restricted access 3. Inching Forward through Hoops of Fire
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C h a p t e r 3 Inching Forward through Hoops of Fire Circumstances Take Over the Production and Prototype Programs E ven though on 8 June 1967, the secretary of the U.S. Air Force approved the Air Staff’s recommendation to replace the AC-47 aircraft with, at first, AC-119Gs and later both G models and K models, the WRAMA workforce experienced a number of delays in full-scale production for a myriad of reasons. Not the least of these was the request by the deputy secretary of defense for a study on the kind and number of gunships to be deployed and stationed in Southeast Asia. Delays in the secretary of defense’s transfer of C-119 aircraft from the Air Force Reserve to the modification production line had also been an impediment. On 2 February 1968, as prototype work inched forward at Robins AFB, initial production program approval came from Secretary Brown. Eleven days later, WRAMA officials received an informational message from USAF leaders detailing Brown’s 2 February message. The package provided guidelines for the execution of the overall program and reaffirmed a mixed gunship force concept with the AC-47s and AC-119s now to be stationed at various bases in South Vietnam and the AC-130s deployed to Thailand.1 52 Shadow and stinger Brown’s directive, in fact, called for the modification of eight AC-130s altogether, with six deploying to Southeast Asia and two remaining in the continental United States at combat crew training centers (CCTC) for combat and maintenance crew training. Ultimately, he approved “a total of 52 AC-119G/K aircraft of which 32 [later 40 and eventually 52] would deploy to SEA. The first squadron would be AC-119Gs and would deploy starting in July 1968, and the second squadron would be AC-119Ks and would start deploying in November 1968. The TAC CCTC consisted of six AC-119Gs and six AC-119Ks. The Secretary indicated that the AC-119Gs might later be retrofitted to the ‘K’ configuration.”2 The guidelines further directed the workforce at the Middle Georgia Air Materiel Area to delete local plans to include the DPM-34MGV beacon tracking radar since it was to be incorporated only on the AC-119K models. The guidelines stated that the K model components would be installed on the G models when they were later retrofitted. The officials’ main concern at this point was to get the G models completed and in the field. The guidelines also directed the modification workforce to integrate further improvements in the communications and firecontrol systems, such as affixing a night observation device (NOD) or eyeglass sans stabilization component.3 The USAF directive also reconfirmed the reconfiguration package that WRAMA officials had proposed and been gathering for installation on the prototype and production aircraft. It included, among other things, four MXU 470 gun modules, the fire-control system, the NOD illuminator, and a camouflage paint scheme. Of note, in the USAF directive was a caveat that allowed WRAMA and management to substitute SUU-11/A gun pods until MXU 470 modules became available for production models. As chapter 1 mentions, similar gun pod problems had troubled the AC-47 program. 4 Brown’s message also detailed directions for the modification of the K models. Its kits were to contain the same components as the G models, as well as two 20-mm 61A1 guns, the FL-13 side-looking infrared sensors, the DPM-34MGV beacon-tracking radar deleted from the G models, Doppler computer, radar altimeter, LORAN C, SPR-3 terrain-following radar, AN/APR-26/26 radar homing and warning device, and auxiliary J-85 jet engines.5 While some local managers digested the component needs for the 2 gunship models, others constructed production milestones and inching forward through hoops of fire 53 schedules for each AC-119 model. Perhaps predictably, the original deadlines had to be altered as the reality of parts availability, labor costs, and work expenditure began to come to light. In this case, the G model planners determined that 3 training G models should be completed by the end of April 1968, with another rolling out in May and the final two in late July. They expected 6 aircraft designated for deployment to be completed at the end of July, 4 more in August, 4 in September, 4 in October, and 2 in November. This made a total of 26 G models. Plans called for 3...