U.S. MARINE CORPS
Two KC-130J Hercules aircraft, assigned to Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 352, take part in a refueling
training exercise off the coast of Southern California in 2007. The Marine Corps is modifying nine KC-130Js with a gun,
air-to-surface precision-guided missiles and a targeting system to allow them to provide direct air support.
The weapons being installed include the Mk44
Bushmaster II 30mm cannon, which will be mounted to
fire sideways from the aircraft’s troop door. The Mk44
also is slated for use on the Expeditionary Fighting
Vehicle’s Mk56 gun system and, in its Mk50 naval iteration, is installed on the San Antonio-class amphibious
transport dock ships and the surface warfare mission
package of the Littoral Combat Ship.
AGM-114 Hellfire air-to-surface missiles will be carried on a pylon installed on the aircraft’s port wing.
Wallace said stand-off precision-guided munitions —
such as Viper Strike and Griffin — also will be carried
by the Harvest Hawk KC-130J.
“Viper Strike is a gliding munition capable of stand-off precision attack using GPS [Global Positioning
System]-aided navigation and a semi-active laser seeker,” Northrop Grumman said in a release. “It is intended for operations that require a flexible angle of inclination [steep or shallow], particularly in mountainous terrain or built-up areas where strict rules of engagement
are in force. Its small size and precision provide for low
collateral damage in cluttered urban environments.”
Griffin, designed by Raytheon, is a tube-launched,
laser-guided missile built in part from components of
Javelin and Sidewinder missiles. Smaller than the Hellfire,
it is designed to cause minimal collateral damage.
Wallace said the Lockheed Martin-built AAQ- 30
Target Sight System — currently used for ISR and fire
control on the Corps’ AH- 1 attack helicopters — will
be mounted on one of the KC-130J’s two external fuel
pods to provide a persistent battlefield ISR capability
and targeting for the Harvest Hawk weapons.
The Harvest Hawk modifications will add approximately 3,000 pounds to the KC-130J. An extra crew-
man — a fire-control operator — will be added to the
aircraft’s crew of three or four to operate the weapons.
The Harvest Hawk is designed to operate in a benign
air-defense environment. All KC-130Js are fitted with
defensive electronic countermeasures systems, and no
additional systems are planned for Harvest Hawk.
“Given the KC-130J is a stable program of record, I
think it makes sense to develop a supplementary package like the Harvest Hawk that will give Marine Corps
commanders additional capabilities in theater at a relatively low cost,” said Dakota Wood, a former Marine
Corps officer and currently senior fellow at the Center
for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments in Washington.
“Supporting aircraft of this type — relatively long-loiter, with semi-precision fires and an integrated ISR
package, able to operate ‘low and slow’ [when compared with a fast-moving strike aircraft] are invaluable
when forces are in contact with the enemy, yet such aircraft are limited in numbers and are often in support of
special forces missions … meaning they are not typically available to Marine Corps units,” he said. “Harvest
Hawk will mitigate this shortfall.”
Wallace said field testing of the Harvest Hawk modifications will be conducted by a joint government/
Lockheed Martin team at the Naval Air Weapons
Station in China Lake, Calif.
The Marine Corps has stated a requirement for 79
KC-130Js to equip its three active-duty and two
reserve Marine Aerial Refueler/Transport squadrons.
Lockheed Martin currently is under contract for 46
KC-130Js, of which 36 had been delivered by July. The
Navy also plans to procure 25 new Hercules for Navy
reserve fleet logistics squadrons. Wallace estimates the
total program value at $9.5 billion. ■