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AF Special Operations Command receives first AC-130J

A crowd gathers to view the inside of the Air Force Special Operations Command’s first AC-130J Ghostrider at Hurlburt Field, Fla., July 29, 2015. The aircrews of the 1st Special Operations Group Detachment 2 were hand selected from the AC-130 community for their operational expertise and will begin initial operational testing and evaluation of the AC-130J later this year. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Kai White/Released)

A crowd gathers to view the inside of the Air Force Special Operations Command’s first AC-130J Ghostrider at Hurlburt Field, Fla., July 29, 2015. The aircrews of the 1st Special Operations Group Detachment 2 were hand selected from the AC-130 community for their operational expertise and will begin initial operational testing and evaluation of the AC-130J later this year. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Kai White/Released)

Master Sgt. James Knight right, 18th Flight Test Squadron aerial gunner, instructs Staff Sgt. Rob Turner left, 1st Special Operations Group Detachment 2 aerial gunner, on new changes regarding pre-flight inspections in an AC-130J Ghostrider on Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., July 29, 2015. The aircrews of the 1st SOG Det. 2 were hand selected from the AC-130 community for their operational expertise and will begin initial operational testing and evaluation of the AC-130J later this year. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Christopher Callaway)

Master Sgt. James Knight right, an 18th Flight Test Squadron aerial gunner, instructs Staff Sgt. Rob Turner, left, a 1st Special Operations Group Detachment 2 aerial gunner, on new changes regarding preflight inspections in an AC-130J Ghostrider on Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., July 29, 2015. The aircrews of the 1st SOG Det. 2 were hand selected from the AC-130 community for their operational expertise and will begin initial operational testing and evaluation of the AC-130J later this year. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Christopher Callaway)

Maj. Jason Fox, 18th Flight Test Squadron pilot, delivers the Air Force Special Operations Commands first AC-130J Ghostrider to the 1st Special Operations Wing on Hurlburt Field, Fla., July 29, 2015. The AC-130J recently completed its initial developmental test and evaluation at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., and will begin operational test and evaluation under aircrews of the 1st Special Operations Group Det. 2 and 1st Special Operations Aircraft Maintenance Squadron later this year. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Christopher Callaway)

Maj. Jason Fox, a 18th Flight Test Squadron pilot, delivers the Air Force Special Operations Command’s first AC-130J Ghostrider to the 1st Special Operations Wing on Hurlburt Field, Fla., July 29, 2015. The AC-130J recently completed its initial developmental test and evaluation at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., and will begin operational test and evaluation under aircrews of the 1st Special Operations Group Det. 2 and 1st Special Operations Aircraft Maintenance Squadron later this year. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Christopher Callaway)

HURLBURT FIELD, Fla. (AFNS) -- The first AC-130J Ghostrider landed here July 29, making it Air Force Special Operations Command’s first AC-130J.

After completing the initial developmental test and evaluation by the 413th Flight Test Squadron at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, the aircraft will be flown by the 1st Special Operations Group Detachment 2 and maintained by the 1st Special Operations Aircraft Maintenance Squadron during its initial operational tests and evaluations at Hurlburt Field.

“Putting it through these tests will allow us to wring out the AC-130J in a simulated combat environment, instead of the more rigid flight profiles in formal developmental testing,” said Lt. Col. Brett DeAngelis, the 1st SOG Det. 2 commander. “Now that we know the equipment works when we turn it on, it’s our task to determine the best way to employ our newest asset.”

For most, the new gunship is the future.

“The AC-130J brings new technology to the table for AFSOC with more efficient engines, improved fuel efficiency and the ability to fly higher, further and quieter,” said Master Sgt. Michael Ezell, the 1st SOAMXS production superintendent. “Additionally, the modified weapons system it possesses is a precision strike package that was collected from the older models, such as the laser-guided bombs and AGM-176 Griffin bombs, and combined to give us all the capabilities of the AC-130W Stinger II and AC-130U Spooky all in one package.”

The AC-130J is a modified MC-130J Commando II, containing advanced features that will enable it to provide ground forces with an expeditionary, direct-fire platform that is persistent, suited for urban operations and capable of delivering precision munitions against ground targets.

“This is an exciting transition as we move the AC-130J from the test community to the operational community,” DeAngelis said. “While we still have initial operational testing in front of us to accomplish, it will now be done by aircrews selected for their combat expertise, instead of their testing background.”

A cadre of 60 aircrew and maintainers were selected by the Air Force Personnel Center to stand up the program, and there will be an additional 30 contractors to help work on the new gunship.

“We will be training on the airplane, getting all the qualifications and hands-on experience we need to be able to perform operational testing in order to give an exact picture of how this plane will operate in a real-world environment,” Ezell said. “Our focus right now is to learn how to maintain the aircraft and the operators will learn how to fly it and get ready for (initial operational test and evaluation), which should start later this year.”

Airmen were hand selected to work on the new AC-130J; they encompass a solid background and level of expertise on C-130Js. The maintenance team cadre came from Little Rock AFB, Arkansas, Dyess AFB, Texas, Kirtland AFB, New Mexico, Davis-Monthan AFB, Arizona, and Cannon AFB, New Mexico.

“As more AC-130Js are produced and delivered, the older models will slowly be retired,” DeAngelis said. “Until then, we’ll hold on to them while the AC-130J completes operational tests and the fleet becomes abundant in numbers.”

Operational testing is expected to be complete in spring 2016.

“Det. 2’s mission is simple; ‘Get it right,’” DeAngelis said. “And we have the right group of people to do just that.”

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