Alenia unveils Spartan gunship AF won’t receive

Alenia unveils Spartan gunship AF won’t receive

FARNBOROUGH, England — The U.S. Air Force needs gunships. The wings of their AC-130s are literally falling off from the strain of ten years of deployments to Afghanistan and Iraq.

It just so happens Alenia Aermacchi unveiled a gunship version to the C-27 Monday here at the Farnborough International Airshow. Air Force leaders, however, chose to cancel the C-27 program this year after deciding the cargo aircraft was a luxury they could no longer afford in light of the defense budget cuts.

Alenia teamed up with ATK to outfit the MC-27J Spartan with a palletized 30 mm GAU-23 cannon and later a command and control pallet for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions. Neither capabilities are ground breaking. What sets it apart is the flexibility. Airman can load and unload the pallets carrying the guns in four hours or less.

U.S. airmen already fire the GAU-23 Bushmaster Automatic Cannon from the AC-130W. The Air Force converted 12 MC-130s into the AC-130W to stem the shortage of gunships in its fleet. The GAU-23 is a dual feed system that can carry 500 rounds. The cannon is capable of firing 200 rounds per minute, but the pilot typically fires one round at a time or five round bursts for accuracy sake. The GAU-23 on the AC-130W is not palletized and therefore cannot be easily unloaded from the aircraft for separate missions.

Shane Rainwater is a retired Air Force master sergeant who spent 20 years as a gunner in Air Force Special Operations Command. He now works for ATK and said the company is serious when they say a team of airmen could unload the cannon in four hours.

The command-and-control ISR pallet will come this fall as part of phase two of the MC-27J, Rainwater said. The sensor package will have EO/IR, SIGINT, and video downlink capabilities. A crew of two analysts will be able to sit in the palletized control terminal that airmen can roll on just like the cannon.

Alenia officials said they have received interest from the United Kingdom and Australia for the gunship and hold out hope the U.S. Air Force reverses its decision to cancel the C-27 program. Members of Congress have loudly criticized Air Force leaders for canceling the C-27, which would have gone to Guard squadrons.

The Air Force has relented on some of its force structure proposals in respect to the Guard. Officials have also said they still wish they could add the C-27 to their fleet, they just don’t have the money and would rather keep other programs alive. If the sequestration goes through and another $500 billion is slashed from the defense budget, any hopes of a Spartan gunship supplementing the U.S. Air Force’s fleet are likely dashed.

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My bet, the UK and Australia will have their own version of the AC-130 or a pocket version of Spooky or Puff the magic dragon.

Sounds like a Gunship Ultra Light, one 30mm gatling is a pretty weak supplement of fire support.

30mm Gatling guns kick ass.

The AC-130J’s are supposed to finally get a gun, but it will be a 30mm chain gun. Not as cool, in my opinion. Lockheed will install it on a pallet just like this C-27 gun.

A AC-130U can do the job just fine not much of a loss in my opinion.

The GAU-23 isn’t a rotary cannon like Vulcans, GAU-12s, or the A-10’s GAU-8.
It’s a single barrel 30mm Bushmaster MK44 variant,
and it only recently received the GAU-23 type classification/designation.

It never got adopted by AC-130U’s because the USAF folks apparently thought it lacked sufficient accuracy.
I blame that on the mount they built for it moreso than on the gun itself: the Bushmaster guns are very accurate and reliable.

I’m more curious of the firing in the MC-27J:
“The GAU-23 is a dual feed system that can carry 500 rounds. The cannon is capable of firing 200 rounds per minute, but the pilot typically fires one round at a time or five round bursts for accuracy sake.”

The dual feed offers a good mix, even if only 500 rounds seems small,
but only firing single shots or 5 round bursts suggests Alenia teams developed a very effective fire control mechanism that is far greater in accuracy than apparently what the USAF used in AC-130U trials.

Still, it opens up new doors that other nations may jump on board.…perhaps others may express desire in even 35mm Oerlikon or 40mm CTAI systems instead of 30mm,…

A lot of enginerring and modification will need to be done to specialize a C-27 as a gunship. For instance, The gun blast will destroy the aircraft skins near the muzzle in short order unless something is done, and sensors and fire control will need integration. This is no roll-on, roll-off mission pallet.

