The AC-130J Ghostrider's primary missions are close air support, air interdiction and armed reconnaissance. Close air support missions include troops in contact, convoy escort and point air defense. Air interdiction missions are conducted against preplanned targets or targets of opportunity and include strike coordination and reconnaissance and overwatch mission sets. The AC-130J will provide ground forces an expeditionary, direct-fire platform that is persistent, ideally suited for urban operations and delivers precision low-yield munitions against ground targets.
The AC-130J is a highly modified C-130J aircraft that contains many advanced features. It contains an advanced two-pilot flight station with fully integrated digital avionics. The aircraft is capable of extremely accurate navigation due to the fully integrated navigation systems with dual inertial navigation systems and global positioning system. Aircraft defensive systems and color weather radar are integrated as well. The aircraft is capable of air refueling with the Universal Air Refueling Receptacle Slipway Installation system.
Additionally, the AC-130J 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 will be located at Cannon Air Force Base, N.M., while other locations are to be determined. Initial operational capacity is expected in fiscal 2017 and the last delivery is scheduled for fiscal 2021. The aircraft was officially named Ghostrider in May 2012.
The AC-130J is the fourth generation gunship replacing the aging fleet of AC-130U/W gunships. 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.
Primary Function: Close air support and air interdiction with associated collateral missions
Builder: Lockheed Martin
Power Plant: Four Rolls-Royce AE 2100D3 Turboprops
Thrust: 4,700 shaft horsepower
Wingspan: 132 feet 7 inches (39.7 meters)
Length: 97 feet 9 inches (29.3 meters)
Height: 39 feet 2 inches (11.9 meters)
Speed: 362 knots at 22,000 feet
Ceiling: 28,000 feet with 42,000 lb payload
Maximum Takeoff Weight: 164,000 lbs
Range: 3,000 miles
Crew: Two pilots, two combat systems officers, one sensor operator and four special mission aviators
Armament: Precision Strike Package with 30mm and 105mm cannons and Standoff Precision Guided Munitions (i.e. GBU-39 Small Diameter Bomb and AGM-176 Griffin missile)
Date Deployed: TBD
Unit Cost: $115 million
Inventory: Active force, 32 by fiscal 2021
(Current as of February 2016)