This capability is designated “Harvest HAWK+” (Hercules Airborne Weapons Kit+).

The Tactical Airlift Program Office Integrated Warfighting Capability (IWC) Weapons team celebrated a successful five-week developmental and integrated test live fire event utilising a newly configured KC-130J with the Harvest Hercules Airborne Weapons Kit (HAWK) Plus (HH+) installed, say officials this week.

They say the HH+ flawlessly completed multiple sorties, demonstrating successful strikes on both fixed and moving targets. With the addition of the upgraded Weapon Mission Kit, the KC-130J will be able to serve as an overwatch aircraft and can deliver ground support fire in the form of Hellfire or Griffin missiles, precision-guided bombs, and eventually 30mm cannon fire in a later upgrade.

The HH+ is an upgrade to the original Harvest HAWK roll-on, roll-off precision strike package weapons system.

“The successful employment of this capability during live fire (pictured at the top of this article) closed out the developmental and integrated test and positioned us to move into the follow-on test and evaluation phase of the program. The KJ IWC team did an outstanding job with our industry partners to correct hardware and software deficiencies with such dramatic results. The HH+ weapons kit will provide a significant combat multiplier to the Marine Air Ground Task Force,” said CAPT Steve Nassau, PMA-207 Program Manager.

Close up of the Target Sight Sensor mounted in the left hand under wing fuel tank.

The live fire test, conducted at Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake, California also included four dedicated tactical integration flights to support operational test objective in conjunction with the weapons tactics instructor course at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Arizona say the US Marine Corps in a release.

17 COMMENTS

  1. I assume that this will never be fitted or be a capability of our dwindling Hercules fleet?

    Could the A400 be fitted out thus as well? How menacing would that be! A ‘Grizzly with bristles’

    • thought a Hercules might be a bit slow and lumbering for the kind of operation this setup would used for. modern anti systems/weapons would quickly render them useless.

      • It is for theatres where there is little or no threat of any effective air defences. Which is quite a few these days.

      • They’re still more than capable of providing CAS in low risk areas like Afghanistan. Given how expensive it is to put 5th gen fighters in the air, it would be far more cost effective to have a cheap support aircraft

      • They first came up with the idea in Vietnam for close support on gurreillas with the AC-47 Spooky (Puff the Magic Dragon). What HAWK+ kit is for is the USMC did not have the money to buy the more capable AC-130 Spectre and MC-130 Dragon Spear dedicated variant. Like the USAF who had theirs essentially purchased for them by the US Army budget. So they modified aircraft they already had.
        As for whether either variant is worth it? No firebase, airfield, or LZ from Vietnam to Afghanistan and Iraq that had a C-130 Gunship making long slow VERY accurate passes over them has ever been overrun. In Vietnam and several times since there were incidents where they were able to drop ordnance or make gun runs within a handful of yards.

  2. Good idea, great for uncontested airspace. Shame UK won’t consider this as it gives options and might save a few quid as the C130 cheaper to fly than a Typhoon.

  3. What on earth? They do like spending their budget don’t they. Waste of time and money for the RAF, we have plenty of other uses for money!

    • The article refers to use by the USMC, not the RAF… However, given our current theatres of engagement, I think it could make sense for the RAF to take a look at this too. As others above have pointed out – in low risk environments like Afganistan, the C130 could be a very effective close air support platform, offering lower cost of operation and much longer loitering times over the target area.

    • It is cheaper than constant sorties of $90 million fighters that burn fuel fast and have to be rotated out. When the mission is insurgents and guerrillas with rifles, machine guns, shoulder launched missiles, and Toyota’s with heavy machine guns. Advanced are not necessary for that purpose.

  4. I presume it’s part of the drive for ‘distributed lethality’ going on. I see the point but it’s a total luxury for when money is no object.

  5. Would have been a much better asset in Afghan than the waste of space Tornados. The Spectres and Reapers were the best assets in theatre for persistent CAS. The Apache was best for planned offensives or reacting to likely threats.

    For operations in uncontested airspace, we are wasting the airframe lives of Typhoon and to a point Tornado (even though it’s close to endex). I really hope we don’t waste F35s doing these kinds of missions. During my time in Afghan, the Spectre was the most called for callsign. The amount of hurt it could put down a grid point was unbelievable to watch. Personally, I’d welcome the use of Hercs or A400 in a limited CAS role, especially when you factor in the loiter time these aircraft have.

    • I would agree DaveyB, let the Corps do the expensive integration work and buy a few kits for our C130’s, this and the door mounted bushmaster cannon and you have a superb SF support platform.

      After all, the C130’s are primarily a Special Forces asset these days.

      I wouldn’t view it as spending money on additional kit, rather getting more value for money and mutual roll flexibility out of existing kit.

    • I concur. Spectre was just fearsome. With that on station you really has a warm feeling you had the edge and some real asset for locating enemy.
      Tornado? never saw one. Always Always always the USAF and USMC on our shoulders. they put the RAF to shame whether it came to CASEVAC or CAS. so much so that the lads grew to hate the RAF and let them know so. You didn’t get Brits shaking any RAF hands but you sure as hell saw a lot of love for American air crew.

      • Do you know why no RAF? Insufficient RAF assets available? RAF assets inappropriate? RAF unwilling to engage for some reason?

        Whatever the reason it’s very sad to hear. I’m glad and very grateful that our US friends were there to give you guys backup but, as a Brit, disappointed to hear that the RAF couldn’t/didn’t perform well in that role.

        • I hate to disagree but the helicopter force part of the RAF went above and beyond in my book. The MERT Chinook especially as they had a full trauma team including surgeon aboard. Compared to the US Pedros, our Chinnys had a better reputation. As you were dealt with immediately as you entered the aircraft. I’m not knocking the excellent effort the Pedros put in, it’s just the Blackhawk was too small for some situations. A lot of lads and lassies are here today due to rapid response from our MERT team, they to the best of my knowledge never missed a shout.
          The fixed wing wankers are a totally different story.

  6. The RAF will never buy this guys. Do you remember when there was serious talk about arming Tucanos for use in Afghanistan ? The RAF had the mother of all hissy fits and the idea was dropped.

  7. A great idea. HH equipped US Marines KC-130Js loiter above the battle space providing aerial refueling as well as surveillance and air to ground support. The HH kits can be quickly fitted to or removed from any C-130. The RAF should get enough kits for 4 Hercules, possibly based around the 40mm CTA.

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