Air Force set to arm AC-130W with Hellfire missiles

Air Force Special Operations Command hopes to mount the Hellfire missile to the AC-130W in the next ten months, a top acquisition official said Wednesday.

Air Force Col. Michael Schmidt, the program executive officer for U.S. Special Operations Command’s Fixed-Wing, explained that once the funding was line up, it wouldn’t take long to integrate the “proven weapons system” onto the AC-130W. While sequestration and the continuing resolution budget cuts have made that more of a challenge, Schmidt remained confident that the Pentagon would fund the integration.

AFSOC has already integrated the Hellfire missile on to the MC-130W Dragon Spear. Schmidt said the Air Force would mount F-15 racks onto the hard points of the AC-130W and then load the Hellfire missiles onto the aircraft.

The AC-130W is widely known for the 30mm modified MK-44 cannon, but less so for the GBU-44/B Viper Strike laser guided missile. Adding the Hellfire missile will maintain the recent theme seen in AFSOC acquisition of providing a variety of munition options on aircraft to commanders.

Schmidt said that theme is supported by AFSOC Commander Lt. Gen. Eric Fiel.

 

About the Author

Michael Hoffman
Michael Hoffman is the executive editor at Tandem NSI and a contributor to Military.com. He can be reached at mhoffman@tandemnsi.com.
  • USS ENTERPRISE

    AC-130 with missiles. This should be good. The plane itself is armed to the teeth. Just adding missiles, and wow. My main concern, though, it what will be the eventual replacement of this plane? A400M converted to a gunship is an option I doubt. It has taken to long for the cargo version to come out.

    • No replacement in the foreseeable future. Its life will be extended for decades.

      • USS ENTERPRISE

        Very true. The USAF will probably use that tactic so long as the F-35 is being purchased. In moments where I feel like an eight year old, I think that C-5 bristling with weaponry would be great. Though, I suspect, I doubt it will happen. Maybe a C-17?

        • Guy
          • USS ENTERPRISE

            Hey, I was being sarcastic.

          • Vaporhead

            Have you looked at the price of a F35? A C17 would look like chump change.

          • Ronaldo

            Thanks for asking. Yes, I have and the F-35 still looks good.

      • Jake the Snake

        C-130J will eventually take its place. In the works as we speak, I believe. MC-130J’s are just starting to roll off the line, AC-130J’s won;t be far behind.

    • David

      Don’t forget, this is the new “W” model. It’s a new airframe, new systems…but not armed to the teeth like the H or U models. From the factsheet available over on af.mil: “Armament: Precision Strike Package (PSP) – 30mm modified MK-44 cannon; SOPGM (Viper Strike/Griffin)”

      • Ronaldo

        If it is a new airframe why is the J model not shown ? This is an old H model in the photo.

    • sailor12

      An C-130J is doing the job.

    • PMM

      AC-5 anyone? Sure it would be an expensive plane to put in harms way, but the threat deterrrent would be on par with an aircraft carrier. That plane would scare the pants off anyone.

      • USS ENTERPRISE

        I said that earlier in the comments. An AC-5 sounds good, but you start running into problems. A jet plane isn’t the best aerial gunship; its to fast, can’t hold a tight turn that well, its noisy. So yeah, in theory, an AC-5 could hold a LOT of 120MM and missiles and lasers and rails guns (being sarcastic on the last two, don’t jump on me) it won’t end up working. As for comparing a C-5 to a carrier, they simply aren’t in the same class. A carrier has CAP fighters, destroyers, and CIWS to keep missiles away. Unless you want to try another B-17, you don’t put machine guns and missile launchers all over the place. A C-5 was designed to transport cargo. A Nimitz Class carrier has FAR more duties than that: launch/recover fighters, operate as a deterrent, etc. So yeah, I do kinda like a AC-5, it just wouldn’t work out, sadly. As for scaring people, all you need is an Apache, along with some rockets, missiles, and machine guns ;).

  • For a second I thought that the missiles would be launched sideways from the left side.

  • ron

    Why stop there, Mavricks would be even cooler.KABOOM, I would be scared to be a bad guy

    • Thunder350

      Who, or what, defines who is “bad” and who is “good”?

      • USS ENTERPRISE

        The Fire Control officer. And AWACS. And ground troops. And ultimately, the bullet/missile/shell fired.

        • grin

          Who is trying to kill you is bad, they do not care about your ideals or sympathies, in that moment you do not have time to reason with them, or convert their way of thinking. It is most efficient, both in resources, manpower, time, and economics to terminate enemy life. Welcome to reality, we just switched from crushing skulls with rocks, to metal, to explosives and bullets. You cant fix what is part of humanity, and is not a problem.

