Air Weapons: Derringer Door Does Easy Reloads


March 2, 2012: The U.S. Marine Corps recently received the first of its KC-130J transports with a modified rear door (the Derringer Door) that enables Griffin missiles to be fired, and the missile launcher reloaded, without first depressurizing the aircraft and lowering the rear ramp.

The KC-130J is the latest, and largest, USMC version of the C-130 transport used for aerial refueling. But the KC-130J can also carry cargo and weapons (bombs and missiles) hung from the wings. This last item is the Harvest Hawk version of the KC-130J. This "instant gunship" system enables weapons and sensors to be quickly rolled into a C-130 transport and hooked up. This takes a few hours and turns the C-130 into a gunship (similar in capabilities existing AC-130 gunships). The sensor package consists of day/night vidcams with magnification capability. The weapons currently consist of ten Griffin missile launchers and four Hellfires hanging from the wings. The first U.S. Marine Corps "instant gunship" arrived in Afghanistan two years ago. Since then Harvest Hawk aircraft have fired hundreds of Hellfire and Griffin missiles, as well as spotting lots of enemy activity.

The one problem was the need to lower the rear door to fire Griffin missiles and reload the launchers. Since the aircraft usually operated at high altitude (6,400 meters/20,000 feet) the crew had to put on oxygen masks and it took time to depressurize the cargo bay and lower the rear ramp. The new door has ten Griffin launch tubes that can be used (for firing or reloading) while the ramp is closed.

It was only two years ago last year that the Griffin, which weighs 20.5 kg (45 pounds) and has a 5.9 kg (13 pound) warhead, entered service in Afghanistan. Griffin has a greater range (15 kilometers) than Hellfire because of pop-out wings that allow it to glide after launch. Griffin uses laser, GPS, and inertial guidance. The Hellfire II missile has been around a lot longer, weighs 48.2 kg (106 pounds), carries a 9 kg (20 pound) warhead, and has a range of 8,000 meters.

The big thing with gunships is their sensors, not their weapons. Operating at night the gunships can see what is going on below in great detail. Using onboard weapons gunships can immediately engage targets. But with the appearance of smart bombs (GPS and laser guided), aerial weapons are more available to hit any target that is found. So Harvest Hawk would be able to hit targets that were "time sensitive" (had to be hit before they got away) but could also call on smart bombs or laser guided missiles for targets that weren't going anywhere right away. Most of what Harvest Hawk does in Afghanistan is look for roadside bombs or the guys who plant them. The marines want to track the bomb planters back to their base and then take out an entire roadside bomb operation.



Article Archive

Air Weapons: Current 2021 2020 2019 2018 2017 2016 2015 2014 2013 2012 2011 2010 2009 2008 2007 2006 2005 2004 2003 2002 2001 1999 



Help Keep Us Soaring

We need your help! Our subscription base has slowly been dwindling. We need your help in reversing that trend. We would like to add 20 new subscribers this month.

Each month we count on your subscriptions or contributions. You can support us in the following ways:

  1. Make sure you spread the word about us. Two ways to do that are to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.
  2. Subscribe to our daily newsletter. We’ll send the news to your email box, and you don’t have to come to the site unless you want to read columns or see photos.
  3. You can contribute to the health of StrategyPage. A contribution is not a donation that you can deduct at tax time, but a form of crowdfunding. We store none of your information when you contribute..
Subscribe   Contribute   Close