SOCOM Seeks New, Affordable Precision Strike Weapons

By Yasmin Tadjdeh

TAMPA, Fla. — At Special Operations Command, the service uses a suite of missiles, high caliber guns and bombs to target enemies from its aircraft. Going forward, it is looking to field new precision strike technology, acquisition leaders said May 21.

The service would like to see new ideas for missiles and weapons to integrate into its recapitalized C-130 fleet, said Air Force Col. Michael Schmidt, the program executive officer for fixed-wing aircraft at SOCOM.  

One of the new missiles slated for the aircraft is the Raytheon-built Griffin missile system, Schmidt said. The Griffin is a forward-firing missile that can be launched from air, ground and maritime platforms. The command is looking to acquire other types of missiles, but has so far seen little innovation from industry that balances capability with cost, Schmidt said.

“We have common launch tubes in the back [of the aircraft], so we can launch anything out of there that you can bring to us. I keep asking for people to bring innovative ideas to put in that tube and I haven’t seen a lot frankly,” Schmidt said at the National Defense Industrial Association’s Special Operations Forces Industry Conference. 

“The Griffin is a tremendous missile and it is doing well for us in combat. It has continued to improve. If you want to compete with Griffin, give me something less than $50,000 that does the same thing,” he said.

The first AC-130J Ghostrider gunship is now completing flight tests at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, he said. The Ghostrider is a modified MC-130J Commando II that is slated to give SOCOM better close-air support, air interdiction and armed reconnaissance. It will modify 32 MC-130Js at a cost of $2.4 billion over the coming years.

SOCOM is investing heavily in precision strike weapons. It has requested $146 million in fiscal year 2015 for such systems. The AC-130Js alone will be outfitted with laser small diameter bombs, missiles and high caliber guns. 

Not only do the weapons need to be cutting edge, but pilots need to have better situational awareness, said Lt. Col. Todd Darrah, program manager for the AC-130J.

“We’re … looking for any situational awareness capabilities that we can bring to the airplane. The days of grease pencil on the side of the window are over and we need to have the ability for the pilots to be able to see where we’re shooting all those guns,” Darrah said.

In general, SOCOM is looking for a slew of improvements to its precision strike packages, particularly for the modified AC-130Js, he said.

“We’re always looking for ways to roll in better sensors, better guns, better weapons, those kind of things, on the aircraft,” Darrah said.

Erich Borgstede, systems acquisition manager for standoff precision guided munitions at SOCOM, said other priorities include “enhanced lethality, more capability with moving targets, all weather, all terrain … and I want you to do all of these things and make it affordable.”

Topics: Armaments, Gun and Missile, Aviation, Special Operations-Low Intensity Conflict, SOF Weapons Systems

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