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Future Bomber a Foundation for Next-Gen Gunship

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  • Future Bomber a Foundation for Next-Gen Gunship

    Goodbye Spectre?

    Air Force Special Operations Command (Afsoc) is planning to buy a fleet of bombers to house its future gunship, breaking with a decades-old tradition of using C-130 transports to carry heavy fires into the sky.

    Requirements for the Air Combat Command’s (ACC’s) bomber and the gunship are still being drawn up. But, both commands agree on some key characteristics: a degree of low observability (LO)—not necessarily full stealth—and endurance. The future gunship will look nothing like today’s lumbering platform, and it could actually wind up appearing more like a B-2. “I don’t think the transport next-generation gunship will be on a mobility platform because you are not going to need to carry around all that weight,” says Lt. Gen. Michael Wooley, outgoing Afsoc commander. “If you are not carrying around that big gun and all of that heavy ammunition you don’t need a big [transport] that is in itself vulnerable.” Wooley will be replaced by his current vice commander, Maj. Gen. Donald Wurster, later this year.

    ACC has announced it will not push the state-of-the-art for its next-generation bomber, which must be fielded beginning in 2018. That time frame and limited funding are prompting the Air Force to scale back earlier aspirations for a highly stealthy platform equipped with exotic directed-energy weapons. Afsoc has traditionally latched onto the Air Force’s larger buys when procuring a platform in order to prevent having to dedicate funding to a separate development project.

    ...

    Because the gunships may operate in populated areas, planners are emphasizing a need for high accuracy for its weapons suite. Directed-energy weapons—including lasers or potentially high-power microwaves—are a possibility. Afsoc has been experimenting with the Advanced Tactical Laser, a C-130-based chemical laser system, against various targets.

    However, that system is not suitable for operational use and Montgomery says the command is interested in waiting for a solid-state laser, which would eliminate the need for onboard chemical storage. “We can demonstrate that you could go up to the types of targets that would be useful and that we have traditionally been called upon [to destroy]—discreet groups of individuals, areas where there may be collateral damage implications where you may need a very high-precision type of weapon and one that gives you the discretion to employ very carefully. We are not going to hold our breath waiting for the laser. We are going to continue to move forward with the Air Combat Command initiative.”

    The Air Force and Navy have been experimenting with the potential use of active electronically scanned array radars—like those on the F-22 and F-35—to emit high-power microwave pulses that can confuse or damage an adversary’s electronics systems. These could include air defense sensors or communications nodes. Asked whether Afsoc would employ this capability on its future gunship, Wooley simply said, “Suffice it to say we have teams linked up with the F-22 and F-35 crowd and are very interested in those areas.”

    A retractable 120-mm. mortar weapon is the likely centerpiece of the future gunship’s kinetic weapons suite, and it would replace the existing 105-mm. howitzer. “There has been a lot of work done on the 120-mm. rounds in terms of guidance and seeker systems, and that would be a relatively simple retrofit or modification” to the existing AC-130H/U fleet as well as a candidate for the future gunship, according to Montgomery. “The beauty is you don’t have the recoil we had that creates a lot of stresses and wear on the aircraft itself. . . . They have some great guidance systems with 120-mm. rounds that have already been researched by the U.S. Army.”

    Afsoc is also now exploring a very small—3-7-lb. class—precision-guided weapon for use on the existing gunship fleet and the next-generation solution. Afsoc tested the Northrop Grumman Viper Strike weapon on its gunships recently with positive results, Montgomery says. The weapons were released from the outboard pylons of AC-130s. The Army has also used the system for a small strike capability from its Hunter UAVs.

    ...

    In the meantime, Afsoc is testing the addition of a new 30-mm. gun on the first of its four new AC-130Us. The total AC-130U fleet is at 17, including four purchased through war supplemental bills, and all will receive the gun. The 30-mm. gun will replace both the 25- and 40-mm. guns on either end of the aircraft. Wooley says the 40-mm. gun was a “problem child. We have literally had to go to naval museums to get a critical piece to get one of those guns firing.” The new 30-mm. weapon is more accurate, achieves a higher rate of fire and has ammunition in plentiful supply. Also slated for installation onto the AC-130U fleet is a low-light target designation system.

    http://www.aviationweek.com/aw/gener...-Gen%20Gunship
    Rumors of my demise have been greatly exaggerated... again...