Did you miss the second sentence in the article?

Good Afternoon Folks,

At under a $100 million a copy the ac-27J Spartan gunship is bargain compare to ac-130’s from Lockheed. With the USArmy now placing a full aviation brigade with Division HQ’s I would that that a half dozen of these gunships per Division it would be a good use for the ac-27J Spartan.

The Army needs a fixed wing gunship that it can call on demand with out going through Air Force bureaucracy that has often in Afghanistan denied the ac-130’s to the Army. Before a AF whiners come up there are documented instances of this happening and at least one where American lives were lost. Look it up.

Its to bad that Lockheed runs procurement for the US DoD and will only OK it’s over price products.

Byron Skinner

Highly unlikely. Doesnt feature in any forward planning

He didn’t get that far.

“The gun blast will destroy the aircraft skins near the muzzle in short order unless something is done, ”

Uh, how is the skin different on an AC130? BTW, the barrel extends quite a bit more from the fuselage than the 20mm’s or even old 105mm (when they had them) on a Spectre.

“sensors and fire control will need integration”

What makes you think this hasn’t been done?

I second Byron Skinner’s comment. The Army needs its own organic close air support assets. It’s not like it’s a job the Air Force has ever really wanted (except as a way to claim a larger portion of the defense budget), so let’s give the ground pounders gunships, A-10’s and armed drones.

Every Army division already has a CAB assigned.
There are no fixed wing in the organization.
The Army isnt going to procure armed fixed wing.
Does the Army even own any C27 now?

Personally I would love to see the Army have its own organic fixed wing gunship assets in the Combat Aviation Brigade at Division or even Corps level. The problem is like the C-27J, the Air Force freaks out whenever the Army wants fixed wing, they barely tolerate the small handful of small planes the Army has now. IMO Air Force senior leadership doesn’t give a s**t about the boots on the ground and will kill any effort from the Army to acquire any fixed wing gun ship assets, just like they just did with the C-27J

Reconfigure the 1st Aviation Brigade “Golden Hawks”. Attach Combat Aviation Groups to specific Army Infantry Brigades. Tell the USAF that there are just not enough A-10’s and C-130 gunships to go around. Backdoor the purchase of these smaller, twin engine clones of the venerable C-130. Up the ante on the Army’s procurement for more drones and attach THEM to their respective Combat Aviation Battalions as “Reconnaissance Aircraft Companies” attached to specific ground units at the combat unit company level.
This would speed up the ability to call in tactical air support more efficiently and quickly. Something the Air Force always does as an afterthought.

first off, its singular, they are only adding one. 2 20MM gatling guns, 1 40MM, and 105MM gun are better

Let the Army have its own fixed wing aircraft life the C-130 gun ship? The USAF will draw then line and dare the Army to cross. The USAF will mobilize its lobbyist and like minded USAF support organizations. They will assault the House of Representatives and the Senate with an onslaught of lobbyists the likes of which God has never seen. USAF Generals will throw their bodies in front of any such legislation.
But seriously, it won’t happen. Just look at how the Army and the USAF went after each other over using the powder and pads that stop bleeding. Funny thing, is that if it were switched and the Army had the pads and the USAF the powder, they’d have fought just as hard.

Hey , with our Aussie Defense Force budget cuts it will be back to the old C47’s or worst comes to worst balloons.
Anyone know of any C47/DC3’s around the traps as I just might be able to make a dollar or two if it all hits the fan. Then again they just might installed them in a our C130’s and only issue 3 rounds per a/c every 6 months.
Yeeeeeeeeee ha!!!!!!

AUs are getting new center wings already.….should be good to go for another 20+ years.…

May be the case.…but C27 was a joint forces program managed by USAF.…maybe it is being cancelled (IMO) cause somebody finally realized how screwed up the acquisition was and they could not sustain the fleet long term.….better to cut the losses now.….

“Funny thing, is that if it were switched and the Army had the pads and the USAF the powder, they’d have fought just as hard.”

