AC-130J Ghostrider Gunship (courtesy
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The U.S. Air Force doesn’t want to waste its your money. In theory. In practice, the U.S.A.F.’s Director of Operational Test and Evaluation (DOT&E) tries to make sure sh*t works as advertised. Robert F. Behler’s 2017 annual fiscal [sic] report reveals that the 30mm cannon on the new AC130J Ghostrider gunship is having “issues.” reports . . .

The AC-130J Ghostrider’s 30mm cannon fires up to 200 Coca-Cola bottle-sized rounds per minute ― but it recoils so heavily it causes a “retrigger,” forcing the gun to automatically stop firing while it re-centers itself. The operator then has to release and re-pull the trigger to start shooting again . . .

The report said that the retrigger happens when the 30mm’s recoil kicks it beyond a preset angular limit, which is called “tracking inhibit,” which shuts off the gun and starts the re-centering process.

Now how much did you pay? But wait! There’s more! 

The 30mm, which is a pallet-mounted, side-firing chain gun, is also having calibration problems. Its gun fire control system should compensate for altitude, slant range and ambient wind changes after it is calibrated, to make sure the first rounds fired at the target are accurate.

But that’s not happening, testers said.

“Operators are unable to independently update the [fire control system’s] wind calibration factor without changing the inherent gun-mount calibration factor,” the report said . . .

The report also dinged the Ghostrider for its software complexity, inadequate training and technical manuals, and overall operating environment, which it said diminishes the aircraft’s usability.

Speaking of the gunship’s operating environment, it’s a good thing the Ghostrider’s 105mm cannon — added at the insistence of former head of Air Force Special Operations Command Lt. Gen. Bradley “I Want Two Guns” Heithold  — is such a joy to operate. Or is it?

The Air Force has added panels to cover the cargo area floor of the modified MC-130J, to reduce the risk of air crew tripping. But those new panels are interfering with the loading of the 105mm shells, the report said.

AC-130J Ghostrider's cannon (courtesy

And the 105mm ammunition rack doesn’t have a forward restraint, which is causing “an excessive number of rounds” to come loose.

Question: what’s an acceptable number of 105mm rounds to come loose inside an airplane?

I know: teething troubles. All new weapons systems have them. It’s only a matter of time before the Air Force sorts out the problems bedeviling “the ultimate battle plane.” Time and money. Lots and lots of money.

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    • It sounds like they made something worse with a whole lot of group think and bright ideas, and spent a lot of money in the process.

  1. Ok, age showing…..I was there when the 130 were converted to gunships originally. Before the end in Vietnam, the 130s has 20mm, 40mm and 105mm guns. I don’t remember any complaints about unreliable fire control systems, or any of the equipment. What has happened that the current geniuses cannot achieve what was mastered all those years ago?

    BTW, I witnessed a 130 gunship drop into a jungle airfield, dump brass, and return to the fight (which was just over the hill). Apparently, the gun crews (loaders, not gunners) couldn’t stand up with all the shell casings on the deck, and they ejects needed to be removed. Snow shovels were on the TOE.

    • I’ll second that. I knew several crew members and guys on the ground directing fire.
      It worked just fine In Panama.

    • I’ve chatted with men who were crew in AC-130’s, and they never, ever had a complaint with the old inventory of hatred they aimed at the ground. Ever. They always said “the best part of the whole ship is that everything just worked.” They loved how there wasn’t that much was was “stupidly high-tech.” The guns were well-proven, the plane was well-proven, their only complaint was that it was loud as hell, even when the guns weren’t firing.

      As a taxpayer, I always thought of the AC-130 as something that was bought, paid for, it worked, why screw around with it?

      Oh, wait – I know. Some engineer got a bright idea…

      • Engineers don’t have the bright ideas… we’re the poor sons of bitches who have to figure out how to make the bright ideas of some asshole with shiny stars on his shoulders actually work.

