Warplanes: Italy Presents The AC-27J


July 14, 2012: The Italian manufacturer of the C-27J transport recently announced a gunship version. This would equip the twin-engine aircraft with an automatic cannon (probably 30mm), night vision sensors, laser designators, and guided missiles (like Hellfire and even smaller ones like Griffin).

Four years ago the air force portion of U.S. SOCOM (AFSOC, Air Force Special Operations Command) looked into using light (two engine) transports for "light gunships." SOCOM selected the C-27J (a joint U.S./Italian upgrade of the Italian G-222) for the experiment. This is a 28 ton aircraft that can carry nine tons for up to 2,500 kilometers and land on smaller airfields than the four engine transports can handle. SOCOM planned to take a C-27J and mount a pair of 30mm automatic cannon on it, along with the AC-130 gunship sensors and communications gear as well as Hellfire missiles. Called the "AC-XX", this C-27J experiment didn't work out (mainly for political reasons) and SOCON stuck with the AC-130.

The Italians apparently sensed an international market for a twin engine gunship. The Italian plan is for the sensors and communications gear, and some of the weapons, to be mounted on pallets, which would be placed in the aircraft via the rear cargo ramp and hooked up to aircraft power and communications systems. Some weapons (missiles) would be mounted on external racks. The Italians are looking for customers before they actually build the AC-27J, and given the American experience with "instant gunships" (Harvest Hawk), there is no doubt that it works and that the Italians can create an AC-27J version.

Cargo aircraft serving as gunships first appeared, using twin-engine World War II era C-47 transports, in the 1960s over Vietnam. The troops called the gunships, which liked to operate at night, "Spooky." The gunships quickly moved to four engine C-130 transports but the nickname stuck.



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