AC-130J Ghostrider

The AC-130J is a CAS, air interdiction, and armed reconnaissance platform optimized for convoy escort, point defense, and supporting urban combat.

The AC-130J is designed to provide ground forces a persistent direct-fire platform and deployed to combat for the first time in Afghanistan in June 2019. The next-generation gunship is based on a highly modified MC-130J, retrofit after delivery with a modular precision strike package, wing-mounted weapons, and gunship-specific systems.

Airframes are upgraded and managed in common with the HC/MC-130J, receiving Block 8.1 avionics upgrades along with the baseline C-130J. SOFspecific enhancements are rapidly developed and integrated in response to operational requirements. PSP includes a dual mission management console, robust communications suite, two EO/IR sensors, advanced fire-control equipment, PGM delivery capability, and trainable cannons.

Block 20 added/retrofit a 105 mm gun, laser guided SDB, side-facing pilot tactical HUD, and Large Aircraft Infrared Countermeasures (LAIRCM). The configuration was deemed operationally effective for most taskings in 2018. Upgrades based on initial operational testing resulted in the Block 20+/30 configuration which improved gun accuracy, hardened GPS, and added wing-mounted Hellfire missiles and ramp-deployed GBU-69 Small Glide Munitions.

The first Block 30 was delivered for testing in 2019. Development includes a high-energy laser weapon planned for demonstration in 2022, radio frequency countermeasures (RFCM) to detect, locate, and respond to threats, mission networking, IR suppression, PSP and EO/IR sensor improvements, and HF/VHF/UHF/SATCOM suite modernization.

FY21 funds delivery/conversion of five airframes and continues the multiyear contract for 23 combined AC/MC-130J airframes. Enhanced all-weather strike capability and sensors are aimed at adding future through-cloud engagement. AFSOC announced plans to shift AC-130J formal training from Hurlburt to Kirtland starting in FY22.

Contractors: Lockheed Martin, Sierra Nevada Corp (RFCM).
First Flight: Jan. 31, 2014.
Delivered: July 29, 2015-present.
IOC: Sept. 30, 2017.
Production: 20 (37 to be converted from new-build MC-130Js).
Inventory: 20.
Operator: AFSOC
Aircraft Location: Hurlburt Field, Fla. Planned: Kirtland AFB, N.M.
Active Variants: •AC-130J Ghostrider Block 20. Production standard gunship with additional 105 mm gun. •AC-130J Ghostrider Block 30. Production aircraft with post operational test upgrades.
Dimensions: Span 132.6 ft, length 97.7 ft, height 39.1 ft.
Weight: Max T-O 164,000 lb.
Power Plant: Four Rolls-Royce AE 2100D3 turboprops, each 4,700 shp.
Performance: Speed 416 mph, range 3,000 miles (further with air refueling).
Ceiling: 28,000 ft.
Armament: Trainable 30 mm GAU-23/A cannon; 105 mm cannon; up to eight wing pylon-mounted GBU-39 SDB or AGM-114 Hellfire, and aft-firing GBU-69B Small Glide Munition and AGM-176 Griffin deployed from 10 Common Launch Tubes integrated into the aircraft’s ramp/door.
Accommodation: Two pilots, CSO, WSO, sensor operator, loadmaster, and three gunners.

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