          • Thunder350

            Your only seeing one small part of it that isn’t the issue, the much bigger part is when we drop bombs and assassinate American citizens outside both domestic and international law (has already happened) because the president ordered it, Is it automatically ok because they obviously were “bad”?

            Miles well burn the Constitution then.

        • Thunder350

          You and everyone else that down voted my comment missed the point completely. Everything you listed are just tools for someone much higher up the chain, our government throws us into wars and our media constantly ramps up for others. But again, who or what is defining who these “bad” guys are, and why?

          • USS ENTERPRISE

            Firstly, I didn’t down vote you comment. Wasn’t me, so get that idea out of the way. Bad guy would be a person who is associated with groups that have committed acts of violence against the people, whether physically or mentally.

      • blight_

        Obama. Dun dun dun!

  • Lance

    I agree with Ron Mavericks and GBU-22s be much better for a fixed wing platform.

    • Chuck

      Guys, Maverick is 8 feet long with a 125 lb warhead. That’s kind of overkill for the kinds of targets that the AC-130 deals with. Dangerous overkill, considering it’s role is predominately CAS.

      • Norseman4

        the AGM-65 (Maverick) is a CAS weapon system, at least that’s one of it’s roles. Since the plan, as detailed above, would be to mount F15 weapon racks on the W’s hard-points, that opens what weapons can be mounted in the future … including the 65.

        • Chuck

          Maverick is predominately an anti-armor weapon. You really don’t want to be firing it near friendlies.

          • Norseman4

            According the the Air Forces info page about the missile lists CAS as it’s first designed role. Not saying it would be ideal weapon on the AC-130W, just saying it could be mounted on the F15 racks attached to the hardpoints, and that, yes it does indeed have a CAS role

      • Mooverick

        Don’t forget the sheer amount of drag and weight these would cause on the airframe significantly affecting flight performance. The Maverick was made to defeat tanks and hardened targets. Rarely what the insurgents are muckying with. Let’s compare…

        Maverick
        $150,000
        500-700 lbs
        125-300lbs warhead
        14 mile range

        Hellfire
        $67,000
        100 lbs
        20 lbs warhead
        5 mile range

        APKWS pods seem more a useful loadout then Mavericks.

  • Paul

    Nice to see the USAF making an old flat bed truck into a battlefield airborne fire base. I know the troops appreciate the volume of fire that the type I 1st saw provides. Now with fire-&-forget missiles whose warheads can be tailored for the target in actual on-board time….yahoo. Now, when is the Nav going to turn the C2 Greyhound into an @ sea anti-shipping gun ship? Arm such a variant with 30mm Aveneger Gatling + Harpoons & you have over the horizon task force protection from insurgent vessels @ wave top altitudes.

    • USS ENTERPRISE

      Well, that truth is that that role is taken by the helicopters on board. Also, I doubt that you can take a Greyhound, outfit it with all your supposed weapons, and keep its fold-ablity. Navy aircraft have serious size restrictions, so I don’t know if a Greyhound would be up to some serious weapons. So for the role you are talking about, just call in an Arleigh-Burke or a Helicopter. Job done.

  • Hunter76

    The AC-130, like the A-10, has enjoyed the benign neglect of the AF. The AF’s first love is air superiority at long ranges. Which is understandable because otherwise, how could you conduct other air missions? So AF satisfied the calls from soldiers for better CAS– an area they always understood as 2nd rank– with cheap solid frames, limited budgets, and scant attention. The success of the concepts proves the concepts themselves as well as the hard work of many people.

    • USS ENTERPRISE

      Yeah, the 130 and 10 have taken the budget kinda hard. But at least they will be around. And with this new upgrade, I think we can see more attention to the CAS aircraft.

  • IKnowIT

    Guys (***USS Enterprise***) please read this if you don’t know what a troll is
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Troll_%28Internet%29

    Best bet for trolls is instant and total ignore

    • USS ENTERPRISE

      Oh I am sorry. If you have problems with me posting, then ignore. “IKnowIT” sounds like a troll on its own if you ask me.

      • platypusfriend

        Ah… Nothing better than a good call-out and a response! ;)

        • USS ENTERPRISE

          Uh, sure. Yeah. Right.

          • IKnowIT

            No guys, I was telling USS to ignore Palestine.. I have issue with USS other than he got baited..

          • USS ENTERPRISE

            I am guessing that your issue that I keep responding to the various “Something Palestine” on this site. Also, you are signaling another issue with me. May I know what?

