July 5, 2015:
Jordan has ordered more I-Master SAR/GMTI radars for their new gunships as well as other aircraft. The I-Master SAR/GMTI is a synthetic aperture radar (SAR) which produces a 3-D image of what is below and can see through foliage. Cheaper, smaller and more powerful computers have helped reduce the size of SAR equipment since the 1980s (when SAR was first introduced). SAR is good for detecting vehicles, and can penetrate clouds and sand storms to show a precise image of the landform below. Jordan had the I-Master installed in their first (of four) AC-245 gunships that arrived in early 2014. Performance of the aircraft and its SAR impressed the crews and that led to the additional orders.
Jordan had arranged to have CN-235 transports converted to gunships, which are now called AC-235s. Jordan has already used this aircraft in combat and was so pleased with the performance that it has ordered two of its existing similar and somewhat larger C-295 military transports converted into gunships. The C-295 is a two engine aircraft with a max payload is nine tons and max cruise speed is 480 kilometers an hour. Carrying a four ton load, it can fly 4,500 kilometers (1,400 kilometers with max payload). Max takeoff weight is 23 tons. Basically, the C-295 is a stretched version of the earlier CN-235 aircraft, so it was a mature design to begin with. There is already a maritime surveillance version of the C-295 used by other countries.
In 2011 Jordan hired the American firm ATK to modify two Jordanian CN-235 transports to serve as gunships. These two engine transports had sensors (day/night cameras) added, along with laser designators and a defensive system against heat-seeking missiles. Armament consists of a M230 30mm autocannon, Hellfire missiles and 70mm rockets. The 16 ton CN-235 can carry four tons of equipment and stay in the air for up to eight hours per sortie. As an AC-235 the aircraft can only remain airborne for three hours per sortie. Think of this aircraft as a twin engine C-130 with less payload and endurance. The conversions were supposed to be completed in 2013 but by the end of the year the gunship only got as far as its first flight test with all its weapons and other systems installed. The second CN-235 gunship was delivered by the end of 2014. By converting two existing C-295s to gunships, using much of the technology and design work developed for the AC-235, Jordan expects to have four gunships by the end of 2015.
The main weapon for the AC-235s and AC-295 is the 58 kg (127 pound) M230 30mm cannon which fires about ten rounds a second and usually has about 1,200 rounds available when used in an aircraft. The most common round used is the HEDP (high explosive dual purpose), meaning that he round not only penetrates up to 50mm of armor, but generates fragments that kill or wound personnel within four meters (12 feet) of detonation. Each round carries 22 grams (.76 ounces) of explosives, is 20 cm (7.8 inches) long and weighs 339 grams (11.8 ounces), while the projectile weighs 229 grams (half a pound). A direct hit on a person is fatal and messy. Effective range of the 30mm cannon is about 4,000 meters. Time in flight to 3,000 meters is 12 seconds. The fire control system takes care of all the necessary aiming adjustments for long range shots. The M230 is usually used in conjunction with a red-dot laser indicator. This reduces friendly fire incidents. When in doubt, the gunner can flip on the red-dot and ask the guys down below if the right target is about to be hit. The red-dot also has an intimidating effect on the enemy, if you are trying to induce them to surrender.
When operating in daylight (too high for the M230) the main weapons would be missiles. These are the Hellfire II, which weighs 48 kg (106 pounds), carries a 9 kg (20 pound) warhead, and has a range of 8,000 meters. There are several powered 70mm guided missiles already available. These are lighter (13.6 kg/30 pound) and were developed for use against targets that don't require a larger and more expensive Hellfire missile but still need some targeting precision. Launchers for 70mm missiles are built to replace the one for Hellfire but carry four 70mm missiles instead of a single Hellfire. The 70mm rockets have a laser seeker, a 2.7 kg (six pound) warhead, and a range of about six kilometers. Laser designators on the gunship, or with troops on the ground, are pointed at the target and the laser seeker in the front of the 70mm missile homes in on the reflected laser light.
The Jordanian gunships are being equipped based on American experience in Iraq and Afghanistan and will be used to patrol the Syrian and Iraq borders. There, the wars with Islamic terrorists in Syria and Iraq have spilled over into Jordan. The four gunships will make the border more dangerous for ambitious terrorists. Apparently the first AC-295 has been successfully used to destroy convoys of Islamic terrorists trying to enter Jordan.