Video: Inside a KC-130J Harvest Hawk Gunship

So the Marine Corps’ KC-130J Harvest Hawk has been around for a little while now. As you know, Harvest Hawks are KC-130J tankers equipped with plug and play air to ground missile and sensor systems allowing them to pinch hit as gunships for Marines on the ground, and they’ve been doing plenty of shooting in Afghanistan considering the amount of rockets painted on the fuselage of the Harvest Hawk shown in the video below. It provides a great view of the inside of the Marines’ latest gunships, showing the Hellfire rockets on the wings and the Griffin rocket launchers on the aft cargo ramp and all the leathernecks inside who fly the beast and operate the weapons and sensors.

  • blight

    And the ghosts of Spirit 03 cried out “watch out in daylight operations against opponents with air defenses!”

    • Andrew

      Yeah, these things are real tip of the spear.

      • blight

        Probably not, but someone will attempt it in a pinch, especially when it comes to loiter time.

  • Tribulationtime

    how cost fly-hour? 130M$ for carrie 4 hellfire & 8 griffin?. i hope she hold tanker role in the same sortie, doesn´t her?

    • Bob

      I’m sure that’s cheaper then designing a brand new platform to do the same thing…And the 130 is something, along with the b-52 is a proven workhorse and has been a great return on investment. It was made to last unlike anything that this country produces now!

  • John Moore

    Seems like a waste or at least not cost effective.

  • Musson1

    The reason they are so expensive is that the Plug in Mission Module was originally designed for the Littoral Combat Ships!

    You should see the C-130 with the LCS anti-sub torpedos.

  • Lance

    Awsome I like it. A sort of a AC-130 w/o cannon but with missiles cool.

  • William C.

    Weren’t they going to fit these with a 30mm Mk.44 cannon?

    • Dfens

      The latest plan is to have another contractor mount the 30mm chain gun on a pallet. That way all LM has to do is bolt the pallet to the floor. Even they can’t screw-up that job, or that’s what the Marines are hoping.

      • blight_

        It would too cheap to simply design the kits and have them assembled by units in the field…who could then improvise better fittings as needed.

        • Dfens

          What they are trying to do is probably a good approach. It leaves LM on the hook if the floor of their planes can’t take the loads as advertised.

    • Brian

      The 30MM is goin gto be instled as well.

  • stephen russell

    should add Gun package for offensive role aside rockets & missiles.
    Nice touch with fwd Vulcan cannon in nose.
    Or 40mm cannon on side, just 1 set can Help.

  • Well done Marines. I am envious of your ability to do end runs around the Air Force’s effort to monopolize CAS. Now if only the Army could get it’s own organic CAS platform!

  • Dumb Grunt

    This is a wonderful addition to the versatility of the C-130. Cost is less than a AC-130 and it can be switched back to do cargo or mid-air refueling. Now it just needs a gun, hopefully soon. Real CAS again !!!

  • TinkersDam

    Surely they can’t be providing CAS from high altitude. No grunt would ever be satisfied with that! No sir, to do real CAS you have to get down in the weeds. Just check out any A-10 thread for confirmation.

    Sarcasm aside, it’s good to see this system working out. The Air Force might do well to take note- they’ve already deployed C-130s in the video surveillance role, this would be an almost-incremental step.

    • tiger

      The folks in the weeds shoot back. Thus the loss of so many choppers. The A-10’s days are fading. Those old horses have been rode hard & are headed to the bone yard.

  • Sgt Slotter

    One question remains. Why the HELL didn’t they do this sooner???

  • itfunk

    Typical Marine behavior: pick a perfectly good weapon from another service, complain that it’s the wrong color and build a copy, half as effective and 7 times the price then generate huge amounts of PR claiming to have a unique disability .

    • Thomas L. Nielsen

      “….half as effective and 7 times the price then generate huge amounts of PR ….”

      Please provide factual evidence of these statements, as related to the Harvest Hawk.

      “….claiming to have a unique disability”.

      Does that need proof-reading, or do you actually mean what it says?

      Regards & all,

      Thomas L. Nielsen
      Luxembourg

    • M167A1

      neither funny nor correct.

      Please do better next time.

    • MRP

      They now have two capabilities from one platform. As a taxpayer, that is what I want; some ingenuity to stretch tax dollars. So you are advocating that they maintan seperate fleets of transports and gunships? That seems way to costly compared to this solution. I’m speculating you are from another service given your criticism and comments about their “PR.” If so, please remember our people are in harm’s way; there’s no room for service rivalry.

