Skip to comments.The Air Force’s New Gunship Is Easier to Shoot Up
Posted on 01/31/2014 6:22:10 AM PST by C19fan
In trying to reduce the cost of its specialized AC-130 gunships, the U.S. Air Force may have made them more vulnerable to enemy gunfire. This is the disturbing conclusion reached by the Pentagons top weapons testers in their latest annual report on the AC-130J.
According to the report, the new AC-130J Ghostridera Lockheed Martin C-130 transport with special sensors and side-firing gunswill only be required to have armor for its crew and their oxygen system. And the armor only needs to be thick enough to stop light machine gun bullets, around 7.62 millimeters in diameter.
Thats a significant and potentially fatal downgrade from previous gunships, which since the Vietnam War have lurked over combat zones, hunting for and gunning down enemy soldiers.
(Excerpt) Read more at medium.com ...
Adding weight reduces the performance of an airplane. Removing weight increases the performance of an airplane.
The USAF is profoundly uninterested in ground support missions. If it’s not fast, high and zoomy, they don’t care.
The theoretical performance of an airplane becomes moot when they don't get deployed where they are needed because their CO is too afraid of them getting shot down.
They don't go mach whatever. They don't drop expensive precision weapons down chimneys on camera. They don't disappear into the night never to be seen on radar again. They don't zoom along a treetop level in all weather to deliver a zillion lbs of bombs...
Sad to see them not getting the recognition and attention they deserve. They very directly, effectively, and inexpensively put a world of hurt on the enemy. Guess they're just not zoomie enough for today's AF.
But for an AC-130 doing close air support it seems weight for protection is worth the trade off.
That basically means it will be unarmored since at operating altitude, return fire from 7.62 has little penetrating capability.
“The USAF is profoundly uninterested in ground support missions. If its not fast, high and zoomy, they dont care.”
And the ironic thing is that they DO NOT want the Army to get fixed wing aircraft like the A-10 and AC-130.
Interesting. I wonder however, if somebody is thinking in terms of the length of time it takes to replace a downed aircraft vs. the amount of time it takes to replace an aircrew. During WWII, the Boeing plant in Seattle turned out 16 completed B-17 bombers per day. How long to train and deploy a competent aircrew?
It does make one scratch their head. In this case they’re trying to make one size fit all. Make the Paved MC-130 and the AC-130 interchangeable by just adding or deleting the gun package. In the world they see the AC-130 will only be used on SOF missions anyhow such as Bin Laden and such.
The Air Force is only interested in the Wild Blue Yonder!
The Ground only exists as a place to Park the Plane and Party after each flight.
As to those creatures called Ground-Pounders, let alone those who need Close Air Support, they are beneath consideration.
Except when the Air Force needs a few of their own super-warrior Seal/Special Forces/Force Recon types to put on an Air Force recruiting poster.
Turn control of Close Air Support & all assets for it over to the Army and the Marine Corps. Thankfully, the USMC already has and uses the best Close Air Support team in the world. The Navy does a pretty good job also. The Army has been getting slighted with fixed wing CAS.
A “Spooky” (C-130 gunship) cutting loose on an enemy position at night is a fearful & awesome sight to behold and HEAR!
So too is a Phantom that has just released 6 Snake-eyes and two canisters of Napalm from an altitude of 100 feet, so he can nail the enemy position 50 yards in front of you and not hit you.
The guys delivering CAS MUST understand the grunts in the mud & dust.
Come on over, all you Gunship & Warthog folks! Grunts LOVE the work you do!
Which is exactly what needs to happen.
The whine and roar that a Spooky makes in the middle of the night is a sound that helps soldiers sleep better.
I seem to remember some navies that held to that philosophy 70 or so years ago...
You’re right. The fighter mafia has full control at this point. That is why they have long wanted to get rid of the A-10, any air-ground mission, gunships and air-ground battle management assets. They’re idiots who believe the only real mission is air superiority.
Now they have A-10s. As a Marine, I'll take an A-10 over an F-22 anytime.
Oh, where to begin?
What has made the AC-130 so valuable is its ability to stay over the battlefield, no 5-second passes. Hours overhead; not seconds.
Since 1964 (50 years ago) tactical air provided by the USAF and USN has had three serious problems - wrong target, wrong ordinance, and wrong time.
Like it or not fast movers are great against large, primarily fixed, targets. A squad of enemy soldiers 50 yards from out numbered friend forces? I will not describe the problems involved in that one - too many megabits required.
Like it or not fast movers can not carry the types of munitions required in the numbers required. Look at the hard points under the wings - that limits the number of munitions you can carry - a dozen or so. Then, what happens if you were loaded with bridge busting munitions and are diverted to the troops in contact mission mentioned above?
Finally, what happens when the tactical air isn’t there to defend those isolated troops? If the best a fighter can do is overhead (actively defending) the troops for 5 seconds out of every 10 minutes how many fighters are required to provide immediate, on-call, ground support? And, that discussion ignores the tactical air planning cycle of 36 hours.