  • #2
    Erhm ... isn't a lot of big guns with lots of ammo the whole idea behind the gunship concept in the first place? So that they could lay down accurate supporting fire over a long period of time?

    Another attempt by the air force brass to move away from the unglamorous job of ground support for something a lot more sexy (and involving a lot more cash?)

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by Ogukuo72 View Post
      Erhm ... isn't a lot of big guns with lots of ammo the whole idea behind the gunship concept in the first place? So that they could lay down accurate supporting fire over a long period of time?

      Another attempt by the air force brass to move away from the unglamorous job of ground support for something a lot more sexy (and involving a lot more cash?)
      I feel your spot on mate! C-130 have been a great weapons platform, if anything an improved version would suffice.
      "In modern war... you will die like a dog for no good reason."
      Ernest Hemingway.

      "We're all going to die, all of us; what a circus! That alone should make us love each other, but it doesn't. We are terrorised and flattened by trivialities."
      Bukowski

      Comment


      • #4
        I don't see the need for stealth in a gunship. We are not going to use them around radar defenses (not active ones, anyway). We are going to be using them under flares and in daylight. I am pleasantly surprized they are moving to the 120mm mortar round. I would be interested in finding out the projected rate of fire for these type of rounds versus the 105 howitzer.

        The purpose of a gunship is to supply high volumes of close support fire for long periods of time. That means Vulcan automatic cannon and rather close to the ground.

        The best thing about using transports is there is all that room on board for ammunition and targeting equipment.

        I also question the need for a large manned platform. Aren't we using remote piloted vehicles in Iraq? Won't future aircraft be controlled in comfort from Washington? Without pilots we could afford LOTS of drones!

        Pruitt
        Pruitt, you are truly an expert! Kelt06

        Have you been struck by the jawbone of an ASS lately?

        by Khepesh "This is the logic of Pruitt"

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        • #5
          You can never have to much firepower . . .

          I think the M-61 Vulcan was dropped because of the excess weight [all that brass is just baggage] and the large beaten zone [probably a little hairy for those 'danger close missions'.

          The 30mm makes sense as we have at least two others in the inventory and they still have growth potential. Better burst control than a rotary cannon and possibly single shots?

          What surprises me is that they aren't talking about a rotary rack or dispenser for SDBs. Why supress a target when you can kill it with one round? Having a B-52 or an F-18 loitering about to drop three or four small bombs a day seems like a waste but a dedicated support aircraft could be designed to have a long loiter time, a wide variety of weapons, and direct radio contact with the ground troops.
          Any metaphor will tear if stretched over too much reality.

          Questions about our site? See the FAQ.

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          • #6
            Originally posted by Ogukuo72 View Post
            Erhm ... isn't a lot of big guns with lots of ammo the whole idea behind the gunship concept in the first place? So that they could lay down accurate supporting fire over a long period of time?
            Supporting/Suppressive fire isn't quite as important when all of your shots are actually killing their targets.
            Rumors of my demise have been greatly exaggerated... again...

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            • #7
              According to a magazine I've got, The new 30mm are the same guns as the ones mounted on the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle, Apparently its a more capable gun than the 40mm and the 25mm and can fire air-burst ammo.

              I've read they are also looking at putting lasers on them as well as on the F-35 JSF.

              The future gunship will look nothing like today’s lumbering platform, and it could actually wind up appearing more like a B-2.
              In theory it could work, You've got a B-2 style airframe with remotely controlled weapons blister mounted under it, Rather than on the side, Which would let the guns to fire at either side or under the aircraft (A flying battleship!), Its stealthier than a cargo aircraft so its got a better chance against SA-7s and could be designed to carry ordnance like JDAMs or other PGMs internally.

              Eg, A gunship designed for its role rather than a cargo aircraft with guns.

              Another thought would be a UACV which is basically a flying 30mm cannon with ammo, Perhaps with a couple guided Hydra 70 rocket pods.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by sickpup View Post
                Supporting/Suppressive fire isn't quite as important when all of your shots are actually killing their targets.
                Yep, and vice-versa.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by the_redstar_swl View Post
                  Eg, A gunship designed for its role rather than a cargo aircraft with guns.
                  Exactly...
                  Rumors of my demise have been greatly exaggerated... again...