    • Tom

      If they destroy a gun emplacement that’s pounding our Marines it might just seem like a good idea. Typical Marine behavior (innovation, adapting to any situation)

  • IKnowIT

    But, uhhh, how much more does it cost to fire missiles than shoot the guns of the AC130? It sounds like a bad deal… but maybe I’m wrong. I assume the missiles are pretty darn expensive! And BOTH need support systems…

    • Andrew

      The point is you can roll on the Griffins, shoot 10 targets, land and then roll them off. You can’t exactly pop a 105 and a 40 in and out of place the same way and call it a day.

      Yes they’d probably prefer AC-130s (and the money to buy them) but in this case, it’s working with what you have.

  • deathoflife

    one SA-7,or one RPG, one dead KC130J…in the eyes of a insurgent….priceless

    • William C.

      That guy would have to be the luckiest man on earth to hit and destroy one of these orbiting several thousand feet above with a RPG. You wouldn’t want to deploy these around an enemy with MANPADS but the old SA-7 is easily fooled by flares and even if it hit there is a good chance it would only cause some non-critical damage.

  • Mike

    Trying to pass as someone who knows what they are talking about………dangerous

  • Shail

    One of the key reasons the 30mm MK44 Bushmaster gun didn’t replace the 40mm Bofors and 25mm GAU-12s in AC-130s was because of concerns of the gun’s accuracy.
    Multiple users of the same gun family mounted in armored ground vehicles will attest that the gun’s accuracy isn’t lacking in the least.
    The accuracy issues were the fault of the engineers and integrators who rapidly designed an adhoc mount for the 30mm gun into the AC-130 for tests.
    The mount wasn’t optimized to fully compensate for all the gun’s differences in various recoil impulses and other stresses, compared to the 25, 40, and 105mm guns already in service (none of which have ever been consistently condemned for any concerns of inaccurate fire on the target.

    I haven’t a clue why the sense of a common caliber (just 30, rather than both 25 and 40mm) didn’t sink in, other than the fact that the F-35 can utilize the same 25mm ammunition types available. Those 40mm shells are very production-specific to AC-130s, and thus expensive.

  • Punisher1

    Hang on, We have some really over educated ( Did someone say a Harrier pilot?)people running this “gun ship” shooting really expensive missiles…. Er, I can understand the need to hit what you are aiming at, but man, that’s a bit pricey at $65,000.00 or so a pop. As compaired to 100 rounds of 20mm at $300.00 or 40MM at roughly the same cost or maybe even a 105 HE round at a respectable $250 per round

  • M167A1

    Didn’t the jarheads have a Bronco with a 20mm belly turret for a night gunship back in Gulf War 1?

    a bit low and loud but dang that will keep haji’s head down…

    • blight_

      “The U.S. Marine Corps OV-10 Night Observation Gunship (NOGS) program modified four OV-10As to include a turreted forward-looking infrared (FLIR) sensor and turreted 20 mm (.79 in) M197 gun slaved to the FLIR aimpoint. NOGS succeeded in Vietnam, but funds to convert more aircraft were not approved. NOGS evolved into the NOS OV-10D, which included a laser designator, but no gun.”

  • Craig

    1. TSS is a piece of crap in this installation. Boresight issues, jitter issues, problems with the control software/hardware. Part 1* type deficiencies (FLIR is awesome, EO not so much).
    2. Not as RO-RO as you might think. Requires modification of the plane.
    3. Have to de-pressurize to shoot Griffin/Viper Strike. Solution requires more #2 – A special door launcher that goes in place of a paratroop door. Pretty slick, but further compromises the plane for other missions.
    5. No usable external fuel. They evidently have put the fuselage tanks back in the HH birds.
    4. Probably a 60% solution that never would have deployed as is if we weren’t in a war.
    5. The grunts evidently like it well enough, which is the ultimate compliment to the system.
    6. A Herk certainly has more airframe life than an F-XX, so takes some burden off of them.
    7. Gun keeps getting put off. It’s evidently harder than it looks and the missiles work well enough.

  • Jack Luz

    A gunship without guns. That would be pause for concern. I predict that this approach will not work. An AC-130 with 20mm/30mm rotary guns and 105mm/120mm cannon and the latest electronics not available on early model AC-130s would make sense.

    Murphy’s law in combat: What is not going to work, will not work.

  • Kurt

    The AC-130 gunships have provided great service for a long time with their current configuration, just upgrade the fire control systems……job done, you all here are blinded by how smart you all think you are…..you’re not….simple is better, always has been. Real world experience tells you that….smh…

  • Michael Varnal

    Just a quick comment – why develop something that is already developed? Is the Air Force again failing to live up to it’s dedication to CAS? And what about collateral damage? And finally in tightening military budgets is this a wise thing to do?

  • Tom

    Leave it to the USMC to put some ordinance on it. I can see some poor sucker ignoring it because it looks like a tanker just before their whole day goes to hell:-)