A few years ago I helped break the story that Air Force Special Operations Command wanted to turn twin-engine, C-27J cargo planes into a "gunship lite" to bolster the command's fleet of aging AC-130 gunships. AFSOC was all about the idea for a while until budgeteers nixed the gunship lite proposal in FY 2010 and the command opted to recapitalize its AC-130 fleet with new C-130Js.
Imagine my surprise last week when I came across a "light gunship" display at ATK's booth at the Association of the U.S. Army's annual conference here in Washington. The aircraft appears to be a CASA CN-295 -- instead of a C-27J -- and it's shown bristling with missiles, rockets and a 30mm cannon.
While no one from ATK was available to tell me more about the airplane, a marketing sheet I took from the display describes the plane as a "robust day/night ISR solution now available with precision strike/close air support capabilities." From the brochure, I deduced that ATK is marketing this as an equipment package that can turn any medium-size transport into a gunship -- the CN-295 is simply being used to show off the concept.
According to the fact sheet, the proposed gunship would be equipped with:
- an electro-optical/infrared sensors and a laser target designator
- fuselage-mounted weapons pylons capable of carrying both AGM-114M/K Hellfire missiles and 70mm rockets
- a side firing M230LF 30mm cannon
- a sythetic aperture radar
- cockpit and passenger armor
- datalinks that can transmit full motion video taken by the plane's sensors
- beyond line of sight communications gear
Here's a model of the light gunship that was on display at ATK's booth below the giant picture shown above: