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4 support aircraft you didn't know had killer combat variants

Troops under heavy fire often look to the skies for rescue, praying for an something like an Apache or A-10 to materialize and destroy the enemy. But sometimes help comes in less expected and more unusual forms:


1. MH-60 Direct Action Penetrator

The humble Blackhawk helicopter is a great utility aircraft, but the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment looked at it and thought, "Could use more guns." They fly a modified Blackhawk, the MH-60 Direct Action Penetrator. Instead of carrying troops, it carries a Light Armament Support Structure to which weapons can be mounted. Weapons used on the DAP include miniguns, 30mm chain guns, rocket pods, Hellfire missile launchers, air-to-air Stinger missiles, and a three-barrelled .50-cal gatling gun.

2. Guns A-Go-Go, the Chinook attack helicopter

The Chinook is a beloved aircraft, but it's the manatee of Army aviation and is only thought of as threatening because it can carry dozens of combat-equipped troops. In the 1960s though, four of them were modified into attack helicopters. Re-designated as ACH-47As, each bird had a 40mm grenade launcher in a turret, two 20mm cannons, a spot for either a 2.75-inch rocket launcher or 7.62mm rotary minigun, as well as five crew stations that were usually outfitted with .50-cal. machine guns.

All four were eventually sent to Vietnam where they got the nickname, "Guns A-Go-Go." One was lost in a runway accident, one experienced a mechanical failure and crashed, and one was shot down during the Tet Offensive. Since the helicopters worked in pairs, the survivor was sent back to America as a training tool for maintainers. It has since been restored and is on display at Redstone Arsenal.

3. V-22, but with missiles

Photo: Bell Helicopter

America's first tilt-rotor serves in raids, medical evacuation, troop transport and supply missions, but in its heart it wants to kill things directly.

That's why Bell Boeing has tested V-22s with rockets and missiles at Yuma Proving Grounds, Arizona, though they haven't gotten any purchase orders yet.

4. KC-130J Harvest Hawk

Most people know about the AC-130 gunship, but there is actually another C-130 variant that can rain down death and destruction. The KC-130J Harvest Hawk can carry four Hellfire and 10 Griffin missiles which it fires using the same sight sensor that is on the AH-1z Cobra attack helicopter.

NOW: Watch a C-130 pilots terrifying view of a combat landing >

OR: This combat controller kept taking it to the enemy after he was shot in the chest >