USAF to declare AC-130J gunship IOC this month but will have to wait two years more before sending it to combat


By Dario Leone
Sep 25 2017
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The AC-130J will not be going into combat anytime soon as U.S. Air Force Special Operations Command is lagging behind in training operators for the new variant

The commander of U.S. Air Force Special Operations Command disclosed that the service will declare Initial Operating Capability (IOC) for its newest gunship – AC-130J – later this month.

But the aircraft will not be going into combat anytime soon as the command is lagging behind in training operators for the new variant. Lt. Gen. Marshall Webb says two more years are required before sending it to combat.

As reported by, Webb said that the reason behind this delay is the high pace of operations in countries like Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria which makes it difficult to train special operators on the new weapon system.

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“We’re not waiting around,” he explained. “This is a fully configured gunship … The challenge that we have, it’s my problem, is how do we fight the current fight — we have gunships deployed to Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria — and use those same people to convert into a new weapon system?”

“So how do I navigate having some capability in the fight, transition those same guys in those same squadrons to a new weapon system, and then build them up at the same time?” Webb said. “So that draws out the timeline from IOC of airframes to train the guys who come back from combat into a new weapon system, have them have a deployed-dwell time to make sure that they’re going to have families at the end of their 20-year career, then bring them back on the battlefield in the Js.”

The AC-130J Ghostrider is the fourth generation gunship replacing the aging fleet of AC-130U/W gunships.

USAF to declare AC-130J gunship IOC this month but will have to wait two years more before sending it to combat

Noteworthy the Ghostrider, which is a highly modified C-130J, is fitted with the 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. The mission management system fuses sensor, communication, environment, order of battle and threat information into a common operating picture.

Photo credit: U.S. Air Force

Artwork courtesy of

Additional Source: U.S. Air Force

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Dario Leone

Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

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