Ghostrider Test Schedule Delayed

Although the Air Force delivered the second MC-130J for conversion to the AC-130J Ghostrider configuration in September 2014, changes to the intercommunication system as well as the delayed delivery of certain information and equipment has bumped back the availability of the second aircraft for testing by two to three months, according to the Fiscal 2014 Director, Operation Test, and Evaluation report, released Jan. 20. The report also identified several other problems that likely will affect the development test schedule, noting initial DT&E is now slated for May 2015. In February 2014, the first test aircraft “experienced a temporary departure from controlled flight” during flying and handling qualities testing near the stall limit. Flight testing was suspended while an aircraft and safety inspection was conducted, and additional testing was added to the DT&E to “characterize the flight envelope more carefully.” In addition, the new aircraft vibrates more than legacy AC-130Ws causing problems with the accuracy of the electro-optical/infrared sensors being installed on the J-model. “Erratic” sensor movements caused by interference between aircraft systems and hand controllers used to direct sensors and weapons also “inhibits target tracking” and increases the “risk of fratricide” during weapon employment, states the report. “Delays in developmental testing have delayed the planned operational assessment by the 18th Flight Test Squadron by approximately four months,” states the report. IOT&E is now slated for October this year. (DOT&E full report; Caution, large-sized file.)