Last month the U.S. Navy completed Phase One testing of a U.S. Marine Corps HC-130J Hercules outfitted with the Harvest Hawk system, which gives the tanker/transports weapons capability. Following initial tests at Patuxent River, Maryland, the HC-130J departed for further tests at China Lake in California, in preparation for an initial deployment to Afghanistan in the summer.
Harvest Hawk is a roll-on, roll-off system that comprises a fire control console in the aircraft's hold, and a target sight sensor (TSS) mounted in the rear of the port underwing fuel tank. The TSS is the Lockheed Martin AAS-30 turret used in the Corps' AH-1Z Cobras.
Mounted on the port pylon normally used by the tanker's refueling pod is an M299 four-rail launcher for Hellfire II missiles or the GBU-44 Viper Strike/Standoff precision guided munition (SOPGM). The starboard wing has a standard fuel tank and refueling pod, allowing the aircraft to retain some tanking capability when equipped with Harvest Hawk. In the future, a 30-mm cannon will be added as a roll-on roll-off option, firing from the port troop door. Other weapons being considered for the Harvest Hawk include Raytheon's Griffin and Lockheed Martin's DAGR laser-guided rockets.
The Navy's PMA-207 program office is working closely with Air Force Special Operations Command, which is studying similar schemes to arm its MC-130Ws at a much lower cost than is associated with a full-spec AC-130 gunship. Under current plans the USMC intends to acquire 12 Harvest Hawk kits, to be allocated three at a time to the four KC-130J squadrons.