The AC-130U Spooky is being replaced downrange by the AC-130J Ghostrider, the most lethal and innovative gunship in the world.
The final AC-130U Spooky gunship returned from the airframe’s last scheduled combat deployment at Hurlburt Field, on Jul. 8, 2019. While still on alert to respond to contingencies as needed for the next few months, the Spooky is being replaced downrange by the AC-130J Ghostrider, the most lethal and innovative gunship in the world.
According to Military.Com, the 4th Special Operations Squadron, part of the 1st Special Operations Wing at the base, received its first upgraded J-model in March. While the command has had and operated the J-model since 2017, officials touted AFSOC’s first plane with the Block 30 software upgrade. The improved Ghostrider arrived this spring.
The Block 30 model marks “a major improvement in software and avionics technology” over the AC-130J, which has the original Block 20 software, officials said in a news release in March.
“The Ghostrider is the newest and most modernized gunship in existence, fulfilling the same mission sets as the Spooky but with upgraded avionics, navigation systems and a precision strike package that includes trainable 30mm and 105mm weapons,” the release states.
The AC-130J in fact is modified with the Precision Strike Package, which 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.
The mission management system fuses sensor, communication, environment, order of battle and threat information into a common operating picture.
The first AC-130J aircraft completed developmental test and evaluation in June 2015. The first squadron is located at Hurlburt Field, while other locations are to be determined. Initial operational capacity was achieved in fiscal 2017 and the last delivery is scheduled for fiscal 2021. The aircraft was officially named Ghostrider in May 2012.
AC-130 gunships have an extensive combat history dating to back to Vietnam where gunships destroyed more than 10,000 trucks and were credited with many life-saving, close air support missions. Over the past four decades, AC-130s have deployed constantly to hotspots throughout the world in support of special operations and conventional forces. In South America, Africa, Europe and throughout the Middle East, gunships have significantly contributed to mission success.