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 pre-planned targets or targets of opportunity and include strike coordination and reconnaissance and overwatch mission sets. The AC-130J provides 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 AC-130J is the fifth generation gunship replacing the aging fleet of AC-130U/W gunships. AC-130 gunships have an extensive combat history dating 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.
The AC-130J aircraft was officially named Ghostrider in May 2012. The first AC-130J aircraft completed developmental test and evaluation in June 2015. Initial operational capacity was reached in 2017; full operational capability is forecast for FY25. The first AC-130J squadron, the 73rd Special Operations Squadron, was activated at Hurlburt Field, Florida, Feb. 23, 2018. The last AC-130J delivery is scheduled for fiscal year 2024.
Primary Function: Close air support and air interdiction with associated collateral missions
Contractor: Lockheed Martin
Power Plant: Four Rolls-Royce AE 2100D3 Turboprops
Thrust: 4,700 shaft horsepower per engine
Speed: 362 knots
Ceiling: 28,000 feet
Maximum Takeoff Weight: 164,000 lbs
Range: 3,000 miles; limited by crew duty day with air refueling
Wingspan: 132 feet 7 inches (39.7 meters)
Length: 97 feet 9 inches (29.3 meters)
Height: 39 feet 2 inches (11.9 meters)
Crew: Two pilots, one combat systems officers, one weapon system operator, 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, GBU-69 Small Glide Munition, AGM-114 Hellfire missile and AGM-176 Griffin missile)
Date Deployed: July 2019
Unit Cost: $165 million
Inventory: Active duty, 37 by FY24
(Current as of March 2021)