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The Air Force’s upgraded AC-130 gunship is working overtime in Afghanistan
It's been just over four months since the Air Force's AC-130J Ghostrider kicked off combat missions in the skies above Afghanistan, and the aircraft that the service once described as "the ultimate battle plane" and "a bomb truck with guns on it" is already bringing the pain on a daily basis.
Speaking to Stars & Stripes, Combined Joint Special Operations Air Component–Afghanistan commander Col. Terence Taylor revealed that the Ghostrider has flown a total of 218 sorties amounting to 1,380 hours over roughly 130 days, which shakes out to an average of five sorties every three days since the aircraft first arrived downrange in late June.
Based on that average, the Ghostrider likely flew 168 sorties between late June and the end of September alone — which, according to airpower data from Air Forces Central Command on sorties conducted in support of NATO's Resolute Support mission through September 30th, means that Ghostrider sorties accounted for roughly 9.1 percent of the 1,838 combat sorties that took place during the first nine months of 2019 where at least one weapon was released.
This should come as no surprise: According to Taylor, U.S. forces fighting the Taliban downrange simply can't get enough of the new battlewagon.
"Every night, the AC-130J is flying," he told Stars & Stripes on Wednesday. "The people they are supporting are requesting them every single night."
An AC-130J Ghostrider gunship assigned to the 73rd Special Operations Squadron takes off from Hurlburt Field, Florida, Sept. 26, 2019 (U.S. Air Force/Airman 1st Class Joseph P. Leveille)
The Ghostrider first arrived "just days before" the June 28 change of command ceremony for new AFSOC commander Air Force Lt. Gen. James Slife, according to the Northwest Florida Daily News, deploying to relieve the AC-130U Spooky following that aircraft's final combat sorties that month.
There's an obvious reason that the Ghostrider has been in such high demand: the gunship comes equipped with the standard 105mm cannon and an additional 30mm GAU-23/A cannon, along with wing pylons designed to haul both GBU-39/B Small Diameter Bombs and AGM-114 Hellfire missiles.
The Ghostrider's 30mm cannon in particular is "almost like a sniper rifle. ... It's that precise, it can pretty much hit first shot, first kill," then-1st SOW commander Col. Tom Palenske told Millitary.com back in 2017, stating that the aircraft is "going to [be] the most lethal, with the most loiter time, probably the most requested weapons system from ground forces in the history of warfare."
It looks like Palenske was right, as CJSOAC-A enlisted leader Chief Master Sgt. Edward Fry told Stars & Stripes.
"Them hearing the sound of the gunship overhead, that in many ways serves to embolden them," he told Stars & Stripes of Afghan security forces downrange. "Even if the gunship doesn't fire one round, it still provides that utility."
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.
On a military base, a black flag is bad news. That means it's too hot outside to do anything strenuous, so training and missions are put off until conditions improve.
As the climate changes, there could be plenty more black flag days ahead, especially in Florida, a new analysis from the Union of Concerned Scientists found. America's military bases could see an average of an extra month of dangerously hot days by mid-century. In Florida, they could quadruple.
Pentagon data shows heat-related illnesses and injuries are on the rise in every branch of the military. Last year, nearly 2,800 troops suffered heatstroke or heat exhaustion, a roughly 50 percent jump from 2014.
"I think most of us, if we hear there are tens of thousands of cases of heat stress in our troops every year, our minds would go to where they were deployed," said Kristy Dahl, a senior climate scientist at UCS and the lead author of the study. "But more than 90% of the military cases of heatstroke happened right here at home."
BANGKOK (Reuters) - The United States and South Korea said on Sunday they will postpone upcoming military drills in an effort to bolster a stalled peace push with North Korea, even as Washington denied the move amounted to another concession to Pyongyang.
The drills, known as the Combined Flying Training Event, would have simulated air combat scenarios and involved an undisclosed number of warplanes from both the United States and South Korea.
An opening ceremony will be held Monday on Hawaii island for a military exercise with China that will involve about 100 People's Liberation Army soldiers training alongside U.S. Army counterparts.
This comes after Adm. Phil Davidson, head of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, spoke on Veterans Day at Punchbowl cemetery about the "rules-based international order" that followed U.S. victory in the Pacific in World War II, and China's attempts to usurp it.
Those American standards "are even more important today," Davidson said, "as malicious actors like the Communist Party of China seek to redefine the international order through corruption, malign cyber activities, intellectual property theft, restriction of individual liberties, military coercion and the direct attempts to override other nations' sovereignty."
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump on Sunday told North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to "act quickly" to reach a deal with the United States, in a tweet weighing in on North Korea's criticism of his political rival former Vice President Joe Biden.
Trump, who has met Kim three times since 2018 over ending the North's missile and nuclear programs, addressed Kim directly, referring to the one-party state's ruler as "Mr. Chairman".
In his tweet, Trump told Kim, "You should act quickly, get the deal done," and hinted at a further meeting, signing off "See you soon!"