AC-130W Stinger II gunship is in serice with the US Air Force. Credit: U.S. Air Force.
AC-130W Stinger II is armed with 30mm and 105mm guns. Credit: U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Michael Washburn.
The gunship is powered by four Allison T56-A-15 turboprop engines. Credit: U.S. Air Force photo.

AC-130W Stinger II is a multi-mission gunship developed by Lockheed Martin for the US Air Force (USAF). It is a modified variant of the MC-130W Dragon Spear aircraft. The aircraft is primarily intended for close air support and aerial interdiction missions.

The gunship was developed to enhance the precision firepower of the USAF during the overseas contingency missions. It can be used in convoy escort and point air defence, as well as strike coordination and reconnaissance for the interdiction of preplanned or asymmetric targets.

The MC-130W Dragon Spear was redesignated as the AC-130W Stinger II in May 2012. The USAF received 14 MC-130W aircraft that were converted to AC-130W gunships by 2013. The aircraft are assigned to the squadrons of the Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC).

The gunships were deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation Enduring Freedom, and Operation Inherent Resolve.

The USAF’s AC-130W gunships conducted a first-of-its-kind joint exercise with the US Navy Cyclone-class patrol coastal ships and P-8A Poseidon maritime multi-mission aircraft (MMA), in March 2020.

AC-130W Stinger II features

The modified AC-130W platform is based on the C-130 Hercules transport aircraft. It features a precision strike package, transforming it into a gunship. The fixed-wing aircraft measures 29.8m long and 11.7m high. It has a wingspan of 40.4m and maximum take-off weight of 70.3t.

The gunship is manned by seven crew members including two pilots, two combat system officers, a flight engineer, and two special mission aviators. The cockpit is equipped with Thales’ Scorpion full-colour helmet mounted cueing system (HMCS).

Scorpion ensures accurate vision to enable the pilots to maintain situational awareness in harsh environments. The unit features standard NVG compatibility to deliver superior full-colour display switching.

The persistent direct-fire platform allows the crew to deploy precision low-yield munitions during close-air support and urban missions.

Weapon systems

The gunship is armed with a 30mm GAU-23 Bushmaster automatic cannon, a 105mm M102 gun, Raytheon’s AGM-176A Griffin missiles and stand-off precision-guided munitions such as GBU-44/B Viper Strike.

The GAU-23 cannon is an improved variant of the combat-proven ATK Mk 44 Bushmaster gun system. The cannon is fed by 30mm PGU-46/B high-explosive incendiary (HEI) rounds housed in an associated munitions storage system.

The 105mm gun can fire high-explosive projectiles against ground-based targets at a rate of up to 10 rounds per minute.

AGM-176A Griffin is an air-to-surface missile with a maximum range of 20km. It is launched from a 10-tube Gunslinger launcher mounted at the rear ramp of the AC-130W gunship.

The gunship can also carry AGM-114 Hellfire air-to-surface missiles and GBU-39 small diameter bombs (SDBs).

Mission equipment and systems aboard C-130W Stinger II

The modified aircraft is equipped with a mission management console, advanced communications package, two electro-optical/infrared (EO/IR) sensors, fire control systems, and precision guided munitions launch systems.

The gunship also integrates a radar warning receiver, a missile approach warning system (MAWS), electronic countermeasures, and chaff/flare dispensers. It is installed with inertial navigation systems (INS) and a global positioning system (GPS).

The mission management system integrates onboard sensors, communication systems, and other mission systems to enhance situational awareness of the crew members.

Engine and performance

The aircraft is fitted with four Allison T56-A-15 turboprop engines driving four four-bladed constant-speed reversible propellers. Each engine develops a maximum power output of 4,300shp. The wing-mounted podded engines ensure superior short take-off and landing (STOL) performance.

The aircraft can fly at a maximum altitude of 28,000ft. It has a maximum speed of 483km/h and a range of 4,630km.