Spooky Wing Box Problems:

Air Force Special Operations Command’s AC-130U gunships—the “new” gunships—are facing a looming problem with their center wing boxes. The Spooky gunships are “showing their age,” AFSOC commander Lt. Gen. Mike Wooley told defense reporters in Washington, D.C., Wednesday morning. AFSOC’s logistics directorate is therefore carefully managing the use of each individual AC-130U so that today’s heavy operations tempo does not result in a fleet-wide grounding, as has occurred with some of the Air Force’s other C-130 models that became structurally unsafe. The U-models will go through a wingbox replacement program to extend their service lives to 2018 or beyond, Wooley said. Spookys deployed to the US Central Command area of responsibility often fly two or three missions every night over Iraq or the Horn of Africa. Four additional SOF modified C-130s are nearly ready to enter service, however, and Wooley said these deliveries will offset the temporary loss of gunships that go into the wingbox repair program.