Creating the Ultimate Nighttime CAS Platform

Air Force Special Operations Command is adding a 105 mm gun to its new AC-130J gunship to give the aircraft more firepower, Lt. Gen. Bradley Heithold, AFSOC commander, told reporters on Thursday at AFA’s Air Warfare Symposium in Orlando, Fla. “I have had the opportunity now to review the target sets and I want to add the 105 gun,” he said. “There is room in the back by the crew entrance door. There was nothing in that space.” The 105 mm gun will be in addition to the Precision Strike Package that the AC-130J will carry; PSP consists of a 30 mm gun, wing-mounted small diameter bombs, and Griffin laser-guided missiles launched through the rear cargo door. “Up-gunning” the AC-130J with the 105 mm weapon will create “the ultimate battle plane because it will have precision-strike ‘dial-a-bomb’ capability and it will have deep magazines with small-yield munitions in the 30 mm and the 105 [mm guns]” said Heithold. “It will be an ultimate night [close air support] airplane for special operations,” he added. The 105 mm gun will add a member to the aircrew, he said. AFSOC plans to procure 37 AC-130Js to replace its legacy AC-130Hs, AC-130Us, and AC-130Ws. The command has already retired its eight AC-130Hs and is phasing out three of its 17 AC-130Us in Fiscal 2015, said Heithold. That leaves 14 AC-130Us and 12 AC-130Ws in the inventory. AFSOC’s first AC-130J is in testing—without the 105 mm gun, he said. The second AC-130J aircraft is under assembly and will join the first in testing at some point. “We want two in test,” he said. He thought the testing would last 18 months to two years.