TechNext-generation gunship, AC-130J Ghostrider, may lose 105 mm howitzer

Next-generation gunship, AC‑130J Ghostrider, may lose 105 mm howitzer

AC-130J Ghostrider
AC-130J Ghostrider
Images source: © Defense.gov

8:39 AM EST, November 18, 2023

The AC-130 planes, often referred to as gunships, have long served as flying artillery units for the U.S. armed forces. These aircraft have carried various types of ordnance, even howitzers of up to 105 mm. However, this soon might no longer be the case. What could replace them?

The heaviest weaponry on the AC-130J Ghostrider planes, the 105 mm caliber howitzers, might soon be omitted from their decks. This step is currently being evaluated by the leadership at the Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC).

The primary reason for this change would be to free up both space and weight on the aircraft. These resources could then be dedicated to intelligent aerial ammunition that would allow for better precision on target hits and increase the attacking range.

This shift indicates a gradual move by the Americans away from the concept of a gunship as a vehicle brimming with a variety of small and large caliber artillery. Instead, modernized aircraft are projected to serve as flying platforms for precision weapons, and potentially, energy weapons in the future.

Lockheed Martin's AC-130J Ghostrider

The AC-130J Ghostrider is the latest iteration of the AC-130, a revamped version of the C-130 Hercules transport aircraft. The final model of this type, the 31st in total, was delivered in November 2022.

Thanks to the aircraft's spacious interior and the cargo plane's generous load capacity, the AC-130J Ghostrider serves as a platform for a modular weapon system known as the Precision Strike Package (PSP).

The PSP consists of various armaments, including a 30 mm Mk44 Bushmaster cannon and a 105 mm M102 howitzer, whose removal is being evaluated by the AFSOC. In addition to artillery, the AC-130J also carries a broad range of precision aerial ammunition such as AGM-176 Griffin missiles, AGM-114 Hellfires, and assorted bombs.

The aircraft is also equipped with a pneumatic Gunslinger launcher, which is mounted on the loading ramp. The Gunslinger launcher enables the deployment of small glide bombs and Tactical Off-Board Sensor (TOBS) reconnaissance drones.

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