Ghostrider Testing Takes a Knee

Developmental testing of the next generation AC-130J Ghostrider gunship has been suspended until the first 105 mm gun-armed aircraft is delivered, Air Force Materiel Command boss Gen. Ellen Pawlikowski said. After reviewing the original C-130J flight test data after the mishap that totaled the first AC-130J prototype, testers found that the gunship was similar enough to the base-model aircraft that repeating certain tests would be redundant, Air Force Special Operations Command boss Lt. Gen. Bradley Heithold added. Furthermore, there is very little point to continuing developmental testing “prior to the addition of that gun,” which will equip the production aircraft, Pawlikowski said speaking at AWS16 Wednesday. Continuing developmental testing and “then having to redo some of it because you’ve obviously changed the airflow, weight, and balance,” was determined to be counterproductive, she said. The first up-gunned Block 20 gunship—the fourth prototype overall—entered conversion last year and is slated to resume developmental testing “fairly shortly,” she said. In the meantime, “we continue to fly the Block 10 aircraft in what we call operational utility assessment, and it’s all going great,” said Heithold. “Nothing has reached the point that I am overly concerned about the AC-130J,” he added. AFMC and AFSOC are forming a combined developmental/operational test team “since there’s a limited number of test assets,” at Eglin Air Force Base and Hurlburt Field in Florida. “There will still be dedicated DT because there are things that we want to validate,” she noted. The fifth AC-130J entered conversion last December.