Gunships for Sale as Part of Mass Jordanian Sell-off

 - January 5, 2019, 8:28 AM
Jordan has put up for sale the two AC-235 gunships that were operated by Special Operations Command. (Photo: David Donald)

The Royal Jordanian Air Force (RJAF) has put its two AC-235 gunships up for sale, along with its Sikorsky UH-60L fleet. Separate announcements made on the air force’s official website on December 24 (UH-60s) and 28 (AC-235s) brought the offers into the public domain. They add to a series of declarations in the summer in which a number of other types were made available for purchase as part of a major RJAF fleet rationalization and cost-reduction effort.

In the 2018 releases, a single Lockheed C-130B was offered for sale along with 12 Hawk Mk 63 trainers and 13 Bell UH-1H utility helicopters on July 8, followed by 17 Bell AH-1F Cobras equipped with the NTS (Night Targeting System) and two Airbus C295 medium airlifters on July 12.

Shedding these aircraft makes sense in terms of removing obsolete, aging, and redundant aircraft from the inventory. The RJAF is in the process of receiving 12 AH-1Fs upgraded by SES in the U.S. with new mission suite, cockpit displays, and L3 Wescam MX-15D turrets. The Cobras offered for sale are those that were donated by Israel for anti-Daesh operations. The Hawk trainers were also received as a donation, from the UAE. The recent delivery of the new Pilatus PC-21 basic/advanced trainers has rendered them redundant.

However, the two recent sale offers are more intriguing and may reflect the 2018 reassignment of the assets formerly operated by Jordanian Special Operations Command (JSOC) to the RJAF. The AC-235 gunships, which were developed by ATK in conjunction with the King Abdullah II Design and Development Bureau (KADDB) and Airbus, were only delivered to JSOC in 2014 and have proven useful in operations along the Syrian border and as part of Jordan’s contribution to the anti-Houthi campaign in Yemen. They are armed with a side-firing 30-mm cannon and have stub pylons for weapons such as AGM-114 Hellfire missiles and laser-guided rockets.

Eight UH-60Ls are also up for sale as new UH-60Ms have been delivered for service with the RJAF’s No. 8 Squadron. The UH-60Ls were operated by JSOC on special forces duties alongside armed MD530 Little Birds, and the latter may also be up for sale. The RJAF also operates a squadron (No. 14) of recently-delivered ex-U.S. Army UH-60As and is building a squadron (No. 26) of four Mi-26T2s, the second of which was delivered in late December.