AFSOC's 4th SOS Receives First AC-130J Ghostrider Gunship
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AFSOC's 4th SOS Receives First AC-130J Ghostrider Gunship

By IndraStra Global News Team

AFSOC's 4th SOS Receives First AC-130J Ghostrider Gunship

Image Attribute: Air Force Special Operations Command leadership tours an AC-130J Ghostrider gunship during its unveiling at Bob Sikes Airport Crestview, Fla., March 6, 2019. This AC-130J is the first to be delivered to the 4th Special Operations Squadron at Hurlburt Field, Fla., as the AC-130U Spooky is slowly being retired from active duty after more than 20 years of operation. / Source: U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Caleb Pavao

On March 7, 2019, US Air Force's Special Operations Command (AFSOC) announced the delivery of its newest gunship — Block 30 AC-130J Ghostrider Gunship. The aircraft was delivered to 4th Special Operations Squadron (4th SOS) at Hurlburt Field, Florida. Currently, The 4th SOS operates the AC-130U Spooky and has held the title as the most deployed squadron in the U.S. Air Force since 9/11. A total of 37 AC-130J will be delivered by Lockheed Martin to AFSOC by 2025 at an estimated cost of US$ 2.4 billion. 

The Block 30 AC-130J is the fourth generation gunship replacing the aging fleet of AC-130U/W gunships. The inaugural flight of the AC-130J Ghostrider was completed in January 2014. It is a highly modified C-130J aircraft that contains many advanced features such as fully integrated navigation systems with dual inertial navigation systems and global positioning system. 

Additionally, the Block 30 AC-130J is modified with the Precision Strike Package (PSP), which includes a mission management console, robust communications suite, two electro-optical/infrared sensors, advanced fire control equipment, precision-guided munitions delivery capability as well as trainable 30mm Mk 44 Bushmaster II (GAU-23) automatic side firing chain gun and 105mm M102 cannon. It also comes with Standoff Precision Guided Munitions (SOPGM) comprising wing-mounted GBU-39 small diameter bombs and AGM-176 Griffin laser-guided missiles. The internally mounted missiles can be launched through the rear cargo door. Overall, the mission management system fuses sensor, communication, environment, the order of battle and threat information into a common operating picture. 

Aircraft defensive systems and color weather radar are integrated as well. The aircraft is capable of air refueling with the Universal Air Refueling Receptacle Slipway Installation system (UARRSI) i.e., boom refueling receptacle.

The Block 30 AC-130J will fulfill the same mission sets as the Spooky; however, it will cost approximately 1/3 to operate per flying hour due to the upgraded turboprop engines. "The technology in this 5th generation gunship will ensure our combat relevance in the skies above today’s battlefields and the battlefields of the future," said Col. Michael Conley, 1st Special Operations Wing commander said.

According to Lt. Col. Pete Ventres, 4th SOS commander, "This is a significant milestone in our heritage and the gunship nation." He further added, "The AC-130J represents a leap into the future without abandoning the lessons of the past."

General Characteristics of AC-130J Ghostrider Gunship

Primary Function: Close air support and air interdiction with associated collateral missions 
Manufacturer: Lockheed Martin
Power Plant: Four Rolls-Royce AE 2100D3 Turboprops 
Thrust: 4,700 shaft horsepower
Wingspan: 132 feet 7 inches (39.7 meters) 
Length: 97 feet 9 inches (29.3 meters) 
Height: 39 feet 2 inches (11.9 meters) 
Speed: 362 knots at 22,000 feet
Ceiling: 28,000 feet with 42,000 lb payload
Maximum Takeoff Weight: 164,000 lbs
Range: 3,000 miles 
Crew: Two pilots, two combat systems officers, one sensor operator, and four special mission aviators
Armament: Precision Strike Package with 30mm and 105mm cannons and Standoff Precision Guided Munitions (i.e. GBU-39 Small Diameter Bomb and AGM-176 Griffin missile)
Date Deployed: TBD
Unit Cost: US$ 115 million  
Inventory: Active force, 32 by fiscal 2021