MC-130W Dragon Spear
In May 2009, following a lapse of plans to acquire and develop an AC-27J "gunship light" to replace the aging, operations-stressed AC-130 inventory, the Air Force began exploring an option of converting MC-130Ws into interim gunships. The Dragon Spears are equipped with a Bushmaster II GAU-23/A 30mm gun (an improved version of the MK44 MOD0 30mm gun), sensors, communications systems, and precision-guided munitions in the Precision Strike Package. The PGMs are to be in the form of the Gunslinger weapons system, a launch tube designed to deploy up to ten GBU-44/B Viper Strike or Griffin (missile) small standoff munitions in quick succession. Initial supplemental funds to the 2010 Defense Authorization Bill were for two kits to be installed in 2010. On 17 November 2009, a contract was awarded to Alliant Techsystems to produce 30 mm ammunition for use by the Dragon Spear.
In September 2010, the Air Force awarded L-3 Communications a $61 million contract to convert eight MC-130W Combat Spear special-mission aircraft to give them a gunship-like attack capability. Under the terms of the deal, L-3 will perform modifications that will allow the aircraft to take the weapons kits, which are called "precision strike packages". MC-130Ws fitted with the weapons will be known as Dragon Spears. Air Force Special Operations Command is converting all 12 MC-130W aircraft to Dragon Spears in order to relieve the relentless operational demands on its regular AC-130 gunships until new AC-130Js enter the fleet.
The MC-130W Dragon Spear went from concept to flying with a minimum capability in less than 90 days, and from concept to deployment in 18 months. Its success led to the William J. Perry Award, and it will be the model for the AC-130J gunship program.