Orbital ATK provides the GAU-23 BUSHMASTER Automatic Cannon and accompanying ammunition for US Air Force Special Operations Command AC-130Js. Concurrently, the company is making quantum leaps forward in producing and developing, its guided munitions – with major implications for the lethality and affordability of weapon systems on the “J” and other airborne platforms.
Tim Strusz, the company’s Director of Business for Precision Weapons, told the author that an expanded portfolio of possible munitions on special operations aircraft include the company’s Hatchet miniature precision strike weapon, and others in development or production. Beyond Hatchet, “we’re looking at guided 105mm, where we could extend the standoff range of the current 105mm by putting the precision contents of the precision guidance kit [PGK] we use on the155mm Howitzer artillery system, and modifying it, giving it the tail from our EXACTO [Extreme Accuracy Tasked Ordnance] programme and a GPS capability for the 105mm.”
PGK is one of the mature technology capabilities Orbital ATK can offer a prospective special operations customer. The company celebrated the manufacturing of its 20,000th PGK earlier this spring. Further, in recent years, Orbital ATK has demonstrated how it can advance the US Navy’s 5-inch guns to go farther and hit targets more precisely by providing a PGK variant for the rounds.
Mr. Strusz continued, that beyond extending the standoff for an indirect fire variant of the 105mm, “we can then talk about command guided, direct fire, we can also do that with the 105mm. And then we can also look at the 30mm round – where can do a direct fire, command guided, round – once again similar to the EXACTO round.”
Given the maturity of the company’s PGK, EXACTO and related programmes, enhancing AC-130J 30mm and 105mm systems and ammunition to these higher technology plateaus, “means very little installation and modification to the airplane. It’s almost a ‘plug-and-play’, there are no modifications done, as we would use the current GAU-23 gun. So, those are the many things we are trying to think of to help the warfighter increase platform lethality, increase standoff range, and keep an eye on cost.”
Of special note, during the week of this 14 May, Orbital ATK successfully demonstrated the guided 105mm technology in a 155mm artillery round, with the aft guidance controlled by a PGK fuse in the nose of the round.