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Watch An AC-130J Ghostrider Firing Its Cannons Through IR Vision

AC-130J IR
Screenshot showing the AC-130J at work over the Caribbean Sea on Dec. 7, 2023. (Image credit: via SOCSOUTH)

One of the U.S. Air Force AC-130J Ghostrider aircraft involved in an exercise has been filmed as it fired at training targets through an IR sensor.

The AC-130J Ghostrider, a 5th generation gunship that has replaced the AC-130W, AC-130U and AC-130H, and the most heavily-armed in history, is equipped with a trainable 30mm GAU-23/A cannon and 105mm cannon along with hardpoints on its wings for eight GBU-39s or AGM-114 Hellfire missiles.

A video released online by Special Operations Command South, that oversees U.S. Special Operations in Latin America and the Caribbean, shows one of the U.S. Air Force Ghostriders aiming at training targets during a mission over the the Caribbean Sea. With both guns mounted on the port side of the aircraft, the AC-130s are commonly seen orbiting a target in a tight left-hand turn, as shown in the footage shot by one of the other assets involved in the exercise through an EO/IR sensor.

According to SOCSOUTH, on Dec. 7, 2023, the U.S. Special Operation Forces carried out a joint training evolution in the Southern Caribbean which included elements from the Air Force, Navy and Coast Guard. “The event not only honed readiness and interoperability skills but also demonstrated capability and security for the region,” the Command said.

The AC-130J is a highly modified C-130J aircraft that contains many advanced features, including an advanced two-pilot flight station with fully integrated digital avionics, dual inertial navigation systems and GPS, and the Precision Strike Package, which includes a mission management console, robust communications suite, two electro-optical/infrared sensors, advanced fire control equipment, precision guided munitions delivery capability. The mission management system fuses sensor, communication, environment, order of battle and threat information into a common operating picture.

The first AC-130J aircraft completed developmental test and evaluation in June 2015. Initial operational capacity was reached in 2017; full operational capability is forecast for 2025. The first AC-130J squadron, the 73rd Special Operations Squadron, was activated at Hurlburt Field, Florida, Feb. 23, 2018. The 31st and final AC-130J of the AFSOC (Air Force Special Operations Command) was delivered at Cannon Air Force Base in November 2022.

On Nov. 21, 2023, an AC-130J Ghostrider gunship, AC-130J (s/n 18-5886), tracked online while taking part in air strikes against the insurgent group behind the missile attack on US and Coalition personnel at Al Assad Airbase, Iraq. As a direct response to attack, the AC-130J Ghostrider was employed against the Islamic Resistance in Iraq resulting in several casualties and at least three confirmed kills.

The presence of a gunship in the Caribbean Sea and the release of the footage are probably also meant as a deterrence message towards Venezuela amid raising tensions in the region for the reignited dispute with Guyana. Through a referendum last week, the government of Maduro has claimed sovereignty over a territory rich of oil deposits, that accounts for two-thirds of Guyana.

About David Cenciotti
David Cenciotti is a journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written five books and contributed to many more ones.

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