Orbital ATK (Stand 03-A07) is displaying its Palletized Weapon System (PaWS), which can rapidly turn most medium-/heavy-lift transport aircraft types into highly accurate gunships.
PaWS brings together sensors, communications and weapons into a system that can be installed in under two hours. It gives the platform aircraft a precision weapons capability through the company’s fearsome GAU-23 30mm cannon firing to the port side of the aircraft, usually through a rear cabin doorway. Light missiles can also be integrated. Palletising the system not only allows it to be switched between individual aircraft within a fleet, but also permits the carrier to retain its original transport or tanker capabilities. PaWS can be tailored to meet various requirements, with one to three pallet-mounted operator consoles, an optional battery pack for self-powered operation, and the ability to integrate with various sensors.
Typically, the primary sensor would be an electro-optical turret that can be used to cue the gun or designate targets for other weapon systems.
The GAU-23 is a version of the Mk 44 Bushmaster, with reduced recoil forces to suit it to an airborne application. In the PaWS installation, the GAU-23 is mounted on a standard size 463L pallet that attaches to the cargo points in the aircraft’s hold floor. The pallet has shock absorbers to take most of the recoil forces, significantly reducing stress on the aircraft’s floor structure.
The weapon is trainable in both elevation and azimuth, and advanced software within the mission system compensates for aircraft movement.
GAU-23 guns are fitted to the US Air Force’s AC-130W gunships, and the PaWS has been tested in the Leonardo MC-27J Praetorian.
A related sensor/weapon system has been installed by Orbital ATK in two Airbus AC-235 light gunships for the Jordanian Special Operations Command, but this employs the smaller M230LF 30mm cannon instead of the GAU-23.
Jordan also has a programme for a gunship version of the larger Airbus Defence and Space C295, and this is likely to feature the GAU-23.