The USAF's AC-130W Gunships Are in Desperate Need of Special Ammunition – The Drive

Official contract document says using alternatives would put troops on the ground at “increased harm and risk.” Air Force photo by Chief Master

The U.S. Army has made an urgent purchase of a specific type of 30mm cannon shells on behalf of U.S. Special Operations Command. Without the ammunition, the service said the U.S. Air Force’s AC-130W Stinger II gunships would be forced to use alternative rounds that would be unacceptably inaccurate and dangerously unreliable.

In June 2017, the Army approved a plan to purchase up to 200,000 PGU-46/B 30mm cannon rounds from Orbital ATK. The service did not publicly disclose the total potential dollar value of the contract, but had to issue a so-called justification and approval document to explain why they needed to give the work straight to the Virginia-headquartered defense contractor rather than solicit competitive bids from various companies. This document appeared on FedBizOpps, the U.S. government’s main contracting website, on Oct. 11, 2017.

The review contains a number of redactions and the released portions never mention the AC-130W or the U.S. Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC). However, it does specifically mention the need for the ammunition to work with the GAU-23/A cannon without any additional modifications. The Air Force’s AC-130W and AC-130J Ghostriders are the only aircraft presently in inventory that use this weapon and the J-model is still in the operational test and evaluation process. The Stinger IIs have appeared in official photographs and video from the fight against ISIS in Iraq and Syria and have supported operations in Afghanistan, as well. The gunships generally support special operations forces on the ground.

Even with the redacted portions, in its justification, the Army makes a clear argument that not buying the ammunition as soon as possible would

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