HC-144 Gun Ship?

An American company (ATK, Alliant Techsystems Inc now part of Northrop Grumman), is modifying the same basic airframe used for the Coast Guard HC-144 (the EADS CASA, now Airbus Military, CN-235) into a miniature AC-130 for the Jordanian Air Force. Source. (Note due to a broken link I have updated the post with an alternative source for the story.)

File:HC-144A Ocean Sentry (2).jpg

Image: http://cgig.uscg.mil/media/main.php?g2_itemId=231228&g2_imageViewsIndex=1

“ATK will install and integrate electro-optical targeting systems, a laser designator, aircraft self-protection equipment, and an armaments capability that includes Hellfire laser-guided missiles, 2.75-inch rockets, and a M230 link-fed 30mm chain gun.  ATK’s M230 family of guns serves on the Apache helicopter….ATK’s scope of work includes development, systems integration, aircraft modification, and testing.  Work will be performed in Jordan and at ATK facilities in Fort Worth, TX, Mesa, AZ and Pelham, AL.”

Looks like if we ever want to add an “airborne use of force” to these  aircraft, there is a source that will have already had the experience.

29 thoughts on “HC-144 Gun Ship?

  1. Seems like a low return on the investment. I appears there will one 30mm gun. The AC-47 could do more.

    I used to marvel at Spooky’s work at night. You’d hear that Whrrrrrrrrrrrr of gunfire for miles then the snake tongue of tracers.

    • My father worked on the AC-47 gunships for the Royal Laotion Air force under the Air America program. Spooky did her job and she can scare the Enemy out of their pants.

  2. The laser designator and Hellfire missiles makes it a lot more effective on point targets.
    Soon there will be laser guidance add-ons to the 2.75″ (70mm) rockets (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Advanced_Precision_Kill_Weapon_System) and “Viper Strike” (http://www.spacewar.com/reports/Viper_Strike_Being_Added_To_KC_130J_Arsenal_999.html) as well for targets that don’t warrant a Hellfire or where they want to limit collateral damage.

    The AC-47 was awesome against massed infantry moving in the open or hidden in the jungle, but this is way better against isolated targets particularly in an urban setting.

    Also good for firing warning shots across the bows of vessels at sea or for hitting ships or even particular parts of ships.

  3. Question, can the US Coast Guard justify use or a need for an armed HC-144. What situations would the US Coast Guard require an Armed HC-144. Would it have the ability to in flight refuel as well.

    • I would think that the ability to deliver precision disabling fire from an aircraft with greater range and speed than a 60 or 65 would be useful in either anti-piracy or force protection roles outside of littoral waters. For example providing escort for high-speed ferries or troop transport vessels. We do not have Cutters that can keep up with these vessels and our helicopters may not have the range to provide continuous escort, or the speed to intercept an emerging threat.

      I am not suggesting this is a direction we need to go; I am just suggesting that a valid mission requirement may exist in the future.

      Our surface force has this capability, why is it such a stretch to expand the capability to aircraft?

      • If the weapon is accurate enough, I see a couple of place we could use them now or in the near future.

        In some places, the Caribbean perhaps, an HC-144 with airborne use of force (AUF) capability, combined with a Webber class cutter (or 110 until they become available) could stand in for a WMEC and HH-65 with AUF. With the HC-144’s greater endurance, it might even be able to work with two Webber class in place of two MECs and two helos. With the shortage of major cutters we can expect, that might be significant.

        Then there is the oddball mission the Coast Guard has of flying top cover for the capital, which is done by Helos now. Since lots of general aviation aircraft are as fast or faster than the helos, there have to be lots of times when it is virtually impossible for them to make an intercept. An HC-144 would be a much more capable interceptor, but could still slow down enough to fly along side almost anything it is likely to encounter to make a good ID and attempt to communicate. I think the helos are unarmed now, but we might want to rethink that.

      • An AUF capable HC-144 acting in concert with one or more FRCs would be an interesting tactic for anti-drug ops, especially coupled with the capabilities of the MSP. It does illustrate the potential value of having multi mission capable operational assets, especially if the AUF package is modular and can be removed and replaced as necessary based on mission requirements.

        I am not so sure the HC-144 is a good choice for the air intercept mission where agility is a key requirement.

        Like I said, I am not saying we should arm 144s, just playing what if.

  4. They would have begin back the AOs. The ASMs may have been able to handle it but you’re talking Class A explosives now. Unfortunately, the ASMs went to the Flipper Family and you know them people won’t let a GM get “wangs”.

    I’m not sure if the AC-47 was ever tasked with precision shots but were there not some from Afghanistan from an AC-130? That sidesaddle 105mm can do some good work.

    • The link to the AC-130 has some interesting information about how they are evolving. The 105 is being replace by a breech loading 120mm mortar. They are starting to put guidance on 120mm mortar shells too.

  5. This is a waste why would we need so much fire power. We have the AF or the Navy when we need the big guns. We are unique not just because of a fighting ability but because of our ability to save lives, fight pollution, and keep mariners safe. We are not just a military service but so much more.

    We need to invest in our other missions before we waste money in a place we don’t really need support in. We need ice breakers first.

    • No one is suggesting we do this now. Just thought it was interesting. On the other hand when I entered the service, no one would have expected our helos to be armed either.

