WASHINGTON: Sometimes smart bombs aren’t the smart choice. Sometimes you just need a big bad flying gun. That’s why the aging AC-130 gunship is still revered by ground troops for its ability to fire a 105mm cannon — a weapon normally mounted on light tanks. That’s why the head of Air Force Special Operations Command, Lt. Gen. Bradley Heithold, decided the new model, the AC-130J Ghostrider, had to have the 105 instead of relying on missiles. And that’s why Heithold will fight to slow the rate at which older AC-130s are retiring.
“I know we can buy back the two we [were] going to retire… in ’16,” Heithold told me and another reporter after his remarks today to the National Defense Industrial Association. He might even be able to get back the three aircraft that are to be retired in 2015, he said, if only as non-operational Backup Aircraft Inventory (BAI). Even that status would require maintenance that’s not funded in the ’15 budget, however: “I’d…probably have to talk with Congress” to see what’s possible, he said.
Wanna save some money? Just scrap the stupid idea of a laser on Block 40 AC-130J birds. If industry presents you a fully developed, integrable, operationally effective laser at some point, then maybe think of paying to procure them. But for now, lasers are just a money sink.
As the article notes, pulling the 1o5s off retiring birds and mounting them on the new build AC-130Js is something of a no-brainer. Which, that kinda surprises me they did it.
The loss of the early H model birds will drive down the gunship inventory, but they’re old, worn out aircraft that have truly earned their retirement.