Fifth Ghostrider Gunship Enters Conversion

Lockheed Martin recently delivered the fifth airframe for conversion to AC-130J Ghostrider gunship standards, the company announced. A 1st Special Operations Wing crew ferried the aircraft from the production line at Marietta, Ga., to Hurlburt Field, Fla., Dec. 11, according to a release. The MC-130J Commando II will be the second airframe modified to the Block 20 gunship standard, incorporating the 105mm gun, Air Force Special Operations Command spokeswoman Erica Vega told Air Force Magazine on Dec. 18. Air Force Materiel Command declared the initial prototype a complete loss after it was severely overstressed in a mishap during developmental testing at Eglin AFB, Fla. The second prototype is undertaking operational testing at 1st Special Operations Group’s Det. 2 at Hurlburt, while the third and fourth aircraft are undergoing gunship conversion at a contractor facility nearby. Depending on test program requirements, the fifth aircraft may take part in operational testing, said Vega. “We are on track to have six AC-130Js and declare an initial operational capability” by late 2017, she added. AFSOC plans to eventually recapitalize its legacy AC-130U/W fleet with 37 next generation AC-130Js. (See also Ghostrider Gains and Pains in the September issue of Air Force Magazine.)