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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.
Former Army 1st Lt. Clint Lorance, whom President Donald Trump recently pardoned of his 2013 murder conviction, claims he was nothing more than a pawn whom generals sacrificed for political expediency.
The infantry officer had been sentenced to 19 years in prison for ordering his soldiers to open fire on three unarmed Afghan men in 2012. Two of the men were killed.
During a Monday interview on Fox & Friends, Lorance accused his superiors of betraying him.
"A service member who knows that their commanders love them will go to the gates of hell for their country and knock them down," Lorance said. "I think that's extremely important. Anybody who is not part of the senior Pentagon brass will tell you the same thing."
"I think folks that start putting stars on their collar — anybody that has got to be confirmed by the Senate for a promotion — they are no longer a soldier, they are a politician," he continued. "And so I think they lose some of their values — and they certainly lose a lot of their respect from their subordinates — when they do what they did to me, which was throw me under the bus."
Fifteen years after the U.S. military toppled the regime of Saddam Hussein, the Army's massive two-volume study of the Iraq War closed with a sobering assessment of the campaign's outcome: With nearly 3,500 U.S. service members killed in action and trillions of dollars spent, "an emboldened and expansionist Iran appears to be the only victor.
Thanks to roughly 700 pages of newly-publicized secret Iranian intelligence cables, we now have a good idea as to why.
BANGKOK (Reuters) - Defense Secretary Mark Esper expressed confidence on Sunday in the U.S. military justice system's ability to hold troops to account, two days after President Donald Trump pardoned two Army officers accused of war crimes in Afghanistan.
Trump also restored the rank of a Navy SEAL platoon commander who was demoted for actions in Iraq.
Asked how he would reassure countries such as Afghanistan and Iraq in the wake of the pardons, Esper said: "We have a very effective military justice system."
"I have great faith in the military justice system," Esper told reporters during a trip to Bangkok, in his first remarks about the issue since Trump issued the pardons.
For one veteran who fought through the crossfires of German heavy machine guns in the D-Day landings, receiving a Congressional Gold Medal on behalf of his service and that of his World War II comrades would be "quite meaningful."
Bills have been introduced in the House and Senate to award the Army Rangers of World War II the medal, the highest civilian award bestowed by the United States, along with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
An airman at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base was arrested and charged with murder on Sunday after a shooting at a Raleigh night club that killed a 21-year-old man, the Air Force and the Raleigh Police Department said.