The US Air Force will add a precision strike package designed for the Lockheed Martin MC-130W Dragon Spear aircraft onto the new MC-130J to create the AC-130J gunship.
Unlike most weapon systems development efforts, Lockheed will not be modifying the MC-130J. Instead, the USAF will integrate the precision strike package onto the MC-130J itself.
The new AC-130J will be heavily based on the Dragon Spear kit, says Jim Grant, Lockheed's business development director for C-130 programmes.
The Dragon Spear-equipped MC-130Ws are fitted with a Bushmaster 30mm, sensors and communications gears, and precision-guided munitions including Viper Strike bombs and Griffin missiles.
That might mean the new gunship might be somewhat less heavily armed than the current AC-130. The two current AC-130 variants are armed with a 105mm gun, a 40mm gun, and either one 25 mm cannon or two 20mm cannons - depending on the variant.
The current AC-130 fleet is rapidly aging and the aircraft are wearing out from repeated and frequent deployment.