Ghostrider Grounded

The Air Force’s prototype AC-130J Ghostrider gunship is grounded, pending investigation of an in-flight incident that occurred during a test sortie from Eglin AFB, Fla., earlier this year, according to Air Force Materiel Command. The aircraft “returned to base and safely landed without further incident or any injuries to the crew” after the April 21 mishap, the command told Air Force Magazine in a statement on Monday. AFMC officials on June 15 elevated the accident from a Class-C mishap after “structural analysis suggested damage greater than the $2 million monetary threshold for a Class-A incident,” reads the statement. The AC-130J prototype suffered a similar mishap when it departed controlled flight during handling trials in February, exceeding its structural limits and resulting in the addition of two months to flight testing. AFMC is “convening an accident investigation board to investigate the matter based on the updated damage estimate,” and will release more information when the inquest is concluded. Air Force Special Operations Command plans to purchase and convert a total of 37 airframes to the AC-130J configuration as part of its $2.4 billion program to replace the legacy AC-130U and AC-130W fleets.