The fleet of new AC-130J Ghostrider special operations gunships has been reduced from 37 to 30 as a result of a covert Pentagon decision.
U.S. The AC-130H Spectre, AC-130W Stinger II, and AC-130U Spooky were three older gunships that Special Operations Command intended to replace with roughly 40 Ghostriders. All 37 of the aircraft have since been decommissioned. In its budget request for the fiscal year 2023, SOCOM wrote that it would continue to operate 30 AC-130J aircraft. An Air Force fact sheet claims that each airframe costs $165 million. 31 of the gunships were purchased by the military from Lockheed Martin for use in battle, but one that was flown too hard during testing and is no longer airworthy won’t be replaced. Currently, that aircraft is used to educate servicemen on the ground. According to spokesman Lt. Col. Becky Heyse, the military chose to seek a smaller AC-130J fleet in order to “better position [Air Force Special Operations Command] for the future war.” The decision was made not to convert the C-130Js into AC-130Js because of the significant modifications needed to add the gun and other capabilities, according to Heyse. The 193rd Special Operations Squadron will receive the remaining C-130Js as MC-130Js to restock their fleet.