Harvest Hawk arms the Hercules

 - May 6, 2010, 9:48 AM
This VMGR-352 KC-130J is the first to be fitted with the Harvest Hawk system. Note the sensor turret under the port wing tank, and missile launch rail further outboard.

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.