GEAR & TECH

The Air Force is getting ready to deploy this fearsome new gunship

The US Air Force plans to declare its newest gunship, the AC-130J Ghostrider, ready for combat — or initial operating capability in acquisition parlance — this month, but the aircraft won't actually deploy to a war zone for a couple more years, a general said.


"We are declaring IOC, Initial Operating Capability, this month on the AC-J," Lt. Gen. Marshall "Brad" Webb, head of Air Force Special Operations Command, said Sept. 19 during a briefing with reporters at the Air Force Association's annual conference outside Washington, DC.

However, the general added, "That doesn't mean anything with respect to putting it in combat — we're still just shy of two years away from wanting to put those in combat."

USAF Lt. Gen. Brad Webb, commander of Air Force Special Operations Command. USAF photo by Capt. Jessica Tait.

The reason for the delay is because the high pace of operations in countries like Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria makes it difficult to train special operators on the new weapon system, Webb said.

"We're not waiting around," he said. "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?

"We're not going to have the luxury of doing what most normal units do," he added, referring to the typical transition period for returning troops.

"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."

AC-130J Ghostrider. Photo courtesy of USAF.

A heavily modified C-130, the AC-130J features fully integrated digital avionics, as well as a "Precision Strike Package."

The latter 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, according to the Air Force.

The cannons can be mounted on both sides of the aircraft.

The Air Force currently has 10 of the Ghostriders and plans to buy a total of 37 from manufacturer Lockheed Martin Corp., the general said.

The service recently retired the AC-130H and, as of last fiscal year, had a total of 31 AC-130s in the fleet, including three Ghostriders, 16 Spookys, and 12 Stinger IIs, according to information compiled by the Air Force Association.

Humor

The truth about cell phones in Basic Training

Thank god you got out when you did! The moment you received your DD-214, it was officially an end of an era. Hopefully, your branch won't fall victim like all those other, weaker branches did. It's Lord of the Flies in here.

New recruits are arriving in droves and they're pulling out their cell phones to record themselves talking back to their drill sergeants. If the drill sergeants have a problem with it, they whip out their stress cards, go back to eating their Tide Pods, and continue listening to their music (which, coincidentally, has gotten progressively worse since your generation, too).

Keep reading... Show less
Articles

How R. Lee Ermey's Hollywood break is an inspiration to us all

While there have been many outstanding actors and celebrities who have raised their right hand, there has never been a veteran who could finger point his way to the top of Hollywood stardom quite like the late great Gunnery Sergeant R. Lee Ermey.

Keep reading... Show less
Military Life

5 reasons your troops are more important than promotion

If there's one complaint common across the military, it's that commanders too often care more about their careers than the well-being of their troops. It's problematic when higher-ups are willing to put lower enlisted through hell if it means they look good at the end of the day.

Keep reading... Show less
Military Life

'Operation Cure Boredom' is a funny, unrepentant look back at life in the 1990s Air Force

The following is an excerpt from the first book by Air Force veteran and Hollywood writer Dan Martin. Titled Operation Cure Boredom, it's a hilarious collection of short stories chronicling the adventures of Martin's 1990-1994 enlistment in the world's best Air Force.

This chapter, called "Guest on the Range," is about the extraordinary lengths Martin went to in order to qualify on the firing range as a junior enlisted Crew Chief.

Keep reading... Show less
Military Life

The top 6 reasons people decide to join the infantry

Deciding to join the military is a huge step for anyone looking to make a life-altering change. One of the most appealing aspects of becoming a member of the armed forces is the vast array of professional opportunities the service offers.

You can sign up, ship out, and, within a few short months, be guarding a military installation as your newfound brothers- and sisters-in-arms sleep.

Keep reading... Show less
GEAR & TECH

These high-tech glasses could change how sailors train

Training has evolved over the years but the core elements have always remained the same. There's an instructor and a bunch of students. They go over material, both in theory and in practice, mastering the skills required by the job. But no matter how good the teacher, students will always need a refresher from time to time. So, that means it's time to go back to school — or does it?

Now, mixed-reality technology — including smart glasses — could change the way sailors learn the skills they need to serve.

Keep reading... Show less
Entertainment

6 US conflicts that would (probably) make terrible video games

When developers set out to make video games, their focus should always primarily be on crafting a fun and engaging experience. Oftentimes, you'll see video games set far in the future so that developers can place an arsenal of advanced, sci-fi weaponry in the hands of the player — because it's fun. Other times, they'll take cues from real wars and toss the player directly into the heat of a historical battle — because that's fun, too.

Keep reading... Show less
Tactical

How to start a fire with only one hand

Heading out into the wilderness for a camping trip is exhilarating and refreshing. Starting a campfire and roasting some marshmallows under the stars is a great way to get in touch with Mother Nature. Although the idea of spending a night in the great outdoors sounds incredible, campers should always remember to bring specific tools and learn important survival skills in the event they sustain an injury and help is far, far away.

It gets cold out there at night, so it's important to know the basics of starting a fire to keep warm — even in the dire circumstance that you've been injured. Do you know how to start a fire with just one hand? You never know — this skill might just save your life.

Keep reading... Show less