The Air Force should consider entering initial operational test and evaluation of the AC-130J Ghostrider gunship with an eight-person crew instead of the planned nine “to more accurately evaluate tactics and workloads,” according to the Fiscal 2014 Director, Operational Test, and Evaluation report, released Jan. 20. US Special Operations Command is creating the AC-130J by adding a modular precision strike package onto existing MC-130J aircraft. The third test aircraft, which is expected to complete modification in mid-Fiscal 2016, will include a 105 mm gun. As a result, the Air Force planned to upgrade the seven-member crew to nine and change some crew responsibilities. Future updates also include a laser-guided variant of the Small Diameter Bomb and wing-mounted, laser-guided Hellfire missiles, states the report. The Ghostrider will not be able to refuel other aircraft, although it will maintain its ability to be refueled in flight. The AC-130J will replace legacy AC-130H/U variants. (DOT&E full report; Caution, large-sized file.)
Boeing’s receipt of the 10th lot contract award for the KC-46 Pegasus this week leaves just three lots left to complete the Air Force’s buy of the tanker, although a further buy of 75 additional aircraft as a “bridge” to the Next-Generation Aerial-refueling System (NGAS) seems increasingly likely.