AC-130 Gunship

Product Type:

Close Air Support Gunship

Using Service (US):

USSOCOM: Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC)

Program Status:

In Production (AC-130J)

Prime Contractor:

Lockheed Martin Corp.

Specifications Armament DoD Spending FY2014 Budget

The AC-130U Spooky Gunship

About the AC-130:





The Lockheed Martin AC-130H Spectre, AC-130U Spooky, AC-130W Stinger II, and AC-130J Ghostrider (new) are fixed-wing gunship variants of the C-130 Hercules military transport aircraft. AC-130 aircraft provide close air support, air interdiction and armed reconnaissance in support of special operation forces (SOF). Close air support missions include troops in contact, convoy escort and point air defense. Air interdiction missions are conducted against preplanned targets or targets of opportunity and include strike coordination and reconnaissance and armed overwatch missions.

All AC-130 aircraft are heavily armed and incorporate side-firing weapons integrated with advanced sensor, navigation and fire control systems to provide precision firepower or area saturation during extended loiter periods. The sensor suite consists of a TV sensor, infrared sensor and radar. These sensors allow the gunship to visually or electronically identify friendly ground forces and targets. The AC-130's navigational equipment includes inertial navigation systems and global positioning systems (INS/GPS). The AC-130U employs a synthetic aperture strike radar for long-range and adverse weather target detection and identification.

The AC-130H/U/W are powered by four Rolls-Royce Allison T56-A-15 turboprop engines with 4,910 shp each. The AC-130J is powered by the more powerful Rolls-Royce AE 2100D3, which is featured on all C-130J variants.

The AC-130H Sprectre and its AC-130A/E predecessors evolved from the U.S. military's first operational gunship, the AC-47 developed during the Vietnam War (based on the Douglas DC-3). Today, only 'H' model Spectres remain in the fleet. AC-130 Gunships have, with few exceptions, participated in every conflict involving U.S. military forces since Vietnam. AC-130H/Us are operated by a crew of 13, including five officers (pilot, co-pilot, navigator, fire control officer, and electronic warfare officer) and eight enlisted men (flight engineer, TV operator, infrared detection set operator, loadmaster, and four aerial gunners).

The AC-130W Stinger II (until May 2012 bearing the name MC-130W Dragon Spear) is the result of a SOCOM project developed to increase the precision fires capacity available to support combat operations overseas. The aircraft is a highly modified C-130H featuring improved navigation, threat detection, countermeasures, and communication suites. Modifications to the AC-130W include a mission management console, communications suite, two electro-optical/infrared sensors, fire control equipment. All AC-130W aircraft have been upgraded with Precision Strike Package (PSP) to perform the gunship mission --- see 'armament/weapons' section below. The PSP is also installed on the AC-130J (info follows below). The AC-130W has a crew of 10 (two pilots, two combat system officers, one flight engineer, two special mission aviators, and three enlisted gunners).

The AC-130J Ghostrider is a result of the AC-130 recapitalization program and replaces the Air Force Special Operations Command's (AFSOC) aging fleet of eight AC-130H gunships + adds additional aircraft to the gunship fleet (there are 37 AC-130H/U/W in the current inventory). Gunships are in very high demand to support ground troops with day/night precision fires. Heavy use of the aircraft in operations in Iraq and Afghanistan has resulted in a high degree of wear and tear on the fleet, creating the need for additional airframes. The AC-130J is a highly modified C-130J aircraft with an advanced two-pilot flight station with fully integrated digital avionics. The aircraft is capable of highly accurate navigation due to the fully integrated navigation systems with dual INS/GPS. Aircraft defensive systems and color weather radar have been integrated as well. The aircraft can be refueled in flight using the Universal Air Refueling Receptacle Slipway Installation (UARRSI) system. To handle increased power requirements from the advanced avionics and aircraft systems, the AC-130J is equipped with 60/90 KVA generators. The aircraft is provisioned for later AN/AAQ-24(V) LAIRCM installation. Vulnerability reduction features include fuel system protection, redundant flight critical components, armor for crew, and oxygen supply protection. Countermeasures equipment include the BAE Systems AN/ALR-56M radar warning receiver (RWR), AN/AAR-47(V) missile warning system (MWS), and AN/ALE-47 countermeasures dispensing system.