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    If you want a bomb carrier, get a bomber!

                    Originally posted by the_redstar_swl View Post
                    According to a magazine I've got, The new 30mm are the same guns as the ones mounted on the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle, Apparently its a more capable gun than the 40mm and the 25mm and can fire air-burst ammo.

                    I've read they are also looking at putting lasers on them as well as on the F-35 JSF.



                    In theory it could work, You've got a B-2 style airframe with remotely controlled weapons blister mounted under it, Rather than on the side, Which would let the guns to fire at either side or under the aircraft (A flying battleship!), Its stealthier than a cargo aircraft so its got a better chance against SA-7s and could be designed to carry ordnance like JDAMs or other PGMs internally.

                    Eg, A gunship designed for its role rather than a cargo aircraft with guns.

                    Another thought would be a UACV which is basically a flying 30mm cannon with ammo, Perhaps with a couple guided Hydra 70 rocket pods.

                    The object of having a gunship in the first place is not to use an expensive airframe. Transports are/were used because they were cheap, roomy and easy to fit to the weapons.

                    If you want a vehicle that carries JDAAM and Smart Bombs, get a Bomber! I hear Tornadoes do a nice job....

                    While I like the idea of using a 120mm mortar, the problem of using guidance systems is you have to be a certain distance above the target for it to manuever. The easier answer is to fire several unguided shells at the target.

                    I think someone in the pipeline is confusing missions. If you want the option of precision munitions, call an attack plane (UAV, Bomber or Fighter Bomber). If you want saturation attacks of a general area with little AAA threat, call a Gunship!

                    I was of the opinion that the original Spooky using 7.62 miniguns was great. As time went on, they kept adding larger weapons to the C-130. This allowed more standoff distance between plane and pilot. It also degrades accuracy. I think they should stick to the formula of cheap and easy to change.

                    Pruitt
                    Pruitt, you are truly an expert! Kelt06

                    Have you been struck by the jawbone of an ASS lately?

                    by Khepesh "This is the logic of Pruitt"

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Pruitt View Post
                      The object of having a gunship in the first place is not to use an expensive airframe. Transports are/were used because they were cheap, roomy and easy to fit to the weapons.
                      Nah, I don't think that's the "object" of having a gunship. Transports were used because they were the only thing available. The USAF isn't likely to go through an entire product development lifecycle for an aicraft that they're only going to build a few dozen models of. Well, with a few exceptions, of course (*cough* B-2 *cough*).

                      Now, though, they're able to get in on the "ground floor" of the development of an aircraft, so they're able to sway the design decisions a little bit to end up with an aicraft that will better accomodate their gunship requirements.
                      Rumors of my demise have been greatly exaggerated... again...

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        You are entitled to your opinion...

                        Originally posted by sickpup View Post
                        Now, though, they're able to get in on the "ground floor" of the development of an aircraft, so they're able to sway the design decisions a little bit to end up with an aicraft that will better accomodate their gunship requirements.
                        Maybe the guys making these decisions are going a bit overboard as well. These are the same people that designed toilet seats and hammers as well, right? Somehow I am reminded that a Camel is a Horse designed by committee!

                        Pruitt
                        Pruitt, you are truly an expert! Kelt06

                        Have you been struck by the jawbone of an ASS lately?

                        by Khepesh "This is the logic of Pruitt"

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          maybe this is it?

                          Originally posted by sickpup View Post
                          The USAF isn't likely to go through an entire product development lifecycle for an aicraft that they're only going to build a few dozen models of. Well, with a few exceptions, of course (*cough* B-2 *cough*).
                          Actually they may well be pushing in this direction to fund the "stealth" platform for other uses as well. The sell of using it for gunships would be the reason for existing.

                          The B-1 and B-2 have been a bit of disappointment after the B-52. I am unaware of any Strategic bomber aircraft in the planning stages right now. The gunship could be a way of funding a replacement for the B-2 without saying it out loud.

                          Then again it could be a way to fund the CIA, without being obvious as well.

                          Pruitt
                          Pruitt, you are truly an expert! Kelt06

                          Have you been struck by the jawbone of an ASS lately?

