SOF - Special Operations

SOFIC 2018: Orbital ATK targets gunship precision

17th May 2018 - 12:00 GMT | by Scott Gourley in Tampa, Florida

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Attempting to expand on its current position on selected US Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) gunship platforms, Orbital ATK is conducting some internally funded efforts to develop new precision fire options.

The company’s current participation in that arena includes the company’s 30mm GAU-23/A cannon, which flies on some AC-130W 'Stinger II' and AC-130J 'Ghostrider' gunships as a replacement for the 40mm Bofors 40L/60 cannon. The GAU-23A fires the 30x173mm PGU-46/B High Explosive Incendiary (HEI) with inert tracer ammunition, featuring a low drag fuze designed to provide enhanced performance at extended ranges. 

Orbital ATK is the sole provider of that round, which was originally type classified on the AC-130W in 2012. An acquisition plan for 200,000 rounds was approved in June 2017.

In addition to production activities surrounding the current round, Orbital ATK is also conducting company funded internal development of a new 30x173mm command guided projectile design. 

Company representatives note that the new guided medium caliber concept does not utilize GPS guidance technology but instead combines lessons learned from the company’s development of the Extreme Accuracy Tasked Ordnance (EXACTO) .50 caliber guided projectile with parallel efforts to develop a 30mm proximity fuze. 

Testing on the proximity fuze design component will take place 'in the next few weeks', officials added.

Slightly further behind in the development cycle is a company-funded effort on a 105mm guided projectile. The large caliber design reportedly incorporates the 'boat tail' maneuverability of EXACTO with GPS guidance technology that has been refined over more than a decade of activities surrounding the army’s Precision Guidance Kit (PGK) for artillery projectiles.

The design, which is projected to enter testing in as little as one year, would allow AC-130 crews the ability to accurately deliver indirect fires from the platform’s 105mm cannon, translating to significant standoff distances when compared to the current unguided direct fire 105mm as well as the possibility of engaging new target sets.

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