          • USS ENTERPRISE

            Re-reading your post, I am going to take confidence and say that there was a “no” in between “have” and “issue”.

          • Restore Palestine

            What does “take confidence” mean?

            There is no “no” between “have” and “issue”

            Stop hallucinating.

          • USS ENTERPRISE

            Okay. In the real world, there are such things as typos.

          • USS ENTERPRISE

            Oh, and let me ask you, how does this conversation concern you?

  • Titandeuce

    “Air Force Col. Michael Schmidt, the program executive officer for U.S. Special Operations Command’s Fixed-Wing, explained that once the funding was line up, it wouldn’t take long to integrate the “proven weapons system” onto the AC-130W”

    I’m sure the acquistion community can find a way to prove him wrong.

  • ohwilleke

    Why not put missiles the C-27J instead? Its similar in performance, you don’t need a twenty ton cargo capacity for this mission, its cheaper, it has a thinner logistics support line, and it isn’t constrained by a 1950s era design that has to be worked around as modifications are made.

    I suppose the cynical answer is that then the Army would want to own them for itself and the Air Force can’t have that.

    • Armchair

      I don’t think the C-27J is as cost efficient.

    • UAVGeek

      The reason why the AF canned the C-27 is that they found it’s operating costs per flight hour weren’t that different from the bigger C-130. If they cost close to the same to run might as well use the bigger and more flexible C-130.

      • Dfens

        I saw a picture of a C-27 sized version of the C-130J. It used the outboard wing panels (the wing comes in 3 pieces, 2 outboard sections, each with an engine and hard point and a center section), along with the existing engines, props, and nacelles. I’ll post the picture if I can find it.

    • riceball

      Per the Key West Agreement (which came about when the Air Force was split off from the Army) the Army is not allowed to own and operate armed fixed wing aircraft. and an AC-27 would qualify as armed fixed wing aircraft. I don’t know what the legal ramifications of violating the Key West Agreement would be but considering that they’ve held since they were first signed in 1948 and later modified in 1954 I’d say that the consequences for violating it would be pretty serious.

      • ohwilleke

        The Key West Agreement is an intraservice political document, not something with the force of law that effectively services as a procurement guideline with the force of a federal regulation telling the services how to play fair. It could be modified by any President at will and has been tweaked on a case by case basis now and then.

        Of course, the whole point of my comment insofar as it applies to Air Force v. Army jurisdiction is to suggest that the Key West Agreement has reached a point where it does more harm than good.

        • UAVGeek

          The problem with the JCA program was that the Army wanted an “organic” capability, that is each unit wanted to own it’s airlift to be used when it wanted. The problem is that when the planes aren’t being called for they sit around doing not much else. It also causes tremendous duplication of effort in in-theater assets, One air command is the way history has shown us how it needs to be done.

          • ohwilleke

            Fair enough. But, the problem with the status quo is that the Air Force does not devote R&D, procurement, or operational resources to the mission of providing close air support and intratheater transport to Army units. So, the Army invests in helicopters it can control when fixed wing aircraft would perform the mission better, simply to wrest control from the unresponsive Air Force and to have its needs addressed.

        • tiger

          Political or not; it is still in place. Notice The Army lacks armed drones? The USAF gets to fly the Reaper.

  • Brandon

    If they put some GBU-31’s on that beast i would be a happy camper.

  • USS ENTERPRISE

    Lightly loaded is key. If you want to “lightly load” a C-5 with weapons, you are missing the point. If “lightly loaded” is the same as loading up a C-130 to the max, than why waste money on a C-5? A C-5 is a great cargo plane. But frankly, its kinda old. While in theory a C-5 with a a full load of weapons would terrorize any opposers, you have to put the C-5 into practice. That simply isn’t easy. A C-5 can take off quickly. Great. But what does that mean for a gunship? You need loiter time, tight radius turns, and good payload. A C-5 is a cargo plane, and yes, a gunship version wouldn’t be shabby, but to hold the purpose of a CAS gunship, it won’t be that good. Its like saying you are going to take the bomb bays of a B-52, take out the rotary launchers, and put in 120MM guns. In theory, it could pack a punch. But its size and vulnerability would compromise it.

  • gunluvr

    I love missiles, bombs have a tendency of knocking you on your ass or worse if you’re too close when they go off or when you’re expecting a 500 pounder and they drop a couple 2000 pounders, like night and day.

  • Roaddawg

    Wonder how a V-22 Osprey would serve as an attack gun platform? 25mm Bushmaster, M-134 minigun and several Viper Strike or Griffin missiles might just be bad ass.