Examples? I think not. The Army has not interfered in the Air Force’s efforts to make their security police more like Infantry. The Army has not blocked the Air Force’s acquisition of armored vehicles. The Army hasn’t blocked the Air Force’s insistence that CAS must be called in by Air Force personnel. On the contrary the Army has encouraged the Air Force to increase it ALOs and JTACs while continuing to train soldiers to call in close air when necessary. The Air Force balked at placing aircraft at the ground commander’s disposal for intratheatre lift until the Army pushed for the C27 to do it on its own. Despite Congress’ wishes the Air Force insisted in making the program joint by funding itself (diverted Air Force funds). Eventually the SecDef (former Air Force officer) took the program from the Army and gave it completely to the Air Force. The Army welcomed C130’s and later C27s to be used by the ground commander.

Those are several examples of the Army not making an issue when the Air Force interfered in ground issues or expanded their own capabilities at it applies to ground power. There was no Army resistance by lobbyists, Generals or Army support organizations.

My father was a AC-47 Spooky and puff the Magic dragon driver for the Royal Laotian Air force. He can tell you that when you wanted steel rain, he can deliver it on time. Spooky was very reliable for it’s time.

Matt, granted Spectre’s are awesome but they are typically limited to spec ops missions. There’s only 25 in the whole world. 30mm is better than nothing.

Well Mr Skinner as a Gunship Aviator i will tell you there is no Air Force bureaucracy when it comes to CAS in combat. As a matter of fact the Air Force dosnt have a say on who gets the Gunship overhead down range. The GS is a SOCOM assest and as such belongs to them. SOCOM thorugh its staff decides, when, where and who a GS supports. I have come overhead of conventional Army forces and they are ill trainined to control a gunship. That is a fact. I have done ECAS before with the “Army” and it was diffcult but we got the job done with no loss to the ground guys, but a GS is best used by the people who know how to use them, and that is SOF troops, guys who come out to train with GS crews and know the plane and its Caps. So before you open your mouth and say AF whiners, know the facts and not what you play in video games or talk to your buddies about, and if the Army guys need in your face CAS, they have the abilty to reach out for OH-58s and AH64’s and conventional USAF airplanes ie.. A10, F16 or F15E or any of the armed RPA’s MQ1B, MQ1C (the Army version) and MQ9. Ohh and i like to see your so called documents, if they even exist, a AC130 crew would never ignore a call for help unless told to do otherwise. Also the AC27J is nothing new and had been looked at many years ago by SOCOM, not the Army. GoodDay

Too bad they can’t just integrate 20 +/- Brimstone II on this puppy somehow and call it a day. That would revolutionize the entire class and capability. Forget the gun on this one. Just roam, point and shoot at will, in stand-off… away from any bugger with a manpad or any other potential trashfire in the target zone which would otherwise keep an AC-130 away during daylight hours!

The Army has its own gunships, they are called Apaches

Agree, especially given that the article says they were integrated, though not initially. Hell, the A-10 shreds tanks with a 30mm Gatling gun. The 30 has plenty of range, especially when shooting down, and can make up for it’s smaller size (not quite and inch and a quarter in diameter) with quantity. What’s not to like?

Every gunship since the C-47 has had to deal with gun blast effects on the skins. If you don’t think it requires development to get right, more power to you. Just engineering the cutouts for the gun muzzle takes time and money. Any C-27 with gunship mods is going to suffer an empty weight penalty for it, even if the system is palletized. Speaking of time and money, integrating the sensors and fire control, and demostrating effectiveness, will take a lot of it. That is why I think it has not been done.

Sorry for my bad english, i want give you a view from italy about C27
I think that all C27 USAF deletion affaire is another big dupery for Italy, USA is becoming more and more brutal with its closer ally, in the big and in the little like this affaire is, sure this is a sign of the empire slow motion crash. USA supporter in Italy are at the maximum of their power, but in the near future this status will change, and with this kind of total rip-off about industrial returns, and C27 is only the last of a long serie, in the future will be more and more difficult for us to accept things like Lybia destruction or Iran embargo, all things that are going on at Italy’s expence, first.

Ironically, I would have thought the chain gun would be better suited for the C-27 mod. Surely it is lighter than the GAU-23. The lighter the weapon, the more ammo it can carry. I’m just guessing it would be more accurate than old smokey too!