To perform the gunship mission, the AC-130J is upgraded with the Precision Strike Package (PSP) --- see 'armament/weapons' section below. The AC-130J is basically an MC-130J upgraded with the PSP. The AC-130J has a crew of seven (two pilots, two combat systems officers, and three enlisted gunners).

The USAF currently plans to purchase as many as 32 AC-130Js for AFSOC. Procurement commenced in fiscal year 2012. The first aircraft will be delivered in August 2014. Initial Operational Capability (IOC) is scheduled for FY 2017 with the last delivery taking place in FY 2021. The AC-130J completed its first flight as a gunship on January 31, 2014, at Eglin Air Force Base (AFB) in Florida.



Armament/Weapons:

The AC-130H is equipped with a Bofors 40mm cannon and a side-mounted M102 105mm cannon. The AC-130U features a 25mm GAU-12/U Equalizer five-barreled Gatling gun, a Bofors 40mm cannon, and a side-mounted M102 105mm cannon. The AC-130W and AC-130J are equipped with the modular Precision Strike Package (PSP), which is a major departure from the AC-130H/U weaponry. The PSP includes EO/IR targeting systems, a 10-tube launcher for Special Operations Precision Guided Munitions (SOPGMS), and a side-mounted Alliant Techsystems Mk 44 Bushmaster 30mm gun. The SOPGMS include the wing-mounted MBDA GBU-44/B Viper Strike GPS-guided gliding munition and the Raytheon AGM-175 Griffin short-range, laser-guided air-to-surface missile. Griffin missiles are mounted internally and launched through the rear cargo door.



Price/Unit Cost:

The unit cost of the AC-130J is $77.4 million (flyaway cost in FY 2014) + approx. $10 million in special operations conversion costs + + approx. $25 million for the Precision Strike Package (PSP). Please note that these figures exclude support equipment, testing etc.



Mission/Role:

The AC-130H/U gunship's primary missions are close air support, air interdiction and force protection. Close air support missions include are troops in contact, convoy escort and urban operations. Air interdiction missions are conducted against preplanned targets or targets of opportunity. Force protection missions include air base defense and facilities defense.



FY 2014 DoD Program:

FY 2014 procurement funds in the amount of $420.0 million has been allocated to the program. The Air Force will purchase five AC-130J aircraft for AFSOC in FY 14.



FY 2015 DoD Program:

No procurement funds provided in FY 2015. From FY 2015, AC-130J aircraft will be purchased through the MC-130J program.

For more information, click to see the FY 2015 AC-130J Budget.




Source: U.S. Department of Defense (DoD), Lockheed Martin Corp.,
BAE Systems, Northrop Grumman, and Rolls-Royce plc.

Last Update: August 18, 2014.

By Joakim Kasper Oestergaard /// (jkasper@bga-aeroweb.com)

External Resources:



Lockheed Martin: C-130J Super Hercules

YouTube: AC-130 Gunship | YouTube Videos

Fact Sheet: Not Available

C-130 U.S. Defense Spending Charts:

DoD Spending on the C-130 Hercules in FY2011, FY2012, FY2013 and FY2014
DoD Purchases of C-130J Hercules Aircraft in FY2011, FY2012, FY2013 and FY2014
Defense Budget Data

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DoD Spending, Procurement and RDT&E: FY 2011/12/13 + Budget for FYs 2014 + 2015

DoD Defense Spending, Procurement, Modifications, Spares, and RDT&E for the C-130 Family of Aircraft

Download Official U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) Budget Data:

AC-130J Purchases (USAF) AC/MC-130J Upgrades/Mods (SOCOM) MC-130J Procurement (USAF)
Precision Strike Package - PSP (SOCOM)
Specifications

