AC-130W Stinger II
Based on a need for more aerial gunships to support special operations forces in war zones, the MC-130W Dragon Spear was renamed the AC-130W Stinger II in May 2012. The primary mission of the AC-130W Stinger II is armed overwatch. While similar to the AC-130's missions, Stinger II is primarily focused on performing reconnaissance over friendly positions and may directly deliver ordnance to precise targets to support ground forces.
Armed overwatch can be defined as close air support aircraft on station over friendly positions, performing reconnaissance when threat permits and when not being used to directly deliver ordnance. This may prevent an unexpected ambush or stop units advancing to reinforce. The aircraft is ready at a moment's notice to deliver ordnance to support ground forces. Additional missions of which Stinger II will be capable include Close Air Support, CAS Troops in Contact, Strike Coordination and Reconnaissance, non-traditional intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance and command and control. Additionally, the aircraft is configured to be able to load and deliver cargo or personnel and be used in a limited mobility role.
The aircraft is a highly modified C-130H featuring improved navigation, threat detection, countermeasures, and communication suites. All AC-130W aircraft are modified with a precision strike package to perform the armed overwatch role.
Modifications to the AC-130W include a mission management console, communications suite, two electro-optical/infrared sensors, fire control equipment, precision guided munitions delivery capability, and one side-firing, trainable 30 mm gun with tracer-less ammunition and associated munitions storage system. The mission management system will fuse sensor, communication, environment, order of battle, and threat information into a common operating picture. The AC-130W Stinger II Precision Strike Package modification will provide ground forces an expeditionary, direct fires platform that is persistent, delivering precision low-yield munitions, ideally suited for urban operations.
Lessons learned from overseas contingency operations have modified the near-term needs of U.S. Special Operations Command and Special Operations Forces fire support requirements. In July 2007, the U.S. SOCOM Commander declared the need to grow the gunship fleet. The commander's intent was not to replace current AC-130s, but rather to augment existing combat capability.
In May 2012, the MC-130W Dragon Spear was renamed the AC-130W Stinger II. The AC-130W Stinger II Project was developed to increase the precision fires capacity available for Overseas Contingency Operations. U.S. SOCOM used proven rapid acquisition principles and combat proven technology to field the Precision Strike Package on the AC-130W Stinger II. It took less than 18 months from the first flight of a prototype modified aircraft to deployment to Operation New Dawn.