C-27s get better fuel economy. I see fuel usage as a major factor in future logistics; not to mention more flexibility in shorter takeoff and landing. I keep remembering that old tactical maxim in economy of force.

Don’t worry about the English — all comments are welcome! I think folks misunderstand US resolve in world security participation. We were the underdog in previous wars up to World War II. Pearl Harbor taught us we can no longer ignore world affairs, and to do so is to our peril — both physically and economically.

Just like any other country the US is only looking out for its own interests — especially to maintain as peaceful an environment for enterprise and the capitalistic interest that business needs for world economic stability. History has taught us that we must maintain a high level of interest in the military security of the world in order to maintain a stable business climate. We still make mistakes, of course — but it really does boil down to what is good for business, and that is top priority. I think this is why we will see more rugby between the US and China, because they will both have this attitude to the point of bellicose behavior if necessary.

Fine. This isn’t their first rodeo and they do have former servicemembers with experience on the AC 130 working on the program. What makes you think this hasn’t been done?

Good Morning Folks,

My over all point is the USArmy needs fixed wing asset platforms booth for resupply of forward troops and for the fire support mission. Like the old cv-2 Caribou of a by gone era the c-27J fits the Army’s needs, I know Puffs war C-47’s. The new war fighting strategy for the ground elements no longer permits the large base camps are even larger Green Zones that can accommodate the needs of the USAirForce.

The Army is going to be supporting forward deployed troops with precision drop pallets, a typical load is two to three pallets. The c-130J is over kill. A quick change arrangement like the Marines Harvest Hawk would permit the flexible c-27J to be an economical platform in the forward supply function and the areal fire support role which most often is for the night shift. The new UAV variant of the a-10 should come under Army operational control rather then the USAirForces.

Byron Skinner

Expound on the “new war fighting strategy” please.…

Yes, they should definitely swap. Maybe since they’re both mounted to pallets…

I do think Italy got the short end of the stick with the C-27J, but it was mainly Lockheed’s doing. It didn’t have (in my opinion) anything to do with attitudes toward Italy by Americans in general. Lockheed manipulated the pentagon to do their bidding, which is business as usual here. Isn’t Italy in pretty much the same boat, being controlled by the interests of large international business over those of the people? I mean, look at how well the European Union is going for you! In our country we get pretty much the same thing with NAFTA, CAFTA, and every other “free trade” agreement being shoved up our asses, our jobs shipped to communist countries so they can be the “credible threat” the defense contractors need to keep defense spending at or above Cold War levels. It’s all in a days work for the big multi-national corporate interests.

Mike — Maybe we should spread the gunship love?

What were the specific shortcoming in providing GS CAS to conventional units? I was the Army project officer in linking the first AC130 simulators to virtual ground observer simulators so controllers would be trained before showing up at a range. Didn’t seem to be rocket science.

Since most CAS must be called in by Air Force observers unless an absolute emergency wouldn’t those unspecified shortcomings in conventional units ability to control gunships be an Air Force training problem? (That Air Force Bureaucracy we were talking about.) Were the situation(s) you were involved in where a SOCOM asset was supporting a conventional unit so hairy that it may explain the unspecified problems?

BTW, how often did you provide support to a conventional unit. Being a SOCOM asset it must have been exceptionally rare to support a conventional unit.

How do you know there’s no Air Force CAS bureaucracy as a SOCOM gunship aviator? Like you said, “the Air Force dosnt have a say on who gets the Gunship overhead down range.” What experience do you have with conventional units and their CAS needs experiences? CAS from the air looks and feels quite different than it does to the guy on the ground especially if he can’t get it and you never have visibility that there was a need. Firemen do awesome jobs putting fires out they arrive at. Homeowners won’t agree if it’s their house that burned down. Shouldn’t the homeowner be judging how well firemen do?

One can’t simultaneously say the Air Force doesn’t have a CAS bureaucracy when one is working in a SOCOM chain of command that doesn’t compete for CAS like subordinate units do. SOCOM is always going to get priority. It’s disengenious (and arrogant) to say one knows the conventional CAS issue when he’s not playing in those waters. AwesomeDay :)

I think the A10 fires a different round than this proposed 30mm does.

damn no gau? that rotary cannon is merciless.


