The Marine Corps version of the Spectre gunship provides firepower and fuel - We Are The Mighty
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The Marine Corps version of the Spectre gunship provides firepower and fuel

The AC-130 Spectre gets a lot of the headlines.


It should.

This is a plane that kicks a lot of butt. But the Marine Corps has its own version. And theirs is far more versatile than the Spectre.

Let’s get a closer look at the AKC-130J Harvest HAWK.

Now, before AC-130 fans prepare the flames, we have nothing but respect for the AC-130. With a 25mm GAU-12, a 40mm Bofors, and a M102 105mm Howitzer, the AC-130 can blast the hell out of just about any target.

It is a circling angel of death. J.R.R. Tolkien’s Nazgul have nothing on the Spectre — and would be advised to learn their lesson from the Fellowship of the Ring when Arwen called in that flash flood: Don’t bother running, you’ll just die tired.

The Marine Corps version of the Spectre gunship provides firepower and fuel

But the Harvest HAWK is more versatile. As GlobalSecurity.org points out, the AKC-130J started out as the KC-130J. This provided a number of benefits.

First, the Marines already had the airframes flying over Afghanistan to refuel their F/A-18 Hornets and AV-8B Harriers that provided air support.

What makes the Harvest HAWK so lethal? It can carry (or drop) a variety of weapons. One of them is the AGM-114 Hellfire missile, the one commonly used on Predator drones to make the world a better place by blowing terrorists to smithereens.

With a range of five miles and a 20-pound warhead, this missile was intended to take out tanks. The Harvest HAWK carries four, usually on the left wing, according to a 2012 NAVAIR release.

The Marine Corps version of the Spectre gunship provides firepower and fuel
The Harvest Hawk equipped KC-130J rests on the runway at Camp Dwyer, Afghanistan, March 24. The one-of-a-kind Harvest Hawk system includes a version of the target sight sensor used on the AH-1Z Cobra attack helicopter as well as a complement of four AGM-114 Hellfire and 10 Griffin missiles. This unique variant of the KC-130J supports 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward) in providing closer air support and surveillance for coalition troops on the ground in southwestern Afghanistan. Plans for a 30mm chain gun are in the works. (USMC photo)

The Marines also say another weapon the Harvest HAWK uses to deadly effect is the AGM-176 Griffin. Designation-Systems.net describes the Griffin as a tube-launched missile that is smaller than the Hellfire (Predators can carry three Griffins for each Hellfire).

NAVAIR says that the Griffin can be fired through a modified cargo door. The is only about 13 pounds, though. But that can still do in a terrorist — or a tank, even.

The Harvest HAWK also can use the GBU-44 Viper Strike. Originally known as the Brilliant Anti-Tank submunition (or BAT), it had one problem: its missiles kept getting cancelled.

In 2007, Strategypage.com noted that the Army eventually put a modified BAT on the MQ-5 Hunter. With a 2.5-pound warhead, it can take out a target without damaging the structures nearby.

Oh, and the Harvest HAWK also is slated to get a 30mm cannon in the future, according to a Pentagon report. The likely choice will be the Mk 44 Bushmaster II used on the M1296 Dragoon, a modification of the M1126 Stryker.

With all that, the Harvest HAWK can still refuel the AV-8B, F/A-18, and F-35B jets the Marines use to support infantry. Firepower and fuel, in one airframe – now, that’s awesome!

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