Aircraft Specifications: AC-130 Gunship

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Specifications | AC-130H Spectre / AC-130U Spooky

Primary Function: Close air support, air interdiction and force protection
Prime Contractor: Lockheed Martin Corp. and The Boeing Co.
Power Plant: 4x Rolls-Royce T56-A-15 turboprop engines with 4,910 shp each
Wingspan: 132 ft 7 in (40.41 m)
Length: 97 ft 9 in (29.79 m)
Height: 38 ft 6 in (11.73 m)
Weight (Empty): Unknown
Maximum Takeoff Weight (MTOW): 155,000 lbs (70,300 kg)
Fuel Capacity: Unknown
Payload: Unknown
Speed: Cruise: 261 kts/300 mph (483 km/h) at sea level
Service Ceiling: 25,000 ft (7,620 m)
Range: 1,300 nm/1,495 miles (2,410 km)
Armament/Weapons: AC-130H: 1x Bofors 40mm cannon w/256 rounds and 1x 105mm M102 cannon w/100 rounds.
AC-130U: 1x 25mm GAU-12/U Equalizer five-barreled Gatling gun; 1x Bofors 40mm cannon w/256 rounds;
and 1x 105mm M102 cannon w/100 rounds.
Crew: AC-130H/U: Pilot, co-pilot, navigator, fire control officer, electronic warfare officer (five officers)
and flight engineer, TV operator, infrared detection set operator, loadmaster, four aerial gunners (eight enlisted)
Price/Unit Cost: AC-130H: $110 million; AC-130U: $210 million (FY 2010 constant dollars)
First Flight: AC-130H: Unknown; AC-130U: Unknown
Deployed: AC-130H: 1972 (IOC in 1972); AC-130U: 1995 (IOC in 1996)
Aircraft Inventory: Total: 25; AC-130H: 8; AC-130U: 17 (as of September 2013)

Specifications | AC-130J

Primary Function: Fixed-wing overwatch and close-air-support aircraft
Prime Contractor: Lockheed Martin Corp.
Power Plant: 4x Rolls-Royce AE-2100D3 turboprop engines with 4,591 shp each
Wingspan: 132 ft 7 in (40.41 m)
Length: 97 ft 9 in (29.79 m)
Height: 38 ft 9 in (11.81 m)
Weight (Empty): Unknown
Maximum Takeoff Weight (MTOW): 164,000 lbs (74,390 kg)
Fuel Capacity: Unknown
Payload: Unknown
Speed: Cruise: 335 kts/386 mph (620 km/h)
Service Ceiling: 33,000 ft (10,000 m)
Range: Unknown
Armament/Weapons:
Precision Strike Package (PSP): 10-tube launcher for Special Operations Precision Guided Munitions (SOPGMS)
and a side-mounted Alliant Techsystems Mk 44 Bushmaster 30mm gun.
SOPGMS include the MBDA GBU-44/B Viper Strike and the Raytheon AGM-175 Griffin short-range air-to-surface missile.
Crew: Basic Crew: Three officers (pilot, co-pilot and combat system officer) + two enlisted loadmasters
Price/Unit Cost: $77.4 million flyaway cost (in FY 2014)
+ Approx. $10 million in special operations conversion costs
+ Approx. $25 million for the Precision Strike Package (PSP)
(please note that these figures exclude support equipment, testing etc.)
First Flight: January 31, 2014 at Eglin AFB
Deployed: First aircraft purchased in FY 2012. Initial Operating Capability scheduled for 2015.
Aircraft Inventory: No aircraft yet delivered - First AC-130J under construction

Defense Program

Aircraft Programs Missile Programs Space Programs Shipbuilding Programs Vehicle Programs

C-130 Hercules The C-130J Hercules The HC-130J Combat King II The MC-130J Commando II The KC-130J Hercules The AC-130H/U Spectre/Spooky
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