We’ve covered briefly before the history of gunships as a close air support platform. The Marines have never used the C-130 as a gunship, mostly for reasons of cost. The current cost of an Air Force AC-130U is somewhere around $140 million, making it one of the most expensive planes in the inventory.
But the Marines would really like to have access to some form of very persistent overhead gunship platform, if only for the Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconissance (ISR) capability it provides.
There’s news out that the Marines are looking at a “bolt-on” gunship capability for their KC-130J SuperHerks. Under a program called “Harvest Hawk,” this would entail replacing one of the drop tanks with a sensor package, the other with launch rails for Hellfire missiles, and bolting a 30mm gun package to one of the troop doors.
It may not be a perfect solution, but the Marines think it would be better than none.