U.S. Naval Forces train with AC-130W Gunship in Arabian Gulf

23 May 2020 | Capt. Melissa Heisterberg 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit

Arabian Gulf – The USS Bataan Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) and embarked 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit conducted joint integration training with a Special Operations Command Central (SOCCENT) AC-130W Stinger II aircraft in the Arabian Gulf, May 19-21.

During the training, SOCCENT and 26th MEU Joint Terminal Attack Controller (JTAC) teams, stationed aboard the amphibious transport dock ship USS New York (LPD 21) and at locations ashore, directed command and control (C2) for simulated defensive strikes on surface targets from the AC-130W gunship.

“This was a great opportunity to incorporate the awesome firepower of the AC-130W into our Navy-Marine Corps live-fire training, rehearsing swift and lethal strikes with pinpoint accuracy against surface targets representing notional threats to the ARG/MEU,” said Capt. Lance Lesher, commander of the Bataan ARG. “This complex coordination involving SOCCENT, Marine Corps and Navy forces further expands our capability to defend ourselves against any threats we might encounter while operating lawfully in support of maritime security and our regional partners in the Arabian Gulf.”

The training confirmed the Navy-Marine Corps team’s capability to integrate with SOCCENT aviation assets to verify their joint-targeting processes and C2 procedures in the maritime domain. The ability to execute strike coordination and reconnaissance while controlling joint aviation assets from either the land or sea allows the ARG/MEU to successfully defend itself when operating in a contested maritime environment.

The AC-130W also trained alongside Marine Corps AH-1W Super Cobras and UH-1Y Venoms embarked aboard the New York. JTAC controllers also employed an AGM-176 Griffin missile, a lightweight, precision-guided munition that can be launched from the air to target surface threats.

“Integrating joint aviation assets and fires into a composite warfare construct with surface warfare assets is an effective approach to operating in a contested maritime environment,” said Col. Trevor Hall, commanding officer of the 26th MEU. “During this dynamic training evolution, the 26th MEU and Bataan ARG successfully integrated with SOCCENT forces to control aviation-delivered fires against maritime threats.”

In addition to the New York and the amphibious assault ship USS Bataan (LHD 5), the ARG also includes the dock landing ship USS Oak Hill (LSD 51). Also currently operating with the ARG is the guided missile destroyer USS Stout (DDG 55).