SOF To Convert One C-27J To Gunship Lite
Jul 25, 2008
The Pentagon is planning this fiscal year to buy one C-27 for quick modification as a prototype gunship to augment U.S. Air Force Special Operations Commandâ€™s (AFSOC) existing AC-130 fleet.
A $1.8 billion reprogramming request from the Pentagon for FY â€™08 includes a set aside for $32 million for the purchase of a single C-27, which would be modified to include â€œproven/knownâ€ weapons, sensors and other tactical systems for what AFSOC is calling an AC-XX Gunship Lite prototype. â€œThis prototype will serve as a risk mitigation effort to field a new platform to operate in austere locations, with increased operational flexibility and a smaller support tail of manpower and logistics,â€ the reprogramming request states, noting the effort is a new start.
The U.S. Army and Air Force are already on contract to buy the first C-27Js for use as light cargo transports. The aircraft are being built by an L-3/Alenia North America team, with Boeing continuing negotiations to help stand up a U.S.-based final assembly plant in Florida.
Another $11.5 million is requested to execute an AC-XX feasibility study and engineering analyses associated with the so-called Gunship Lite. Further funding for the procurement of the aircraft is likely to be in the FY â€™10 budget, which is now being crafted at the Pentagon.
In congressional testimony earlier this year, the Special Operations Commandâ€™s (SOCOM) chief said SOCOM was trying to roll out a small fleet of gunship-oriented C-27Js but was struggling under competing Air Force budget pressures, as well as the need to pursue necessary funds via an unfunded priority list to Congress that is not part of the regular appropriations process. He told senators that it would be an â€œexaggerationâ€ to say SOCOM and the Air Force were equally eager to fund the small gunship variant, but the armed service supported the combatant commandâ€™s effort nevertheless (Aerospace DAILY, March 10). SOCOM, which has limited acquisition authority of its own, listed $30 million for a â€œgunship lite prototypeâ€ as a high priority in its annual unfunded procurement wish list this year.
Meanwhile, AFSOC has also dashed its plans to field a 30mm weapon on the AC-130U gunship. Command officials had hoped to replace the AC-130â€™s 40mm and 25mm weapons with a common 30mm system. But it fell short in testing. â€œFlight-testing revealed that it is operationally unsuitable due to unsatisfactory gunfire accuracy,â€ the reprogramming says.
AFSOC is adding the 40mm and 25mm weapons back to the four AC-130Us delivered with the 30mm gun configuration. The omnibus includes a request to shift funding from the 30mm program back into the legacy systems.
Also for AFSOC, the Pentagon requests $7.5 million be transferred from an account for the MC-130W weapon system trainer to one that will purchase a U-28A trainer. AFSOC has begun to purchase the modified Pilatus PC-12 fixed wing aircraft for use in low-profile intratheater lift missions.
A separate line-item in the omnibus reprogramming also calls for $23.9 million to be dedicated toward the purchase of six PC-12s for use as communications relay systems for the Air Force. The mission is now being handled by C-130s and EA-6B Prowlers, which are badly needed to conduct other missions. This is also a new start program.