Brace yourselves: the Air Force's newest gunship is officially on the prowl downrange.

The AC-130J Ghostrider gunship flew its first combat mission in Afghanistan in late June, deploying to relieve the AC-130U Spooky aircraft following the latter's final combat sorties, an Air Force Special Operations Command spokesman confirmed to The War Zone on Wednesday.

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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 AC-130U gunship has completed its final combat deployment.

The U.S. Air Force said its AC-130U, known as the "Spooky," has returned stateside from its last scheduled deployment.

The last U-model arrived home to the 1st Special Operations Wing under Air Force Special Operations Command at Hurlburt Field, Florida, on July 8, according to a service news release.

The 1st SOW said the Spooky will remain on alert in case troops need it for strike or overwatch downrange. But its return comes as the command gets ready to deploy the Spooky's follow-on model, the AC-130J Ghostrider.

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The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, often referred to as the mad science wing of the Pentagon, announced on May 9 that it plans on debuting its revolutionary Gremlin Unmanned Aerial System sometime in 2019. And much like the carrier classic military science fiction franchise StarCraft, defense contractor Dynetics designed the Gremlin to launch and recover from a flying mothership — in the case of the U.S. military, a Lockheed C-130 Hercules.

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Air Force Special Operations Command has been itching to add a frickin’ laser beam to the already-brimming arsenal of its AC-130J Ghostrider gunships. But plans for a high-powered add-on to the Air Force’s “ultimate battle plane” may have hit a significant obstacle.

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U.S. Air Force photo

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.”

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U.S. Air Force photo

The AC-130J Ghostrider, the next-generation gunship the Air Force once dubbed its “ultimate battle plane” and “a bomb truck with guns,” will be ready to rain hellfire down on unsuspecting enemies by the end of September, the head of Air Force Special Operations Command announced on Sept. 19.

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