Air Force gets first upgraded 'Ghostrider' gunship

news
U.S. Air Force MC-130J Command IIs assigned to the 17th Special Operations Squadron fly in formation Feb. 17, 2016, off the coast of Okinawa, Japan. The 17th SOS conducted a unit-wide training exercise which tasked the entire squadron with a quick-reaction, full-force sortie involving a five-ship formation flight, cargo drops, short runway landings and takeoffs, and helicopter air-to-air refueling. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Peter Reft/Released)

Editor's Note: This article by Oriana Pawlyk originally appeared on Military.com, a leading source of news for the military and veteran community.

The Air Force has received an upgraded version of its Ghostrider gunship.

The 4th Special Operations Squadron, 1st Special Operations Wing, at Hurlburt Field, Florida, received its first AC-130J Ghostrider Block 30 gunship this week during a ceremony at Bob Sikes Airport in Crestview, Florida, Air Force Special Operations Command said in a news release Thursday.


The 4th Special Operations Squadron currently operates and maintains the AC-130U Spooky.

The Block 30 model marks "a major improvement in software and avionics technology" over the original Block 20 software AC-130J, the release states.

"The Ghostrider is the newest and most modernized gunship in existence, fulfilling the same mission sets as the Spooky but with upgraded avionics, navigation systems and a precision strike package that includes trainable 30mm and 105mm weapons," according to the release.

The first Block 30 model will remain in a testing-only status for a year before it can deploy for battlefield operations, officials said.

Along with the 105mm cannon the U-models sport, the AC-130J is equipped with a 30mm cannon "almost like a sniper rifle. ... It's that precise, it can pretty much hit first shot, first kill," Col. Tom Palenske, then-commander of 1st Special Operations Wing, told Military.com last May at Hurlburt.

The model achieved initial operational capability in September 2017.

The J-model also has improved turboprop engines, which reduce operational costs with better flight sustainability, the service has said.

It has the ability to launch 250-pound, GPS- or laser-guided small-diameter bombs (SDB). The aircraft is expected to carry AGM-114 Hellfire missiles, interchangeable with the SDBs on its wing pylons, AFSOC has said.

Palenske said last year that airmen have been waiting to see the aircraft in action.

"It's 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. That's my prediction," he said.

The fourth-generation J is slated to replace the AC-130H/U/W models, with delivery of the final J- model sometime in 2021, according to the Air Force. The service plans to buy 37 of the aircraft.

Crews expect the J to be deployed in late 2019 or early 2020.

"It's our big gun truck," Palenske said. "It's going to have more powerful engines, a more efficient fuel rate. ... You can keep the sensors on the bad guys longer ... [and] it's also going to have AGM-176 [Griffin] missiles on the back, so you can put 10 missiles on the back of them.

"It's going to be awesome," he said.

-- Oriana Pawlyk can be reached at oriana.pawlyk@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @Oriana0214.

This article originally appeared on Military.com

More articles from Military.com:

Editor's Note: This article by Matthew Cox originally appeared on Military.com, a leading source of news for the military and veteran community.

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.

Read More Show Less

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

(Reuters/Jim Urquhart)

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."

Read More Show Less

OAKLAND, Calif. — A United States Coast Guard commander was charged with illegal importation of controlled substances Wednesday, a U.S. Justice Department spokesman said.

Read More Show Less

Tom Delonge has been speculating about aliens for years. According to Vulture, he quit Blink 182, the band he founded, years ago to "expose the truth about aliens," and he founded To The Stars Academy of Arts and Sciences "to advance society's understanding of scientific phenomena and its technological implications" — or, in simpler terms, to research UFOs and extraterrestrial life.

Read More Show Less

A tentative plan to build 20 miles of extra border wall in Arizona, on top of the already approved 100-plus miles, was put on hold Monday by the Pentagon.

Federal officials hoped to build the extra 20 miles of wall in the Border Patrol's Tucson and Yuma sectors. The Army Corps of Engineers said late last month that funds would come from other wall contracts that might cost less than expected. But those savings did not materialize, according to documents filed Monday in federal court in Washington, D.C.

Read More Show Less