      • I understand your perspective but my fear is we just become a another navy. We have a unique role when you are pulling out big guns like this it is more then just a warning shot but it is a killing machine. My feelings are simply leave it to the Air Force or Navy. We have a mission that is already big and we are currently struggling with I agree with Admiral Papp lets steady the service first.

        Through I do appreciate your love and passion for the service. I understand the guard has change since you joined but I don’t see the current use of force doctrine on helicopters being much different then we use it from a boat or a ship.

      • Patrick,

        It is that unique role that had hurt the Coast Guard in the past. Not only did the public and the Congress believe the Coast Guard’s leadership believed as well. So much so, that it pushed away its naval attributes making it irrelevant as a naval auxiliary.

        The service would not have been unsteady had it not been for those nearsighted leaders. I would not use the word steady but rather, ballast. A vessel is never steady but it may be in ballast that that one element will prevent catastrophic failures.

      • Don’t think you have any reason to worry that we will become a second navy. On the other hand we are military and consequently the nation has a right to expect that we will be useful in a fight.

      • Chuck,
        I understand that we need to be a good auxiarly but we are hurting our other missions to support the least likely mission.

      • Even when the identical asset is manned by both Coast Guard and Navy, the crews don’t think the same way and they are not necessarily trained or manned the same way. Emphasis will be different.

        The way you are looking at this is understandably from a common Coast Guard perspective, minimizing cost to do Coast Guard peacetime missions and assumes we don’t get any more money or people (which has been a pretty good assumption).

        What I’m saying is that the country needs to look at it from an overall perspective. Is it better and cheaper to build one unit that does only Coast Guard peacetime missions and one that does only Navy missions, or to build one that can do both Coast Guard missions in peacetime and Navy missions in war time.

        I would not recommend we use our budget to do Navy missions without getting it funded, but that would be a practical impossibility anyway. In many cases, systems are paid for from the Navy budget, but inevitably the Coast Guard does bear some of the costs.

        There are also instances where equipping the asset to do wartime missions, makes them more capable of doing Coast Guard peacetime missions as well. The towed array would be an example. It would allow our surface units a much better probability of intercepting drug runners using semi-submersibles or true submarines.

        The Mk 38 Mod 2 is another example, its electro-optic systems can help with SAR and MLE missions.

        DOD communications and intelligence systems also fall into this category, but they are now so ubiquitous no one thinks of them as alien to the Coast Guard anymore.

        A last note, no matter how unlikely you may think war may be, preparing for military operations is one of the Coast Guard’s eleven missions, and the country is spending way more on that mission than it does on all the Coast Guard’s other missions. I just think the Coast Guard should get a little large slice of it.

      • Chuck and Bill,
        Thanks for both of your responses. First I enjoy this website a great deal. I love the Coast Guard and as I can you both also love the Coast Guard. It was an important part of my life and I hope to return again after I finish school.

        Just to give you my back round since I talk to you both so much. I was 7 year enlisted Active Duty. I served at first at a small boat station did a little bit of cutter duty. I was OS1 when I left I wish to return after I complete college. I am nearing that point and look forward to hopefully gaining a spot in OCS.

        Anyways I really enjoy talking with you both.

        I agree if you put a Coast Guard crew on a ship they will act differently then a Navy crew we most certainly do business differently.

        I understand for the nation it is better then we are prepared to act as a secondary to the navy makes sense to me. My concern is our neglect of ice breaking, and other missions like fishers. Also the cost it takes to arm the USCGC. So I hear you I understand your point of view but I think if I was put on the spectrum of Coasties I stand towards humanitarian side more then LE.

  6. Patrick, Hope you do go to OCS, We can use more officers with an operational enlisted perspective. I share your concern about the icebreaker fleet and I can certainly understand the enthusiasm for SAR, nothing feels better than the feeling you have saved someone’s life. I really do appreciate the feedback.

  7. This discusion about the Coast Guard having a AC-144 is mute. The artical is about the Jordanian Air Force buying this aircraft.

    • “Looks like if we ever want to add an “airborne use of force” to these aircraft, there is a source that will have already had the experience.”


  8. This reminds me of an older post about the Scopion jet being offered as a CG plane. The AC-(fill in the blank) would have endurance and definitely fulfill the AUF role,. But one thing I thought of is how DHS has been using CG choppers for low speed intercepts, a role that an altered cargo plane could do and a Scorpion could do better as it could get there sooner. There is footage of the Scorpion flying as slow as 150 kts without stalling. Either option would free up CG choppers for roles they were meant for.
    I have to admit, since most AUF ends up as intimidation (warning shots), an AC or jet fighter lookalike would both have double the intimidation factor. While the cool factor of a Scorpion with the racing stripe is undeniable, the use of cargo/maritime patrol planes for AUF would be very practical. It doesn’t have to be a gunship–we aren’t competing with USAF for ground support.
    But an existing CG C-130 with a single 25mm (a weapon the CG already supports) would not be too expensive and or take up so much space as to interfere with it’s other missions.

  9. Pingback: Random Thoughts on CG Aircraft Missions | Chuck Hill's CG Blog

  10. Pingback: RADM Eric Jones’ Comments on the U.S.C.G.’s D7 Operations and the Fast Response Cutter at Virtual SNA 2020 –by Peter Ong | Chuck Hill's CG Blog

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