Gunship Lite

We talked about the evolution of the gunship earlier. Now comes news of the next step in the evolutionary chain.

The AC-130U is pretty much what the Air Force wants in a gunship. The only drawback really, is the cost. They run about $190 million each. That means the Air Force cannot buy a whole lot of them. The folks at Special Operations Command (SOCOM) see a need for more gunships, but admit that they don’t always need the whole AC-130 package. The proposed compromise is to convert a smaller transport into a less capable, but less costly gunship. The idea is to use the “new” C-27J as the base of this gunship.

I put the “new” in quotations because it is a new airplane… sorta. The C-27J Spartan is based on the Italian G.222 transport from the 1960s. But much like the C-130 was “rebooted” as the C-130J with new engines and avionics, the Spartan has been updated to the point where it is pretty much a new type. New engines, propellers and avionics make the Spartan far more capable than previous versions.

The US never operated the G.222, but recently has been searching for a robust small transport to move priority cargo and personnel. The C-27J fits the bill. It can get into and out of very small airstrips while still carrying a useful load. It can’t carry nearly as much as a C-130, but it costs much less and will be cheaper to operate. It won’t replace the Herk, but will fill a niche role in support of outposts and some special operation forces. In fact, both the Army and the Air Force will purchase and operate Spartans.  While the Gunship Lite idea is just getting started, the Spartan has been on the market for a while now, and is enjoying considerable sales success with our allies.


Correction: The Air Force bought 10 G.222s and renamed them C-27A, using them to support operations in Panama and South/Central America.

7 thoughts on “Gunship Lite”

  1. Be interesting to see what they decide to arm it with, as the original plan from a couple years ago when the Spooky-lite idea was first floated was to outfit it with 2 30mm Bushmaster cannons since the plan at the time was to replace the 25mm GAU-12 and 40mm Bofors on the Spookies with the Bushmasters. Since that plan fell through, it leaves the gunship-lite in the lurch because outfitting it with the GAU-12 and the Bofors would be far from ideal.

  2. I have to wonder if the 30mm accuracy problem wasn’t so much the gun, but rather the trainable mount. I’ve not seen any other context where there was an issue with 30mm accuracy, and IIRC, this is the same 30mm used by the Marines EFV and the Navy LPD-17s.

  3. I would also think that in addition to the mounting issue it might have something to do with getting the right rounds to handle being fired from several thousand feet up. As far as I know, this is the first application of the Bushmaster 30mm that is airborne.

  4. Well, looking at the AC-130U, it wasn’t a Bushmaster, per se. It was not a chain gun, but rather a gatling gun. So far as I can tell it uses the same round as the Bushmasters, and not the 30mm of the GAU-8.

  5. Which gun are you talking about? The GAU-12 25mm that is currently on the Spookies is not a chain gun, it is a gatling design but it can use the ammunition designed for the 25mm Bushmaster chain gun. The guns that AFSOC wanted to replace the GAU-12 and the Bofors with were the 30mm Bushmaster II, which is a chain gun. However, it cannot use the ammo of the GAU-8 and as of now, the only uses of it were like you said on the San Antonios, the EFV, and a couple of other foreign armored vehicles. I wouldn’t be surprised to find that they were having trouble with the ballistics of firing from the air.

  6. I was mistaken. thought they came up with at gat for the 30. I see now it was indeed the Mk44. I’m with you, wonder what they’ll use instead…

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