The latest affectionate description of the converted MC-130J Combat Shadow II is probably the best — and it reflects the branch’s excitement to get this bad boy in the air.
"That's the sound America makes when she's angry,” 1st Special Operations Wing commander Col. Tom Palenske told Military.com air reporter Oriana Pawlyk of the Ghostrider’s arsenal as the aircraft brrrrrrrp’d off its 25mm, 40mm, and 105mm cannons in the skies above Hurlburt during Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson’s visit this week. "It's going to be awesome. It's our big gun truck.”
A close up of the AC-130J Ghostrider's 30mm GAU-23/A cannon.U.S. Air Force photo
He’s not wrong: the Ghostrider’s weapons system is, to even the most cursory observer, awe-inspiring. Apart from the 25mm Gatling gun and 40mm cannon Pawlyk observed in action and its payload of various munitions — namely AGM-114 Hellfire missiles and the GPS-guided Small Diameter Bombs favored by the Pentagon after years of uptempo bombing sorties in the Middle East — the Ghostrider will boast a 30mm cannon that Palenske described as "almost like a sniper rifle … it's that precise, it can pretty much hit first shot, first kill.”
That’s before you even get to the 105mm cannon that AFSOC slapped on the back of the airframe at the insistence of former AFSOC chief Lt. Gen. Bradley Heithold. The cannon is literally the equivalent of an inverted howitzer. And while AFSOC always intended for the Ghostrider to operate with the latest electronic warfare package (and increasing priority in recent months alone), the command has also pushed, despite funding obstacles in Congress, to outfit the airframe with a high-powered directed energy weapon that could disable enemy vehicles, communications, and power sources.
A close up of the AC-130J Ghostrider's 105mm cannonU.S. Air Force photo
Ironically, AFSOC’s new angel of death may be too overgunned for its own good, if you can imagine such a thing. A recent evaluation from DoD’s Office of the Director of Operational Test and Evaluation found the aircraft’s fire control systems “performed inconsistently when accounting for changing ballistic conditions,” like strong crosswinds and sudden changes in altitude (inconsistencies that would necessitate on-the-fly recalibrations). But the report also found that the recoil 30mm GAU-23/A cannon’s fastest rate of fire causes the gun to shake so aggressively that automatic safeguards kick in, requiring the gun and mount to recenter before going to town again. The sniper rifle, it seems, is too powerful for the airframe.
Palenske insisted to Military.com that the report “drastically exaggerated” the problem. He also said that it’s already been fixed. “All of the gun actuating systems are electric as opposed to hydraulic. Hydraulic's sloppy," Palenske told Pawlyk of the Ghostrider’s new gun mounts. "And remember, we're just bringing this thing online. You can't expect to slap this thing together … and have that thing come out perfect.”
A big, expensive gun that’s the close air support version of a bucking bronco? There’s nothing more American than that.
Benjamin Franklin nailed it when he said, "Fatigue is the best pillow." True story, Benny. There's nothing like pushing your body so far past exhaustion that you'd willingly, even longingly, take a nap on a concrete slab.
Airman 1st Class Isaiah Edwards has been sentenced to 35 years in prison after a military jury found him guilty of murder in connection with the death of a fellow airman in Guam, Air Force officials announced on Tuesday.
A Russian man got drunk as all hell and tried to hijack an airplane on Tuesday, according to Russian news agencies.
So, pretty much your typical day in Siberia. No seriously: As Reuters notes, "drunken incidents involving passengers on commercial flights in Russia are fairly common, though it is unusual for them to result in flights being diverted."