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AC-130U Spooky


The AC-130U Spooky heavily armed aircraft incorporates side-firing weapons integrated with sophisticated sensor, navigation and fire control systems to provide surgical firepower or area saturation during extended loiter periods, at night and in adverse weather. The sensor suite consists of an All Light Level Television system and an infrared detection set. A multi-mode strike radar provides extreme long-range target detection and identification. It is able to track 40mm and 105mm projectiles and return pinpoint impact locations to the crew for subsequent adjustment to the target. The fire control system offers a Dual Target Attack capability, whereby two targets up to one kilometer apart can be simultaneously engaged by two different sensors, using two different guns. No other air-ground attack platform in the world offers this capability. Navigational devices include the inertial navigation system (INS) and global positioning system (GPS). The aircraft is pressurized, enabling it to fly at higher altitudes, saving fuel and time, and allowing for greater range than the AC-130H. Defensive systems include a countermeasures dispensing system that releases chaff and flares to counter radar infrared-guided anti-aircraft missiles. Also infrared heat shields mounted underneath the engines disperse and hide engine heat sources from infrared-guided anti-aircraft missiles.

The AC-130U Gunship Navigator/Fire Control Officer stations are two of the five positions that reside in the Battle Management Center (BMC) of the AC-130U aircraft. The architecture of the BMC includes a fire control system which allows weapons delivery, sensor/weapons alignment, and diagnostic maintenance operations. The visual, radar, sensor, and electromagnetic combat environment inputs are correlated to each other for real-time display. The real-time display is a high-resolution perspective scene generations, including day/night, radar, All Light Level Television (ALLTV), and Infrared Detection Set (IDS) capabilities. The visual image generation system displays multiple scenes in each visual or sensor scene. All AC-130U gunfire modes are provided to allow full interaction between supported crew positions. These modes include automatic trainable, automatic fixed, semiautomatic fixed, and manual override. NRO data feeds were successfully integrated into the Weapons Control System of the prototype AC-130U Gunship during its initial test flight on 24 July 1999. This successful test helped formalize requirements for this capability to be procured for all AC-130U Gunships.

The Sensor Operator is one of the very few jobs in the Air Force where an enlisted person has direct control over a devastating weapon system -- especially now that the B-52 gunners are gone. A sensor operator assists in planning the tactical portion of a mission. He performs preflight checks on the sensor systems. In-flight, he uses either the infrared detection set or the All Light Level Television system to locate, confirm, track and destroy targets. He coordinates with the navigator, fire control officer and pilot on firing weapons at designated targets. The sensor operator is the last link in the chain to actually fire the weapon. It takes someone about a year to fully check out on this system. Weapons include the 25 mm Gatling gun, 40 mm Bofors cannon and the 105 mm howitzer. All three weapons are mounted on hydraulically actuated, computer-controlled gun mounts, which allow the computer to aim the weapons at whatever target the sensor operator is tracking.

The AC-130U P3I program develops and procures modifications that correct software and hardware deficiencies of the AC-130U fleet discovered during flight tests and that were outside the scope of the original FY86 contract. These modifications will include the following: combine all necessary software requirements for the System Integration Test (SIT) system and hardware and software improvements for the APQ-180 strike radar system; upgrade the Tactical Situation Map; improve core avionics and computers required for the multi-mission advanced tactical terminal/integrated defense avionics system installation; upgrade the EW suite; and modify the software/hardware required for the trainable gun mounts.

The AC-130H/U, AAQ-26 Infrared Detection Set (IDS) Upgrade program modifies the optics on the AN/AAQ-17 Infrared Detection Set (IDS) currently installed on 13 AC-130U and 8 AC-130H Gunship aircraft to the AN/AAQ-26 configuration. The AC-130U wiring, Operational Flight Program (OFP), Control Displays Program (CDP), Trackhandle, bus multiplier (BMUX), control panels, and variable slow rate feature will be modified. The AC-130H will also be modified. Support equipment, spares, and tech data for both aircraft will be modified as required to support the AN/AAQ-26 configuration. Mission requirements dictate a significant enhancement in target detection, recognition, and identification ranges to decrease aircraft vulnerability. A sole source fixed price incentive contract was awared to Raytheon for design, modification, and installation; with directed sub to Lockheed Aerospace Systems Ontario (LASO) for integration of the AN/AAQ-26 on the AC-130H and Rockwell for software integration of the AN/AAQ-26 on the AC-130U.

The United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) had a requirement for a C-130 engine infrared (IR) signature suppression system to provide Special Operations Forces (SOF) C-130 aircraft with an IR signature reduction equal to or better than existing systems at a lower cost of ownership. The primary difficulties with present suppressor systems are low reliability and poor maintainability. This C-130 Engine Infrared Suppression (EIRS) Program system will be used on AC-130H/U, MC-130E/H/P, and EC-130E aircraft. The key requirements for the Engine IR Suppression system are: (a) improved reliability and maintainability over existing systems to result in lower total cost of ownership; (b) IR signature suppression levels as good as the current engine shield system (aka. Tubs); (c) no adverse impacts to aircraft performance and ability to accomplish SOF missions; (d) complete interchangeability between engine positions and identified aircraft types. The suppressor is expected to be a semi-permanent installation, with removal being primarily for servicing, allowing the aircraft to perform all required missions with the suppressors installed. There will be up to two competitive contracts awarded for the initial phases of development with a downselect to one contractor for the completion of development and production. The contract will contain fixed price options for procurement, installation, and sustainment of the system.

The Directional Infrared Countermeasures (DIRCM) program develops and procures 60 systems and provides 59 SOF aircraft (AC-130H/U, MC-130E/H) with a DIRCM system capability. The DIRCM system will work in conjunction with other onboard self-protection systems to enhance the aircraft's survivability against currently deployed infrared guided missiles. Growth is planned to add a capability to detect and counter advanced threats. Execution of this program is in concert with a joint US/UK cooperative development/ production effort with the UK as lead. Development and acquisition of the DIRCM system will be in accordance with UK procurement laws/regulations. UK designation for this program is "Operational Emergency Requirements 3/89."

The Special Operations Forces Radar System Upgrade (RSUG) Program, a Special Operations Force System Program Office, performs hardware modifications on the APQ-180 Radar that will enable the next block cycle radar upgrades for the Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC). RSUG, along with the Dual-radar Software Development (DrSDF) program managed by the Information Directorate, provides AFSOC a capability to update and maintain the APQ-180 radar systems on its AC-130U Gunships. RSUG and DrSDF programs will leverage Information Directorate embedded information technologies throughout its implementation to provide a cost effective and capable technology for the Air Force.

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