Spookies Reprieved

Four AC-130U Spooky gunships previously slated for retirement will soldier on to meet added operational demand in Iraq and Syria and cover for delays needed to put a 105-millimeter gun on the new AC-130J. “Because of the demand created by the new threat, I chose not to retire those airplanes—that’s one reason, and the second is that the AC-130J was going to move to the right a little bit on the schedule,” Air Force Special Operations Command boss Lt. Gen. Bradley Heithold said at ASC15. “The crews that are going to man the AC-130J are coming out of these legacy platforms, so the plan was to retire three AC-130Us in Fiscal Year 15 and two more AC-130Us in Fiscal Year 16,” he said. Now, AFSOC will retire one AC-130U, nicknamed “Franken-bird” for some non-standard modifications, leaving AFSOC with 28 gunships—16 AC-130Us and 12 AC-130W Stinger IIs, until recapitalizing with the new AC-130J Ghostrider. The third AC-130J prototype is currently undergoing conversion to gunship standards and will join the operational test program at Hurlburt Field, Fla.