EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Fla., Feb. 10 (UPI) -- The U.S. Air Force reports a newly modified AC-130J Ghostrider gunship has performed a maiden flight in Florida.
Modification of the MC-130J married the flying proficiencies of the MC-130 with the combat capabilities of a C-130.
The Air Force announced last week it is retiring its last eight AC-130H Spectre gunships, an aircraft that has seen service in every U.S. military conflict since the Vietnam War.
Converting a mobility aircraft into a strike aircraft meant adding a precision strike package developed by U.S. Special Operations Command to support ground forces in overseas contingency operations. Included in the package are dual electro-optical infrared sensors, a 30-mm cannon, AGM-176A Griffin missiles, all-weather synthetic aperture radar and GBU-39 small-diameter bomb capabilities.
The sensors allow the gunship to visually or electronically identify friendly ground forces and targets at any time, even in adverse weather.
"These new weapon systems and small diameter bombs provide over watch and further standoff distance to cover a wider range of space for our warfighters on the ground," said Maj. Eric Ripple, the USSOCOM Detachment 1 commander at Eglin Air Force Base.
The Air Force plans to modify a total of 32 MC-130J aircraft for its Special Operations Command.