AC-130J Ghostrider is the world’s largest ground attack aircraft developed by the US.
The US military even plans to equip a laser weapon system for this formidable ground attack aircraft. The US Air Force plans to test the laser weapon system on the AC-130J Ghostrider in 2022. If successful, it would mark the first time a laser weapon has been tested on a US Air Force military aircraft.
The AC-130J fire support aircraft is a modified version of the MC-130J (built on the C-130J military transport aircraft), which is expected to replace the AC-130H/U. The first quality inspection flight of the AC-130J Ghostrider was conducted in January 2014.
Lockheed Martin will deliver 37 AC-130J Ghostrider aircraft to the Air Force Special Operations Command by 2021. The total investment for the AC-130J Ghostrider programme is estimated to reach $2.4bn.
The AC-130 family is built for close air support, include supporting ground troops, escorting convoys, and urban operations. The airframe is manufactured by Lockheed Martin, while Boeing is responsible for the conversion into a gunship and for aircraft support.
The most outstanding feature of the AC-130J is that it combines the excellent flight ability of the MC-130J Commando II special-operations tanker and the powerful fire support of the AC-130 series. As a result, the AC-130J can carry out air strikes to support special forces and protect the airspace in the war zone. It has enough power to suppress both pre-planned and unexpected targets.
AC-130J Ghostrider has a length of 29.3m, a height of 11.9m and a wingspan of 39.7m. It can fly at a maximum altitude of 8,500m with a cargo load of 19 tons. The maximum take-off weight of the AC-130J is 74 tons. This 4th generation gunship has a crew of 2 pilots, three combat system control officers, and three gunners.
The AC-130J is fitted with an AN/ALR-56M radar warning receiver, AN/AAR-47 missile warning system, and AN/ALE-47 countermeasures dispensing system for reduced susceptibility. The safety and protection systems of the aircraft include a fuel protection system from ullage explosion, redundant flight critical components, and lightweight composite armour system to protect crew locations and oxygen supply areas from 7.62mm projectiles.