AFLCMC branch delivers first AC-130J for flight test

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio -- The Strike Systems Branch, working in conjunction with U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM), recently completed the first flight of the AC-130J Ghostrider.

The branch is part of the Special Operation Forces and Personnel Recovery Division at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. Its parent organization is the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center which is headquartered at Wright-Patterson AFB.

The 50-member Strike Systems team, along with Lockheed Martin Missiles Fire Control, began initial modifications in February 2013 at Eglin AFB, Fla. The modification effort took nearly one year from initial cut to first flight in January. The Strike Systems Branch worked closely with airworthiness subject matter experts to ensure all necessary data was received and reviewed to obtain a military flight release for flight test in less than 12 months.

Developmental testing began on Jan. 31 at Eglin AFB and is scheduled to conclude in November. Modifications to the second aircraft will begin in September, with operational tests beginning in the summer of 2015. The first aircraft will be operational in 2017.

The Ghostrider blends the MC-130J Commando II with the combat proven DRAGON SPEAR Precision Strike Package from the AC-130W Stinger II. The Precision Strike Package consists of a mission operator console, dual electro-optical infrared sensors, advanced communication suite, advanced fire control equipment, precision guided munitions, and a trainable 30mm Bushmaster Cannon.

The mission of the AC-130J Ghostrider is to provide close air support, special operations armed airborne reconnaissance, and ordnance delivery to precise targets in support of ground forces. Additional collateral missions include strike coordination, non-traditional intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance, and command and control.

The next-generation AC-130J is USSOCOM's number one acquisition priority. A total of 32 MC-130J aircraft will be modified for Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) as part of a $2.4 billion AC-130J program to grow the future fleet and replace AFSOC's aging fleet of AC-130H/U/W gunships.