SHEPPARD AIR FORCE BASE, Texas – A new aircraft arrived here Oct. 19, 2020, that will provide some much-needed firepower and an advanced training platform for armament and crew chief Airmen in Training in the near future.
Master Sgt. Joshua Paakaula, a 363rd Training Squadron instructor supervisor, said the AC-130W Stinger II from Cannon AFB, New Mexico, will serve as a new ground instructional trainer for ammo and armament students in the 363rd TRS as well as crew chief students in the 362nd TRS.
“It’ll provide something we don’t have for students,” he said. “We have to keep current with what’s going on in the field. This new model gives [students] exposure to loading actual ammunition.”
Sheppard AFB AiT currently train on “slick” versions of the C-130 that lack weapons systems, Paakaula said. Before this new addition, squadrons would have to manually hook up munitions pylons to the aircraft so small bombs could be placed on the aircraft, which didn’t prepare students for what they could potentially face on the flight line.
This AC-130W, he said, will be ready for students to begin training once it is officially part of the GITA inventory.
“This new [aircraft model] will have pylons already installed, so we can continue the training we are doing for loading. In the future it will have the gun systems that we don’t currently have,” Paakaula said.
In addition to munitions carried on wing pylons, the AC-130W is equipped with a 30mm GAU-23 cannon. The cannon will arrive and be installed at a later date.
Tech. Sgt. Philander Means, a crew chief instructor supervisor for heavy aircraft such as the AC-130W, said as mechanics of the sky, flying crew chiefs use the AC-130W to learn upkeep of the aircraft’s care. This includes a range of responsibilities like, refueling and defueling the aircraft, nosing the gear and changing the aircraft battery. Students are now given the opportunity to explore a more updated aircraft, so that when they transfer to a permanent base, they will be prepared to undertake any complications that they may face.
“We have a newer aircraft to deal with,” Means said. “Students are going to get that chance to work on an aircraft that is more up to date. This [newer aircraft] is more relevant to the courses that we are teaching today verses a 1960 aircraft model.”
The Stinger II is used as a close air support and air interdiction weapons platform around the world. U.S. Southern Command leadership made the determination in 2007 that the fleet of gunships such as the AC-130 needed to expand, and the MC-130W Dragon Spear was renamed the AC-130W Stinger II in May 2012. A prototype of the new gunship was flown in support of Operation New Dawn in Iraq just 18 months later.