Dawn of the AC-130J

The Air Force plans to launch an initiative in Fiscal 2011 to acquire 16 new gunships based on modified, new-build MC-130J special operations tankers that are outfitted with a “precision strike package” to give them an attack capability, according to newly released budget documents and defense officials. The Air Force is requesting $1.6 billion from Fiscal 2011 through 2015 for this recapitalization. These aircraft would increase the size of the Air Force’s highly taxed gunship fleet to 33 aircraft, a net increase of eight, after accounting for the planned retirement of eight aging AC-130Hs, Vice Adm. Stephen Stanley, director of force structure and resources on the Joint Staff, told reporters Monday when discussing the Pentagon’s 2011 budget proposal. The first aircraft would be bought in Fiscal 2012, followed by two in Fiscal 2013, five in Fiscal 2014, and the final eight in Fiscal 2015.