CANNON AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. --
Members of the 27th Special Operations Group, Detachment 2 generated their first local flight of the newly acquired AC-130J Ghostrider gunship aircraft Aug. 19, 2021.
The flight occurred in local airspace, culminating with a live fire exercise over Melrose Air Force Range. Approximately 250 rounds were fired from the 30mm weapon at various targets, testing the accuracy and firing rate of the weapon. The flight helped the crew familiarize themselves with the aircraft and its components.
"This initial flight is a validation for all the work our maintenance professionals have put into this aircraft," said Lt. Col. Brian Schmidt, 27 SOG, DET 2 operations officer. "It's also the first flight for the detachment, which lets us start our training so we can deploy in the near future."
The AC-130J arrived at the 27th Special Operations Wing in July, bringing more capabilities to Cannon and AFSOC with updated weapons and engines systems.
"This aircraft is the fifth generation of the ‘A-C’ line of gunships", Schmidt said. "It flies higher, flies faster and it flies further. It also integrates new technology into the onboard systems and comes equipped with more capable sensors and weaponry.”
The AC-130J is equipped with the Precision Strike Package, which includes a mission management console, fire control equipment, precision guided munitions delivery capabilities, and trainable 30mm and 105mm weapons. Fully integrated navigation and weather radar systems allow the aircraft to navigate at extreme accuracies. These updated systems add one more aircraft to Cannon and AFSOC’s growing arsenal.
"Any unit in AFSOC, or Special Operations Command in general, needs to be capable of more than one mission, " said Maj. Ryan Whitehead, 27 SOG, DET 2 assistant operations officer. "Our mission is to provide fire, provide support, and provide whatever our allies need from us. We have multiple platforms here at Cannon AFB capable of supporting a varied mission set that help us meet those needs and win.”
The enhanced versatility and flexibility of the Ghostrider line up with Chief of Staff of the Air Force Gen. Brown's "Accelerate Change or Lose" directive, which is meant to keep the Air Force at the forefront of all future operations. Adding more airborne weapons systems increases the lethality of Cannon, AFSOC and the U.S. Military as a whole.
"We are a unit built on two things: Special Operations Force Generation and great power [competition]," Schmidt said. "A lot of us are familiar with training to forward deploy to a specific battlefield. The battlefields of today don't look like they used to; it's that great power [competition], where we will leverage the capabilities of the AC-130J across the globe and prevent armed conflicts in the future.”