Special Operations: France Adopts Harvest Hawk


April 3, 2016: France is buying missiles, sensors and fire control equipment so they can quickly convert their C-130J transports to gunships. This is done using a version of the Harvest Hawk kits developed by the U.S. Marine Corps. First use was in 2010 over Afghanistan and were a success.

This "instant gunship" system works by packaging weapons and sensors so they can be quickly rolled into a C-130 transport and hooked up. This takes a few hours and turns the C-130 into a gunship (similar in capabilities existing AC-130 gunships). The Harvest Hawk sensor package consists of day/night vidcams with magnification capability. The weapons currently consist of ten Griffin missile launchers plus four Hellfires and at least four Viper Strike hanging from the wings. The French version will only use the Griffin, which is a 20.5 kg (45 pounds) glide bomb that has a 5.9 kg (13 pound) warhead. Griffin has a greater range (15 kilometers) than Hellfire because of pop-out wings that allow it to glide after launch. Griffin uses laser targeting plus GPS, and inertial guidance. The Hellfire II missile has been around a lot longer but weighs 48.2 kg (106 pounds), carries a 9 kg (20 pound) warhead and has a range of 8,000 meters.

France has ordered four American C-130J transports in late 2015. France already operates 14 of the older C-130H aircraft and was not expected to order the latest model, the C-130J, because France was a major customer for the new European A400M. But this aircraft was delayed repeatedly and France only began receiving it in 2013. Then it turned out that the A400M could not yet handle aerial refueling of helicopters or paratroopers jumping from the side doors. So two of the new French C-130Js are transports and two are tankers. Delivery begins in late 2017. France needs the C-130Js to support its special forces and other overseas intervention forces. That is the reason for a gunship conversion kit as these gunships are particularly useful for special operations troops. The C-130Js are 70 ton, four propjet aircraft with a range of over 11,000 kilometers, a top speed of 644 kilometers an hour can carry 20 tons of cargo.


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