USAF’s 105mm gunship howitzer, which replaces the obsolete M102

WASHINGTON — The obsolete US Air Force M102 air gun will gradually be replaced by an updated 105mm gun. The M102 is actually a howitzer that is mounted on gunships [a military aircraft armed with heavy aircraft guns]. The M102 has been part of the armament of the AC-130 gunship for decades.

USAF's 105mm gunship howitzer, which replaces the aging M102
Photo credit: USAF

The updated 105mm howitzer was recently spotted on the U.S. Air Force AC-130J Ghostrider gunship. It happened during an event in New Mexico involving the 17th Special Operations Squadron. A 105mm howitzer is mounted on the fuselage of the aircraft at the rear on the left side. The gunship’s main gun is usually located right there.

Sources tell The War Zone that the 105mm howitzer is not a new model, but an upgraded model. I.e. it is not yet clear what the difference is with the currently used M102. The War Zone says the full designation of the 105mm howitzer remains unclear. As of now, this weapon is only called the Gun Aircraft Unit [GAU].

USAF's 105mm gunship howitzer, which replaces the aging M102
Photo credit: USAF

What is known is that the new 105mm GAU has improved recoil due to a new mechanism. The old recoil mechanism was the M137A1, but sources say it is no longer in production. The Naval Systems Command hinted at “large-scale upgrades” as early as January of this year. However, they are made to ensure the combat effectiveness and precision of the weapon, including accuracy and usability.

USAF's 105mm gunship howitzer, which replaces the aging M102
Photo credit: USAF

The M102, the old version of the gunship howitzer, was apparently accompanied by quite a few problems. A statement from one of the engineers of the new 105mm GAU confirms it. Matthew Buckler, an engineer at Dahlgren says that solving the problems with the M102 is like “peeling an onion”. “You get the most immediate issue and solve that one. Then when you solve that one, something else becomes more important, and you kind of just keep peeling it back,” says Matthew.

The gunship howitzer is an essential part of the armament of the aircraft. Although the gunship is equipped with missiles, precision-guided munitions, as well as automatic cannons, the 105mm GAU offers different capabilities. Such capabilities are greater firepower aimed at smaller targets. The 105mm GAU is a more versatile weapon as it can fire a variety of ammunition, including air spray rounds. This type of gunship armament is used against bunkers, armored vehicles, or enemy forces in the open.

Experts believe the new 105mm GAU will help the US Air Force continue to provide close support in future military operations.

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