Posted by Lex, on February 17, 2011
You may remember our discussion * of the Harvest Hawk upgrade to the Marine Corps in theater C-130 aircraft in Afghanistan. That was a low-cost way of quickly adapting the tools you have to the battlefield you’re in.
Turns out that other folks are taking notice too:
U.S. SOCOM (Special Operations Command) has, for the first time since the Vietnam War, allowed its MC-130 gunships to operate in daytime. For the last four decades, it was believed too dangerous for these low, slow flying, heavily armed aircraft to operate when the sun was up. The key to this change is new weapons being used by gunships. The new, small, missiles enable the slow, large, MC-130s to operate above the range of ground fire. The new SOCOM MC-130W “Dragon Spear” is also based on an idea developed by the U.S. Marine Corps, the “instant gunship.” The first one of these arrived in Afghanistan five months ago. Four months ago, it fired one of its weapons (a Hellfire missile) for the first time (killing five Taliban). Called “Harvest Hawk,” the marine “instant gunship” system, enables weapons and sensors to be quickly rolled into a C-130 transport and hooked up. This takes a few hours, and turns the C-130 into a gunship (similar in capabilities existing AC-130 gunships). The sensor package consists of day/night vidcams with magnification capability. The weapons currently consist of ten Griffin missiles and four Hellfires. A 30mm autocannon is optional.
The last AC-130 to fly a combat mission in the daytime was on 31 January 1991: Spirit 03 voluntarily stayed on station to support engaged Marines at the Battle of Khafji after the sun came up, and was downed by an Iraqi SA-7 MANPAD, with the loss of all 14 crewmen.
** Cannot find link – was a past Neptunus Lex article 12-02-2010 Fist – Ed.