Alenia Aermacchi's MC-27J on display at the Paris Air Show. (Colin Kelly)
PARIS — The planned gunship variant of the C-27J will undertake the first test firings of its 30mm cannon while slaved to an electro-optical/infrared sensor at the end of this year or early 2014, officials at the Paris Air Show said on Wednesday.
Italy’s Alenia Aermacchi, which builds the new MC-27J, and ATK, which has partnered on the program, brought the test aircraft to Paris after a first phase of development that saw the first firing of the cannon in flight.
Phase 2, which started in April, will see the introduction of the sensor, while a year-long, third phase of development due to start next spring will see the testing of precision guided munitions.
The 30mm gun on board, which is similar to that provided by ATK for the US AC-130 gunship, is pallet-based, as is the dual-console mission management system, allowing customers to buy the system to install in a regular C-27J. During tests, the system was set up in around one hour, said Brad Hayes, business development director for ATK.
Hayes said the US Air Force has validated flight tests carried out in the US on the aircraft, which was first announced at the Farnborough Air Show last year.
Before cutting its order of C-27J aircraft, the US had begun to plan a gun ship version of the aircraft, and some of that development work had been shared with ATK and Alenia Aermacchi as they worked on their version, said Bill Kasting, vice president and general manager at ATK.
Kasting said the barrel of ATK’s gun was longer than the one installed on the AC-130 in order to reduce recoil, given that it sits on a pallet in the MC-27J.
The gun will offer a range of 15,000 feet, fired at an angle, while the plane typically loiters at 7,000-10,000 feet.
Hayes said the munitions the plane might release included the Viper Strike and the Griffin, while it was yet to be decided if the munitions should be released by opening the tail ramp of the plane or through launch tubes.
Ben Stone, the CEO of Alenia Aermacchi North America, predicted 50 sales of the aircraft in 20-25 years, with South America, the Far East and the Middle East as markets. ■
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