AC-130W Stinger II Gunship Trains with U.S. Naval Forces in Persian Gulf

A U.S. Air Force AC-130W Stinger II gunship, assigned to the Special Operations Command Central (SOCCENT), conducted joint integration training with the USS Bataan Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) and embarked 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit in the Persian Gulf (Arabian Gulf), May 19-21.

During the training, SOCCENT and 26th MEU Joint Terminal Attack Controller (JTAC) teams, stationed aboard the amphibious transport dock ship USS New York (LPD 21) and at locations ashore, directed command and control (C2) for simulated defensive strikes on surface targets from the AC-130W gunship.

AC-130W Gunship over Persian (Arabian) Gulf
A U.S. Air Force AC-130W assigned to Joint Special Operations Air Component passes over the amphibious transport dock USS New York (LPD 21) during an aviation operation in support of sea control training evolution over the Persian Gulf (Arabian Gulf) on May 19, 2020.  (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Patricia A. Morris)

“This was a great opportunity to incorporate the awesome firepower of the AC-130W into our Navy-Marine Corps live-fire training, rehearsing swift and lethal strikes with pinpoint accuracy against surface targets representing notional threats to the ARG/MEU,” said Capt. Lance Lesher, commander of the Bataan ARG. “This complex coordination involving SOCCENT, Marine Corps and Navy forces further expands our capability to defend ourselves against any threats we might encounter while operating lawfully in support of maritime security and our regional partners in the Arabian Gulf.”

The training confirmed the Navy-Marine Corps team’s capability to integrate with SOCCENT aviation assets to verify their joint-targeting processes and C2 procedures in the maritime domain. The ability to execute strike coordination and reconnaissance while controlling joint aviation assets from either the land or sea allows the ARG/MEU to successfully defend itself when operating in a contested maritime environment.

The AC-130W also trained alongside Marine Corps AH-1W Super Cobra attack helicopters and UH-1Y Venom utility helicopters embarked aboard the USS New York. JTAC controllers also employed an AGM-176 Griffin missile, a lightweight, precision-guided munition (PGM) that can be launched from the air to target surface threats.

“Integrating joint aviation assets and fires into a composite warfare construct with surface warfare assets is an effective approach to operating in a contested maritime environment,” said Col. Trevor Hall, commanding officer of the 26th MEU. “During this dynamic training evolution, the 26th MEU and Bataan ARG successfully integrated with SOCCENT forces to control aviation-delivered fires against maritime threats.”

In addition to the New York and the amphibious assault ship USS Bataan (LHD 5), the ARG also includes the dock landing ship USS Oak Hill (LSD 51). Also currently operating with the ARG is the guided-missile destroyer USS Stout (DDG 55).

AC-130W Stinger II

The AC-130W Stinger II aircraft is a highly modified C-130H Hercules featuring improved navigation, threat detection, countermeasures, and communication suites. All AC-130W aircraft are modified with a precision strike package to perform the gunship mission.

Lockheed AC-130W Stinger II
A U.S. Air Force AC-130W Stinger II gunship. USAF Photo.

Modifications to the AC-130W include a mission management console, communications suite, two electro-optical/infrared sensors, fire control equipment, precision-guided munitions delivery capability; and one side-firing, trainable 30mm gun with tracer-less ammunition and associated munitions storage system.

The primary missions of the aircraft are close air support (CAS) and air interdiction. Close air support missions include troops in contact, convoy escort and point air defense. Air interdiction missions are conducted against preplanned targets or targets of opportunity and include strike coordination and reconnaissance.

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