The first airframe designated to test the up-gunned AC-130J Ghostrider-configuration was delivered for conversion earlier this month, Air Force Special Operations Command spokeswoman Erica Vega told Air Force Magazine. MC-130J serial number 13-5772, which was ferried from Lockheed Martin’s production facility in Marietta, Ga., to Crestview, Fla., on Sept. 10, will become the fourth Ghostrider prototype. The first three airframes were built to Block 10 standards with a 30mm gun, low-yield precision-guided weapons, and high definition sensors. The fourth aircraft will be the first Block 20 airframe armed with the 105mm weapon. “There’s a little bit of delay caused by my up-gunning the aircraft,” AFSOC boss Lt. Gen. Bradley Heithold explained at ASC15 last week. Conversion of the third AC-130J, delivered back in July, should be completed by next March, while the fourth aircraft “should take about a year to compete,” noted Vega. Both aircraft will support operational testing at Hurlburt Field, Fla. (See also Ghostrider Gains and Pains in the September issue of Air Force Magazine.)
Whether the F-35 fighter will get new engines from the Air Force’s cutting-edge Adaptive Engine Transition Program is a question that needs to be resolved at the Defense Department level, Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall told lawmakers May 17—and he anticipates an answer in the 2024 budget.