Corps program to “bolt on” a ground attack capability to some of its fleet of KC-130J Hercules. And lo and behold, here’s some video of one doing a live fire exercise.

My eyes are getting pretty old. Can one of you sharp eyed spotters identify the chase plane? I think it’s a T-6 Texan II, but I’m just not sure.

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Filed under marines

Spectre Gunships Face Retirement

Relax. It’s the older “H” models. The U-Boats will still be doing pylon turns over the troops.

We let troops retire after 20 years. I think after well over 40 years, we can let a bird retire.

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Filed under Air Force, planes

AC-130W

Early on in the blog, we wrote about the development of the gunship, modified transport aircraft armed to provide fires to troops on the  ground. They’re very expensive aircraft (mostly because of their sophisticated sensor arrays) so there are only a relative handful in service.

The introduction of the C-27J in service had some folks hoping a “Gunship Lite” program could be developed to supplement (but not supplant) the current AC-130U.  For various reasons, including the cancellation of the entire C-27J program, that never came to pass.

But the need to bolster gunship numbers didn’t go away.  So the MC-130W “Dragon Spear”  was pressed into service. Originally intended to make up for losses in the special operations MC-130H community (clandestine delivery and retrieval of special operations forces), the MC-130W’s were in fact armed with sensors and weapons. A 30mm Bushmaster gun and ViperStrike missiles gave it a limited ability to attack enemy targets on the ground with great precision.

The armed mission was so pressing, the special operations mission was set aside, and last year, the “Dragon Spears” were redesignated AC-130W Stinger II.

http://www.af.mil/shared/media/photodb/photos/2012/09/120918-F-PB123-002.jpg

The Air Force hopes to add Hellfire missile capability within the next year.  I’ve heard they can (or soon will) use the GBU-39 Small Diameter Bomb, but haven’t seen confirmation of that.

If you look closely at the pic above (click to embiggenfy) you’ll note not only the 30mm gun on the port side, but also the pylon outboard of the engine. That’s where the Hellfires will mount. The small turret under the nose radome houses the infrared sensor/laser designator.

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Filed under Air Force, ARMY TRAINING

Apache Engages Insurgent

Via Weasel Zippers, a nice little clip:

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Filed under Afghanistan, army

Would you like warporn with your coffee?

via WeaselZippers, a good demonstration of why you shouldn’t piss off Marines when they’re trying enjoy a quiet evening at home…

Some NSFW language.

 

 

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Filed under Afghanistan, ARMY TRAINING, Around the web, ducks, guns, infantry, marines, planes

You can run, but you’ll just die tired

Insurgent Deaths by Apache 30mm and Hellfire

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Filed under armor, army, ARMY TRAINING, Around the web, infantry, iraq