The on-going American commitment to the war's in Afghanistan and Iraq forced renewed interest during 2007 in supplying effective close-support firepower for special forces elements. By 2009 the United States Air Force (USAF) had already committed to the procurement of the AC-130J gunship but their arrival was still very much in the future. Therefore, as an interim measure, it was decided to convert a existing MC-130W "Combat Spear" aerial tankers and transports (C-130H) to fixed-wing gunships. L-3 Communications was contracted for the work in September of 2010 and this has since resulted in yet-another in the long line of Lockheed C-130 "Hercules" related transport offshoots - the MC-130W "Dragon Spear" (to be later redesignated as AC-130W "Stinger II").
Most of the modification lay in implementation of the "Precision Strike Package". This also included installation of a 30mm "Bushmaster II" series GAU-23A Gatling-style cannon off to portside of the airframe. A precision-guided munitions system - the "Gunslinger" - was also one of the key qualities of the design and added a "smart" munitions capability to the attack platform. This system, by way of rapid-fire launch tube, allowed the crew to fire off successive shots of guided missiles at targets while on the move. Supported ordnance includes the Hellfire Anti-Tank (AT) missile, Viper Strike glide bomb and Griffin lightweight missile series. Additional work added updated communications and sensor fits to complete the new aircraft.
The standard operating crew would encompass two pilots, two Combat Systems Officers (CSMs), a flight engineer and a pair of Special Mission Aviators (SMAs).
Power is from 4 x Allison T56-A-15 turboprop engines of 4,300 horsepower each and fitted to a shoulder-mounted monoplane wing for excellent Short Take-Off and Landing (STOL) capabilities. Maximum Take-Off Weight (MTOW) is 155,000 lb. Range is out to 2,500 nautical miles with a maximum speed of 300 miles per hour reported.
In this guise the MC-130W became the "Dragon Spear" - the concept-to-flight time lasting just 90 days (prototype-to-deployment was 18 months). Eight conversions were originally received and the stock for Special Operations COMmand eventually grew to twelve by September 2013. Initial deliveries to the Afghanistan Theater were in late-2010 and the aircraft saw combat action soon after against Taliban forces. The series has also been deployed over Iraq and in Operation "Inherent Resolve" - the ongoing fight against I.S.I.S. in both Syria and Iraq.
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March 2020 - An AC-130W ("Stinger II") has successfully targeted and destroyed simulated naval assets with help from a loitering Boeing P-8A in testing - the U.S. military studying whether the Stinger II series could be an effective naval support platform.
1 x 30mm Bushmaster II GAU-23/A Gatling gun.
"Gunslinger" precision-guided munitions kit: Rapid-fire launch tube for 10 x GBU-44/B "Viper Strike", AGM-176 "Griffin" or AGM-114 "Hellfire" missile.
AC-130W "Stinger II" - Base Series Name
MC-130W "Dragon Spear" - Original designation; MC-130W Combat Spear aircraft modified for the fixed-wing gunship role as interim measure pending delivery og AC-130J models.
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