                          by Khepesh "This is the logic of Pruitt"

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Mission analysis . . .

                            Well let's think about this for a bit.

                            If you were flying a dedicated mission to hit a discrete target and there were no friendlies in the mix you'd just send in a bomber or a fast mover and get it over with.

                            Advantages of a "gunship" -
                            - Long loiter time [it's a cargo plane!]
                            - Large weapon variety and load
                            - Generic airframe is easier to modify and upgrade than an optimized high-performance type
                            - Lower airspeed allows the crew to better observe the target
                            - Large airframe provides greater stability for more accurate shooting
                            - Guns don't have the wide hazard radius that bombs do and the crew can compensate somewhat by selecting different weapons or engaging the target from a different azimuth.
                            - Accurate gunfire can minimize collateral damage compared to bombs and rockets

                            Now a question for all of you aircraft afficianados - wouldn't a Navy patrol airframe work pretty well? P-3 class or the replacement [P-8?].
                            Last edited by GCoyote; 26 Jul 07, 16:52. Reason: missing "a"
                            Any metaphor will tear if stretched over too much reality.

                            Questions about our site? See the FAQ.

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                            • #15
                              AC-130s

                              Upgrades!
                              A new program has been initiated to upgrade the armament of existing AC-130s still in service. The 25 mm GAU-12/U and 40 mm Bofors are to be replaced with two Mk 44 Bushmaster II 30 mm cannons. The first aircraft is completed, with three more to join the fleet by December 2007, and fleetwide modifications complete by 2010. There are also plans to look into replacing the M102 howitzer with a breech-loading 120 mm mortar, and to give the AC-130 a standoff capability using either the AGM-114 Hellfire missile, the Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System (based on the Hydra 70 rocket), or the Viper Strike glide bomb. The Air Force has decided to use the Bushmaster for two reasons. First, the 40mm Bofors gun is becoming progressively more difficult to maintain, with spare parts becoming more difficult to locate. Second, the 25mm cannon, while a useful weapon, lacks ammunition with an air-burst capability and suffers from too much scatter; procuring the most desirable types of ammunition for the 30mm Bushmaster is much easier.

                              History.
                              AC-130s also had a primary role during the United States invasion of Panama (Operation Just Cause) in 1989 when they destroyed Panama Defense Force headquarters and numerous command and control facilities. Aircrews earned the Mackay Trophy for the most meritorious flight of the year and the Tunner Award for their efforts.

                              During Operation Desert Storm, AC-130s provided close air support and force protection (air base defense) for ground forces, and battlefield interdiction. The primary interdiction targets were early warning/ground control intercept (EW/GCI) sites along the southern border of Iraq. The first gunship to enter the Battle of Khafji helped stop a southbound Iraqi armored column on 29 January. One day later, three more gunships provided further aid to Marines participating in the operation. The gunships attacked Iraqi positions and columns moving south to reinforce their positions north of the city. Despite the threat of SAMs and increasing visibility during the early morning hours of 31 January 1991, one gunship opted to stay to continue to protect the Marines. A surface-to-air missile (SAM) shot down aircraft #69-6567, call sign Spirit 03. All 14 crew members perished.

                              The military has used gunships during Operations Restore Hope and United Shield in Somalia, in the NATO mission in Bosnia-Herzegovina, and in the 1997 evacuation of American noncombatants in Albania. On March 15, 1994 over the Indian Ocean (off the coast of Kenya, near the town of Malindi), aircraft 69-6576 (then known as Preditor but previously called both Bad Company and Widow Maker) was lost, taking the lives of eight crewmembers. Gunships also were part of the buildup of U.S. forces in 1998 to convince Iraq to comply with U.N. weapons inspections. The United States later used gunships during the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan, and the Iraq War. In 2007 US Special Operations forces used the AC-130 in attacks on suspected al-Qaeda militants in Somalia.
                              Last edited by Achtung Baby; 26 Jul 07, 19:25.
                              "In modern war... you will die like a dog for no good reason."
                              Ernest Hemingway.

                              "We're all going to die, all of us; what a circus! That alone should make us love each other, but it doesn't. We are terrorised and flattened by trivialities."
                              Bukowski

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