Get Task & Purpose in your inbox
The Air Force’s ‘Ultimate Battle Plane’ Has A Major Gun Problem
In the five years since the Air Force converted an MC-130J Combat Shadow II into a next-generation AC-130J Ghostrider ground-attack aircraft, Air Force Special Operations Command hasn’t been able to stop bulking up the airframe’s weapons systems. They added a 105mm cannon and are even considering the future installation of a frickin’ laser beam to make the Ghostrider “the ultimate battle plane” for close air support; the Ghostrider's muscular arsenal has led AFSOC officials to call it “a bomb truck with guns on it.”
But a new Pentagon report reveals a serious problem with this truck’s guns. Buried in a January 2018 after-action from the DoD’s Office of the Director of Operational Test and Evaluation (and flagged by our friends at The War Zone) is a relatively alarming assessment of the Ghostrider: The aircraft’s fire control systems “performed inconsistently when accounting for changing ballistic conditions” like shifts in altitude and ambient wind; those factors frequently required in-flight recalibrations to ensure the gun and mount actually remained on target.
Even worse, the report states that recoil from the 30mm GAU-23/A cannon’s full rate of fire (a blistering 200 rounds a minute) causes the gun to shake so aggressively that the fire control system’s automatic safeguards kick in, and the operator has to allow the gun and mount to recenter before opening fire again. Both of these problems, the report notes, are absent from the Ghostrider’s predecessor, the AC-130W Stinger.
AFSOC declared that the Ghostrider had reached initial operating capacity in September 2017, and the command remains confident that the aircraft “will support most elements of the Close Air Support and Air Interdiction missions,” as the report states. But, the report warns, the overstuffed skunkwork project has the potential to be a real Frankenstein's monster: “The complexity of system software, inadequate training and technical manuals, and the overall operating environment aboard the AC-130J diminishes usability.”
The 30mm cannon on a AC-130J Ghostrider gunship at the Lockheed Martin factory in Crestview, Fla., Oct. 24, 2016.U.S. Air Force/Airman 1st Class Joseph Pick
Obviously, the 30mm cannon isn’t the only tool in the Ghostrider's arsenal. The aircraft boasts GPS- and laser-guided AGM-176A Griffin missiles and the deliciously destructive GBU-39/B Small Diameter Bombs, not to mention the 105mm howitzer jutting from the airframe’s side. Indeed, the service plans on adding even more deadly goodies to the Ghostrider, including upgraded SDBs and powerful AGM-114 Hellfire missiles, to say nothing of that frickin’ laser beam.
But the 30mm issues in particular spell big trouble for the AC-130’s long-held status as a weapon of choice for “danger close” operations. “AC-130s have developed an excellent reputation for being precision tools ideal for ‘danger close’ missions where enemy forces are close to friendly troops, innocent bystanders, or both,” as the War Zone notes. “A loss of calibration or severe vibrations could send shells flying wildly off the mark, potentially leading to friendly fire or civilian casualties.”
On the upside, the report states that the 105 mm howitzer is doing just fine, with its rounds demonstrating “expected lethality against personnel, trucks, and light armored vehicles.” So there’s that, I guess.
An Air Force civilian has died at Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar in a "non-combat related incident," U.S. Air Forces Central Command announced on Friday.
Jason P. Zaki, 32, died on Wednesday while deployed to the 609th Air Operations Center from the Pentagon, an AFCENT news release says.
At a time when taxpayer and foreign-government spending at Trump Organization properties is fueling political battles, a U.S. Marine Corps reserve unit stationed in South Florida hopes to hold an annual ball at a venue that could profit the commander in chief.
The unit is planning a gala to celebrate the 244th anniversary of the Marines' founding at President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach on Nov. 16, according to a posting on the events website Evensi.
QUANTICO, Virginia -- They may not be deadly, but some of the nonlethal weapons the Marine Corps is working on look pretty devastating.
The Marine Corps Joint Nonlethal Weapons Directorate is currently testing an 81mm mortar round that delivers a shower of flashbang grenades to disperse troublemakers. There is also an electric vehicle-stopper that delivers an electrical pulse to shut down a vehicle's powertrain, designed for use at access control points.
"When you hear nonlethal, you are thinking rubber bullets and batons and tear gas; it's way more than that," Marine Col. Wendell Leimbach Jr., director of the Joint Nonlethal Weapons Directorate, told an audience at the Modern Day Marine 2019 expo.
RACHEL, Nev. (Reuters) - UFO enthusiasts began descending on rural Nevada on Thursday near the secret U.S. military installation known as Area 51, long rumored to house government secrets about alien life, with local authorities hoping the visitors were coming in peace.
Some residents of Rachel, a remote desert town of 50 people a short distance from the military base, worried their community might be overwhelmed by unruly crowds turning out in response to a recent, viral social-media invitation to "storm" Area 51. The town, about 150 miles (240 km) north of Las Vegas, lacks a grocery store or even a gasoline station.
Dozens of visitors began arriving outside Rachel's only business - an extraterrestrial-themed motel and restaurant called the Little A'Le'Inn - parking themselves in cars, tents and campers. A fire truck was stationed nearby.
Alien enthusiasts descend on the Nevada desert to 'storm' Area 51
Attendees arrive at the Little A'Le'Inn as an influx of tourists responding to a call to 'storm' Area 51, a secretive U.S. military base believed by UFO enthusiasts to hold government secrets about extra-terrestrials, is expected Rachel, Nevada, U.S. September 19, 2019
One couple, Nicholas Bohen and Cayla McVey, both sporting UFO tattoos, traveled to Rachel from the Los Angeles suburb of Fullerton with enough food to last for a week of car-camping.
"It's evolved into a peaceful gathering, a sharing of life stories," McVey told Reuters, sizing up the crowd. "I think you are going to get a group of people that are prepared, respectful and they know what they getting themselves into."