By Debbie Gregory.
The Air Force’s AC-130J Ghostrider is just about ready for combat, although the aircraft won’t actually deploy to a war zone for a couple more years, according to Lt. Gen. Marshall “Brad” Webb, head of Air Force Special Operations Command.
“We are declaring IOC, Initial Operating Capability, this month on the AC-J,” said Lt. Gen Webb. “This is a fully configured gunship.”
He added, “That doesn’t mean anything with respect to putting it in combat — we’re still just shy of two years away from wanting to put those in combat.”
The reason for the delay is that time is needed to train special operators on the new weapon system.
A heavily modified C-130, the AC-130J features fully integrated digital avionics. It also boasts a “Precision Strike Package” that includes a mission management console, robust communications suite, two electro-optical/infrared sensors, advanced fire control equipment, precision guided munitions delivery capability as well as trainable 30mm and 105mm weapons, according to the Air Force. The cannons can be mounted on both sides of the aircraft.
The AC-130J has an overall length of 29.3m, a height of 11.9m and wingspan of 39.7m. It can operate at a maximum altitude of 28,000ft with a payload of 42,000lb. Its maximum take-off weight is 164,000lb. The aircraft can reach a maximum distance of 3,000 miles without refueling, and can fly at a speed of 362k at 22,000ft altitude.
The aircraft can accommodate two pilots, two combat systems officers, and three enlisted gunners. The aircraft is also designed to accommodate the Large Aircraft Infrared Countermeasures system.
The Air Force currently has 10 of the Ghostriders, and plans to buy a total of 37.