Northrop Grumman developing Palletised Weapons System for C-27J

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A C-27J Spartan of No . 35 Squadron lands at RAAF Base East Sale, Victoria. (Defence)

{The United States|The usa|America} Air Force AC-130 gunship {is an|is definitely an|is surely an} awesome capability, but {one which|the one that|one that} likely be far too expensive {and difficult|and hard} to justify for the Australian Defence Force.

Australian troops in Afghanistan certainly benefitted the AC-130’ s ability to rain down hellfire from its onboard 105mm howitzer and, depending on variants, Bofors 40mm gun, 25mm cannon and 7. 62 miniguns.

An AC-130 Spectre from the 16th Special Operations Squadron flies a training mission Aug. 11, 2010, at Cannon Air Force Base, N. M. (US Air Force)

A file image of an US Air Force AC-130 Spectre from the 16th Special Operations Squadron. (US Air Force)

US defence giant Northrop Grumman is now developing a gunship-lite, {in the form of|by means of|as} its Palletised Weapons System (PaWS), in which a GAU-23 30mm Bushmaster cannon, ammunition and operator consoles slot {in and out|out and in|out-and-in} of the hold of a C-27J Spartan on standard cargo pallets.

{The company|The organization|The business} advertises a conversion {time of|moments of} four hours but says it has done it in two. That means any of the RAAF’ s 10 new Spartans could be delivering cargo {one day|1 day|some day} and flying as a gunship in support of troops the next.

This isn’ t yet a capability {for which|that|which is why} the ADF has yet expressed a requirement, {although it|even though it|though it} has discussed it with Northrop Grumman.

“ The Australian {air force|usaf|naval pilot}, as we have had discussions, {are interested in|are curious about|have an interest in}, for now, the intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance (ISR) portion of PaWS, which is the heart of the system, with other capabilities potentially {down the road|in the future|later on}, ” said Chris Foster, Northrop Grumman senior business development representative for special mission aircraft.

He said PaWS featured modular open architecture which meant it was highly adaptable.

“ We can {put it on|use it|wear it} and make you a surveillance package but down the line if you {wanted to|desired to|wished to} have a strike package {or a|or perhaps a|or even a} medevac or casevac, {we can|we are able to|we could} certainly do that as well, ” he said.

The Italian air force, {with its|using its|having its} fleet 12 C-27J aircraft, is the launch customer {for the|for that|for your} gunship capability, which has been trialled in Italy in its basic form, with the gun fired from the port side doorway.

Next step is development of trainable software {to allow|to permit|allowing} the gun to be {linked to the|from the} aircraft’ s EO/IR system and aimed by the onboard operator.

But there’ s more. {With a|Having a|Using a} palletised Common Launch Tube system, C-27J could also {deliver the|provide the|offer the} new families of small precision guided weapons, flares, sonobuoys or drones.

An image of the Palletized Weapon System (PaWS) from the Northrop Grumman website. (Northrop Grumman)

An image {of the|from the|in the} Palletized Weapon System (PaWS) from the Northrop Grumman website. (Northrop Grumman)

In order for any of this to work properly from an Australian C-27J, the aircraft {would need|would require|will need} an onboard EO/IR system.

It {need not|do not need to|will not need to} be C-27J – PaWS could also be integrated to the RAAF’ s C-130J Aircraft.

RAAF C-130J Hercules takes off Nellis Air Force Base during Exercise Red Flag 17-1. (Defence)

RAAF C-130J Hercules takes off Nellis Air Force Base during Exercise Red Flag 17-1. (Defence)

Foster {said that|declared that|stated that} while the 30mm gun {is a|is really a|is actually a} graphic and impressive capability, PaWS was much more {and its|as well as|as well as its} heart was the onboard mission management systems.

“ With PaWS, {we can|we are able to|we could} host a variety of sensors, radars, radio, datalink equipment and EO/IR solutions. It can {all be|become} built specific to the mission our customers need to prosecute, ” he said.

That means a C-27J could perform surveillance, search and rescue or humanitarian and disaster relief.

“ You can have {anywhere from|between|any where from} one to three of these mission {operating systems|systems}. The beauty of it is it is all open architecture. Whatever {plug and play|plug-and-play|”plug and play”} aspect of a mission system you want to put into it {we can|we are able to|we could} integrate it into this mission management system, ” he said.

“ The operators can operate sensors, fire weapons, {as well as the|along with the|and also the} pilots. But all the action happens right here at {our mission|our task|our work} operating system. ”

The RAAF took delivery of its 10th and final C-27J in April 2018.

Initial {Operating Capability|Performance capability} (IOC) for the C-27J was achieved in December 2016 , while Final Operating Capability (FOC) was scheduled to be declared {in late|at the end of} 2019.

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VIDEO: {A look at|A glance at|A review of} the April 2018 arrival ceremony of the 10th and final C-27J Spartan at RAAF Base Richmond {from the|from your|through the} RAAF YouTube channel .