The AC-27J, a light gunship modeled on the C-27J airlifter, is in the works for special operations forces to fill an “urgent and compelling requirement,” according to Air Force Special Operations Command’s requirements chief. Brig. Gen. Brad Heithold said in an interview Aug. 11 that the command had completed a capabilities development document in early July, around the same time both the Air Force and US Special Operations Command submitted their Fiscal 2010 program objective memoranda. The AC-27J “Stinger” is now a program of record. The new aircraft will differ from AFSOC’s current AC-130 gunships in that it will be a multi-role airplane, Heithold said. “It will have kill mechanisms on the airplane, but it will be able to infil[trate] and exfil[trate] a small team,” he explained. “One day it might be doing an infil, and the next it might be shooting for that team.” The new gunship will also feature full-motion video capability. As of today, AFSOC plans to acquire nine aircraft, the first in Fiscal 2011, Heithold said. Two additional gunships would be purchased each year from 2012 to 2015, but there is an initiative in the works at the Pentagon that would expand the program to 16 aircraft and accelerate delivery, he said. AFSOC programmers have dubbed the program “Stinger” as an homage to an earlier gunship, the Vietnam-era AC-119K, Heithold noted.
The U.S. supports “a stronger and more capable” European defense, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III said during an Oct. 22 press conference in Brussels—but that defense should not duplicate the functions and capabilities of the NATO alliance.