Making its debut at SOFEX is the AC-235 light gunship, developed by ATK of the US in partnership with the King Abdullah II Design and Development Bureau (KADDB).
The two AC-235s for Jordan’s Special Operations Command aviation component (5th Prince Hashim Royal Aviation Brigade) were delivered by ATK in the weeks before the show after successful testing in the US. One is on display in the static area and the other participated in the Special Forces capability demonstration.
KADDB announced the order for two gunships in February 2011, with Jordan supplying two EADS-CASA (now Airbus Defence and Space) CN-235 transport aircraft for conversion to the AC-235 multi-mission gunship configuration. A first flight for the AC-235 was performed in October 2013, following extensive ground tests. A series of flight trials checked out all aircraft and weapon systems, and validated the accuracy of the gun. Flights were conducted mainly from ATK’s Meacham Field facility at Fort Worth, Texas. Trials were completed in March and the first aircraft was delivered soon after.
For the AC-235, ATK has worked with KADDB to develop a mission system that allows the aircraft to perform a variety of gunship and ISR (intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance) roles. The primary weapon is a link-fed ATK M230 30mm Chain Gun that is mounted in the rear cabin to fire through the portside door. The gun is trainable, and is automatically aimed by the fire control system, cued by the aircraft’s sensors, while the aircraft flies a left-hand orbit. The mission system is part of a family of special-mission options devised by ATK for various platforms, including a palletised gun and console system for the Alenia Aermacchi MC-27J Spartan that also uses the M230.
For target acquisition and tracking, the AC-235 has a Thales I-Master Ku-band synthetic aperture radar/ground moving target indicator and an L-3 Wescam MX-15 electrooptical targeting system with boresighted laser designator. The fire control system automatically maintains the gun’s aimpoint on a selected point designated by the mission operator using the laser. The AC‑235 is also fitted with defensive countermeasures, including an AAR‑47 missile approach warning system and directed infrared countermeasures. As well as the gun, the AC-235 can carry AGM-114 Hellfire laser-guided missiles and rocket pods on stub wings mounted above the fuselage sponsons.
An important weapon option for the AC-235 will be the BAE Systems APKWS (advanced precision kill weapon system), the sale of which to Jordan was announced on the eve of SOFEX.
APKWS is a laser-guided rocket that recycles unguided 2.75in projectiles into precision weapons, adding a laser guidance package to the existing warhead and motor.
Jordan is acquiring the APKWS through US Foreign Military Sales channels, managed by Naval Air System Command’s PMA-242 programme office. The contract includes logistic and engineering support for integrating the weapons on the AC-235. The weapons are due for delivery in 2016.