Now, am I describing the opening phases of Vietnam? Or, last week’s problems in Afghanistan? Or, both?
In 1968 a study was done to determine the most effective truck interdiction platform in Vietnam. Total USAF involvement required slightly over 6 sorties (two 4-ship flights) to destroy or damage a single truck. An AC-130 averaged 5 destroyed or damaged truck per sortie. Numbers extracted from an official Office of Air Force History publication.
Since 2001 AF tactical has had a “floor” of 15,000 feet that they aren’t supposed to go below, ever. Something about enemy anti-aircraft fire. Gunships can not get above 15,000 with a useful combat load. So who needs defensive armor the most?
I will be more than willing to continue this in private with an Freeper who wants to.
Me? In the gunship community 1975 - 2010, and among the “old farts” even today, my call sign is “Otis”.
Heck, you could have beaten the former number with a P-47.
“If its not fast, high and zoomy, they dont care.”
They don’t even like high fast and zoomy anymore, look at the F-35 moonpig. Now it has to be shaped like a jet, have stealth and be networked. Thats what they want.
Only as long as the gunners know where your lines are.
We had one covering us make a mistake.
True true true,,, Grunts sleep just as worried about supporting arms, friendly tanks moving around at night, friendly CAS, etc.
Grunts have no friends that make them feel totally safe.
CAS like Godzilla to the Japanese, you can be grateful that it saves you from a worse monster, but you should stay careful that it doesn’t scorch you too.
What happened to classified information? Is it necessary to inform opposition of military weaknesses?
Ground-support function from fixed-wing aircraft should be returned to the Army.
“Adding weight reduces the performance of an airplane. Removing weight increases the performance of an airplane.
You can only pick 2.
I bet you will like this.
LONGEST MACHINE GUN BURST EVER!!!
And you will really like this.
!AWESOME! Bell AH-1 Cobra, Night vision attack, IRAQ
(six and half minutes long, worth every second)
Sadly, that belongs now only to Politician's history, birth records, and felony convictions.
It’s greener. Once they switched the heat shielding on the center fuel tank of the space shuttle launch vehicle, it was so much better.
Greener is always better.
Between every conflict Navies reduce armor to gain speed, payload and range. Armies reduce armor in armored vehicles to gain mobility and range.
When the SHTF, Navies, and Armies rediscover armor. Rinse and repeat.
Agreed. The Air Force, however, seems to object to the army flying any sort of fighting airplane. It was hard enough for the Army to wangle their way into helicopters...
...and that does make me wonder how many big guns you could crowd onto a Chinook.
The ACH-47A was originally known as the Armed/Armored CH-47A (or A/ACH-47A). It was officially designated ACH-47A by U.S. Army Attack Cargo Helicopter and unofficially Guns A Go-Go. Four CH-47A helicopters were converted to gunships by Boeing Vertol in late 1965. Three were assigned to the 53rd Aviation Detachment in South Vietnam for testing, with the remaining one retained in the U.S. for weapons testing. By 1966, the 53rd was redesignated the 1st Aviation Detachment (Provisional) and attached to the 228th Assault Support Helicopter Battalion of the 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile). By 1968, only one gunship remained, and logistical concerns prevented more conversions. It was returned to the United States, and the program stopped.
The ACH-47A carried five M60D 7.62 × 51 mm machine guns or M2HB .50 caliber machine guns, provided by the XM32 and XM33 armament subsystems, two M24A1 20 mm cannons, two XM159B/XM159C 19-Tube 2.75-inch (70 mm) rocket launchers or sometimes two M18/M18A1 7.62 × 51 mm gun pods, and a single M75 40 mm grenade launcher in the XM5/M5 armament subsystem (more commonly seen on the UH-1 series of helicopters). The surviving aircraft, Easy Money, has been restored and is on display at Redstone Arsenal, Alabama.
Spent 15 years building, repairing, and testing Chinook gas turbines (T-55s) - engines had plenty of giddy-up!
But still slow as all hell compared to a C-130.
Scouts Out! Cavalry Ho!
If the USAF doesn't want A-10s and AC-130s, give 'em to the Army and the Corps...says anyone with a lick of sense.
Scouts Out! Cavalry Ho!
That's the range in horizontal distance. It takes more energy to fire a projectile 1,800 meters straight up.
The AC-130U "Attack altitude: Between 5,500 and 10,500 ft. above ground level depending on the threat environment"
Besides ground fire, they also have to worry about man-carried anti-aircraft missiles.
Is that really a problem if you're flying CAS?
Super “puff the magic dragon” ping
Would just take longer to get on station, also use much more fuel for it's size (shorter loiter time).
Thanks for the ping. I think the CAS mission is being taken over by drones operated by the Army.
This is not Vietnam. With modern targeting pods, you can hit the enemy more accurately and with less chance of killing friendlies by doing it from altitude. That is what drives the end of the A-10.
This is not 1968.
[tongue in cheek]
Well, why don’t they fly it to the area without the armor and add it right before they get there?
Very true. They should just transfer responsibility of fixed-wing ground support to each service. They’ve already done so for the marines.
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.