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.


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Michael Hoffman
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    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.

  • 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”?


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

      • 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.

      • 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…

        500-700 lbs
        125-300lbs warhead
        14 mile range

        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.


      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.


      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

    Best bet for trolls is instant and total ignore


      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! ;)

  • 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.


    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.