US AC-130J escorted by F-16s fired two AGM-114 Hellfire II missiles

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A Lockheed AC-130 gunship, the long-endurance, ground-attack variant of the C-130 Hercules, launched two AGM-114 Hellfire II air-to-surface missiles on a recent mission. The captivating two-minute video available online captures both launches. The American gunship didn’t journey alone; it was escorted by two F-16 fighters during the mission.  

According to the Clash Report source, this live-fire exercise was part of a joint operation with South Korea’s air force. BulgarianMilitary.com noted that the video likely originates from the exercise held between June 17-20. Observers also pointed out the GBU-39B/B Laser Small Diameter Bombs [LSDB] mounted under the AC-130J’s starboard wing.  

In the video, you can see the AC-130J firing the two AGM-114 Hellfire II missiles in quick succession at a small rock in the water. Both missiles hit their mark, showcasing the precision of the aircraft’s weaponry as the footage concludes with the rock successfully struck twice.

Video screenshot

The AC-130J’s role

The AC-130J Ghostrider is a heavily armed, ground-attack variant of the C-130 Hercules transport aircraft. Its primary tactical role during a military mission or war is to provide close air support [CAS] to ground troops. The AC-130J is equipped with a variety of weapons, including 30mm and 105mm cannons, as well as precision-guided munitions such as the AGM-176 Griffin missile and the GBU-39 Small Diameter Bomb. 

Another critical role of the AC-130J is its ability to conduct armed reconnaissance and surveillance. The AC-130J’s loitering capability is one of its most significant advantages. Unlike fast-moving jets, the AC-130J can remain on station for extended periods, providing continuous support to ground forces. 

Video screenshot

In addition to its firepower and endurance, the AC-130J’s ability to operate in low-visibility conditions, including at night and in adverse weather, makes it a versatile asset. The psychological impact of the AC-130J on enemy forces cannot be underestimated. The presence of a heavily armed gunship overhead can demoralize and disrupt enemy operations, reducing their effectiveness and willingness to engage.

AC-130J and AGM-114 Hellfire II combination

The AC-130J Ghostrider gunship has received major upgrades, including the addition of the AGM-114 Hellfire II missile. One big improvement is its advanced targeting systems. These systems include high-tech sensors and targeting pods that help spot and engage targets accurately, even in bad weather or at night. 

Photo by Capt. Savannah Stephens

Another key upgrade is the Hellfire missile launch system. This includes installing missile launch rails and the electronics needed for smooth communication between the plane’s fire control systems and the missile. The AC-130J has also improved its avionics and communication systems. With better data links and secure communication channels, the AC-130J can get real-time intelligence and targeting info, which is vital for using precise weapons like the Hellfire II missile. 

Additionally, the AC-130J now has better defensive systems to protect against enemy attacks. Finally, the crew’s training and tactics have been updated to make the most of the Hellfire II missile. This includes thorough training on new systems and missile deployment procedures, along with developing new tactics to boost the AC-130J’s performance in different combat situations.

The AGM-114

Photo credit: Wikipedia

The AGM-114 Hellfire II is an air-to-surface missile primarily used by the United States military. The missile is widely deployed on helicopters, drones, and fixed-wing aircraft. The dimensions of the AGM-114 Hellfire II are approximately 64 inches in length and 7 inches in diameter, with a weight of around 100 pounds. The propulsion system of the Hellfire II is a single-stage, solid-fuel rocket motor. Technical characteristics of the Hellfire II include semi-active laser homing guidance, which allows the missile to lock onto a target that is illuminated by a laser designator. 

There are several types of systems within the Hellfire II family, including the AGM-114K, AGM-114M, AGM-114N, and AGM-114R. Each variant is tailored for specific mission requirements, such as anti-armor, anti-personnel, and multipurpose roles.

Hellfire II’s warheads

Photo credit: Army.mil

The Hellfire II is equipped with different types of warheads to address various target profiles. The AGM-114K features a tandem HEAT [High-Explosive Anti-Tank] warhead for penetrating armored vehicles. The AGM-114M uses a blast fragmentation warhead for soft targets and personnel, while the AGM-114N employs a metal-augmented charge for enhanced blast effects. 

The operational range of the Hellfire II varies depending on the launch platform and conditions but typically extends up to 8 kilometers [approximately 5 miles]. This range allows for engagement from a safe distance, reducing the risk to the launching platform. 

The Hellfire II is capable of destroying a wide array of targets, including tanks, armored personnel carriers, bunkers, buildings, and small boats. Its versatility and precision make it a crucial asset in modern warfare, capable of neutralizing both hard and soft targets with high efficiency.

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