Thursday, April 16, 2015

AC-130J Ghostrider Program Hits Developmental Snags

AC-130J Ghostrider Program Hits Developmental Snags: Air Force Special Operations Command has a history of taking existing aircraft and boosting lethality with new sensors and powerful weapons.

One example is AFSOC’s AC-130, a modified Air Force C-130 Hercules transport aircraft. The AC-130, which has been in the command’s inventory for decades, is currently being revamped with a new J-model, known as the Ghostrider.

The gunship — which is a modified MC-130J aircraft — will be used for close-air support and air interdiction. It is meant to replace aging AC-130 H/U/W gunships and the Air Force plans to convert 32 MC-130Js to the new variant. The first is currently in testing and a second is being built.

However, J. Michael Gilmore, the Pentagon’s top weapons tester, recently found that the aircraft’s developers face a number of developmental issues, including trouble integrating the precision strike package — a key component of the new gunship.

“Problems integrating the PSP weapon kit onto the aircraft continue to delay portions of developmental testing by prohibiting weapons employment,” the fiscal year 2014 office of the director of operational test and evaluation annual report said.

“The visual acuity of the electro-optical/infrared sensors installed on the AC-130J is not sufficient for accurate target identification and designation because the new aircraft causes more vibration than the legacy AC-130W aircraft on which the PSP was previously installed,” it said.

Additionally, electrical/radio frequency interference between the aircraft and the hand controllers used by crewmembers to guide the system’s various sensors and weapons has caused “erratic sensor movements,” the report said.