I think you’re getting a bit off base and confused there. NAFTA and CAFTA have NOTHING to do with your pretty loose conspiracy theory involving the USGov in trying to consciously build up China economically, with the plan to keep the MIC going strong. Usually you’re posts contain an interesting point, but this one is a bit over the top one could say.

What UAV variant designation of the A-10 are you referring to?!?

Another thing to consider is that small UAV rotary craft will be transporting pallets in the future. But it’s arguably more prudent for US Army/USMC to buy persistent and economical Super Tucano as far as I’m concerned… much less vulnerable, more flexible to operate and more capable in the aggregate based on raw numerical advantage for one thing.

Good Evening Folks,

To ifidel4LIFE. I, like you, would rather see a different weapon on the ac-27J then the GAU 30mm Canon. My favorite would be the GAU 12/V 25mm. More ordnance on target faster, but there is that beaten zone could could be as large as 200m meters and that means colloidal damage which is to be avoided at all cost.

With there 30mm canon used as a single shot or with the 5 round bursts the gunner/pilot has more control of where her/his rounds are going. Also there are the small tactical missiles, Brimstone and the GBU 44 Viper that would fit well with this platform.

The USAirForce only wants to see war from 10K feet and higher, they have shown little interest in providing a medium transport that can operate off forward undeveloped air strips and a fire support platform that can loiter on station and be on demand to support ground forces forwardly deployed.

The USArmy’s emerging Divisional TO&E provides the ideal organizational support for the c-27J or a similar platform at the tactical level. With a Marines Harvest Hawk type conversion the (a) c-27J solves both of these problems and at only a fraction of the cost (-50%) that it would cost the USAirForce.

As Donald Rumsfeld one said. “You have to fight the war that you get, not the one you want.”

Byron Skinner

Is it a conspiracy theory to postulate that a defense company would support a policy that supports their best interests? I think you need to figure out what a conspiracy theory is.

The CAB is not ideal for inclusion of a fixed wing asset, and there is no emerging divisional aviation level unit.. The CAB is expected to operate from an extremely austere environment. FW cant operate like that. Also, there is no need to do it if the asset is dropping pallets or whatever. The pallets would be generated from a more developed location.

Not sure what you mean by “extremely” austere environments No air conditioning?. CABs are not placed on combat outposts. A LARGE forward operating base yes. Those aren’t extremely austere (check out the documentary Restrepo for extremely austere). Unless you have some specifics besides the size of the runway you can’t support that fixed wing can’t operate in austere environments. BTW, for the short time C27s were flying they were operating for CABs. http://​www​.dodbuzz​.com/​2​0​1​2​/​0​4​/​2​4​/​f​a​r​-​f​r​o​m​-​d​c​-​bat… How do you explain that?

The key to the CAB is that it works for the ground commander. Requests for intratheatre lift or CAS are prioritized by the ground commander. It’s pretty similar to how the Marines work. That’s why the Air Force doesn’t like them and is making excuses.

“Extremely austere” would be defined as a completely unimproved area, with no runway or hardstand whatsoever.…a grid coordinate with some level ground. A CAB is expected to operate from much more austere conditions than a FOB, it just doesnt today due to the nature of the fight. A FW needs the runway, RW doesnt. As far as the recent example of CAB and C27, the relationship was TACON. The CAB was not responsible for that unit logistical support. The units were supported by a different organization, which reinforces that argument. The units got glowing reviews while TACON to the CAB. I am not making an anti-C27 argument here, just saying that a CAB is not the right formation for them.

We need a dedicated gunship , i watched a show on HBO were they had a reporter embedded with Taliban fighters and the one platform that they feared more than any other was what they called the American cargo fighter (AC-130 spooky), because of the optics and the ability to target them at night with precision. The Taliban are deathly afraid of the AC-130, which is great thing in my book. If the wings are falling off the AC-130s then convert some of the C-17s that they were forced to buy from congress. it has a greater loiter time greater payload , load some JADAMs in the back and create a hole like a torpedo port on a submarine has and drop the JADAMs out of it. AC-17 sounds great to me.

correction on above post : the C-17s that congress forced the Airforce to buy.


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