Fixed wing gunships like the AC-130, AC-47 and AC-119 may look like lumbering brutes during the day, but once the sun goes does down they enter their ideal predatory environment and their presence turns from bristling beasts of burden to light and firework spewing angels of death…

Seeing that the public knows the AC-130 as the flying Dirty Hairy, a insomniac gunslinger of sorts, it is sad to hear that the upcoming AC-130J variant will only sport a single ATK 30mm auto-cannon. The rest of the AC-130J’s destructive tendencies will be satisfied by Hellfire Missiles, Small Diameter Bombs, and Griffin missiles. Seeing as the cheapest of these guided munitions is $50k a shot, yes this is like dropping a new E-Class Mercedes every time the trigger is pulled, you can imagine how much a single highly active sortie would cost. Additionally, the AC-130’s smaller caliber cannons, a handful of H models only carry the 40mm and 105mm now, are incredible area “sanitizers” and suppressive fire tools. Although the larger 30mm cannon is very capable, I doubt the sheer volume of fire is competitive with the 20mm or 30mm gatling gun. Then you combine that with the 40mm cannon and you can suppress one area while engaging pinpoint targets simultaneously in another area. If you need a building taken down, then you can use the 105mm. Although the AC-130 is long overdue for guided munitions, especially after the great success of the Marine’s KC-130J Harvest Hawk kit, I am surprised that they will not be fielded in addition to the Howitzer and the gatling gun, but instead of them…

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  1. lcon says:

    I thought I heard work of fitting the older birds with 120mm breach loaded mortars as a replacement for the aging 105mm. On the upside harvest hawk kit and its kissing cousin the Dragon spear mean in a surge the USAF Could probably retrofit a lot of other mission C130Js and some US allies can also get in on the act. Although it really would have been neat had the USAF Bought some C130j30 stretches and given then a total weapon mix update.30mm chain gun maybe a 57mm cannon from the navy and a 105mm howitzer or a 120mm mortar.

  2. ray_bender says:

    I’m trying to look for logic in this decision. Granted, when it comes to the Air Force, logical reasoning cannot be assumed. However, in the interest of fairness, I ask:
    Will they be carrying such a small gun in order to function as a cargo carrier when they aren’t needed as gunslingers?

  3. Conquistador3 says:

    The choice of the 30mm chain gun is puzzling to say the least.
    USAF installed these weapons on four AC130U in 2007 in place of the 25mm Gatling and 40mm Bofors guns but has hence returned all aircraft to the original configuration citing problem with the chain gun’s accuracy at the altitudes the AC130 usually operates.

    While the decision to replace the 105mm howitzer with guided ammunition may be sound on paper, there’s the usual concern about effectiveness.
    A 105mm round is as cheap as hamburgers on a weight basis and the AC130 can lay it with devastating precision.
    A Griffin or Hellfire missile is deadly accurate but… how much are those things on a per unit basis? Fifty grands? Sixty grands? More?
    A 120mm breech loading mortar would make far more sense.

    And this leads to the big obsession about precision weaponry. They have their place, but using them to level mud huts makes zero sense, especially considering the accuracy modern aircraft are capable of while using “dumb” weapons. It’s a bit like using a mainframe computer to solve a simple first grade equation: it makes no sense and it’s complete waste.

    But if the whole LAS saga showed us one thing is low tech has no place for the modern military, even where air defense are almost absent.

  4. Todd Frohwirth says:

    So you are just full of shit?

  5. Ty Suckzanut says:

    People who selectively edit comments are the lowest. Still looking forward to that net warfare piece you’ve been touting forever, and conveniently removed every mention of it from your site.

    • says:

      What? I always take down side notes after a day or so. Who is editing comments? Since the update the security settings on comments are higher, but I go through the “spam” to see if any were missed. Sometimes they don’t post immediately because they are pending or waiting for me to take them out of spam. If this is in relation to my “schedule,” I do my best, literally, I feel that I do. Timing, events, and new information change everything. In this case, I have a new section to add to the netcentric warfare piece. I totally forgot it then I was looking through my notes and saw the topic circled. Much of the piece will be about UCAVs as well. I rolled two pieces together, or maybe 1.5 pieces together in one. Sorry it did not post today, the DDG-1000 piece just needs one pass, way bigger as well than I started off as, but I thought I would address a wider vision. I feel bad that readers are let down by me missing scheduling dates, but plans change and so does my scope of work often. If you can’t handle that than ask for a refund, oh wait I ask for nothing in return from anyone when it comes to this site, so some patience and understanding would be much appreciated. Please, shoot me an email or place a comment with your frustrations, but have some class. “Full of shit” is pretty dark for not getting content out on schedule.

    • says:

      Honestly if you are accusing me of editing someone’s comment or something then take a hike. I have never done that unless they were totally outlandish or horribly salacious. My readers and commenters who have kept with this site know I don’t sit there and alter others content. Ridiculous.

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