In a rare fit of good sense, the Air Force is considering adapting its forthcoming “Joint Cargo Aircraft” — basically a souped-up C-27 — into a gunship armed with a 30-millimeter cannon, the Air Force Association newsletter reports. “The aircraft might be just the right size for Air Force Special Operations Command, which might need to take a light gunship with it to austere combat zones.” It would presumably supplement the larger AC-130 Spectres armed with 105-millimeter guns.
Why this is a good idea: Because small, simple gunships have repeatedly proved their worth in counter-insurgency fights in Colombia (AC-47, pictured at work over Vietnam) and Thailand (AU-23A), among other places. Buying a COIN gunship would be a great first installment on a broader COIN air fleet including light attack planes and rugged transports.
Why it will never happen: Because the Air Force can’t even afford the airplanes it’s already designed, much less anything new. And in today’s A.F., slow, ugly planes like gunships always take a back seat to fast, pretty fighters.