        • Amen! We engineers get asked to make turn some guy’s PowerPoint pitch to Congress into reality. Then when they see the cost, they ask us to do it for peanuts and with less guys than the job actuallly needs. Then they ask us why it’s taking so long. On behalf of all the schlubs who work these awful programs for a living, all I can say is you should be thankful ANY of it works!

      • Some dweeb in the puzzle palace said “Wait, what if we added computers?”, after a computer contractor bought him lunch and a 30 year old bottle of scotch.

        • 30yo? Damn, that’s a cheap sell. (It’s like $200 for good scotch) I’d hold out for a 40yo bottle of Armagnac at least.

    • Lemme get this straight…
      The gun kicks so hard it makes the trigger stick and prevents automatic fire?
      Maybe if they put a bump stock on it…

    • Yeah, back then we could go to the moon anytime we wanted too, as well. Nowdays not so much! Hmmmm?

    • My guess is logistics. How many other systems were using the 40mm Bofors. The 30mm chain gun uses the same gun and ammunition as the Apache gunships, is belt fed (vs manual clip feed for the Bofors), and shoots faster and flatter.

      But there are always unexpected problems combined with creeping featuritis. References to the Sgt York DIVAD system were deliberately intentional.

    • Apparently the ammo for the old Bofors guns was drying up. The Air Force has guys who job it is to scour the world for ammo to feed the guns. Of course, rather than just contract for some new ammo or replace the system with Bofors new(er) L70 hotness, they build a whole new weapon system.

      The military doesn’t need more money. It’s got plenty of money, it just needs to slash paper shufflers and quit trying to build wunderwaffen.

  2. Food for thought –
    Can this plane win a war without troops on the ground?
    Can troops on the ground win a war without this plane?
    What are the odds of one of these pilots dying in combat?
    What are the odds of the average infantryman dying in combat?
    Why do we continue to invest insane amounts money in innovations and new technology in everything except ground combat, where the participants are exponentially more likely to be injured or killed?

    And I don’t wanna hear shit about the Marines new H&Ks. They should have damn Halo Spartan suits by now.

    • If you can figure out how to deal with the energy density storage problem, let me know… But ODST soft-suits are not an unreasonable demand. Power armor takes A LOT of power. Like a 500hp generator running 24/7 to run the damn thing. The human body has horrendous mechanical disadvantages built into its form factor.

      • Those are some tiny coke bottles… That’s less than two inches across. Unless we’re talking about the other kind of coke, a chairforce indulgence in which would explain the existence of this retardation.

        • I think the reporter was referring to whole 30 mm cartridge, not just the projectile, to remind him of coke bottle.

  3. I was just about to hit the Buy Now thingy and then I read the review.
    Appreciate the informed comments, probably saved me a lot of $.
    If it ain’t broke don’t fix it.
    Thank you.

  4. So… how much coke did the chairforce generals have to snort off of a hooker’s ass to make this sound like a good idea?

      • Which the hell navy in its right mind spends $4b on a ship that is designed to be sacrificed? Destroyers are not capital ships, they are expendable pawns of the fleet are they not? Or is navy using the designation for some sort of intended subterfuge?

        What the hell air force spends $35b on a starship that will not have software for its weapons until two years after fielded?

        • Ship classes have lost a lot of their meaning with the advance of the aircraft carrier and the guided missile destroyer / cruiser. A modern DD is just as much of a main combatant as a WWI / WWII BB. After all, when one missile hit can send your platform to the bottom, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to build them bigger if they don’t need to be.

          But yeah, the new destroyers are pants on head retarded. The ammo they need don’t actually make them any more useful than an Arleigh Burke, but they are a shit ton more expensive. They swabbies would have been better off making a modernized Arleigh Burke, but they decided to make a whole new class for several times the cost. (The ticket price on an Arleigh Burke is 1.7 Billion comparing to the new 4.2 of the Zumwalts.)

          The only thing the new Zumwalts would be good for is a platform for the railguns they are developing, but it doesn’t make a lot of sense to build the hull until the main gun is ready for sea trials.

          • The whole navy going littoral, and coast guard going deep water seems “pants on the head” also.

            Especially given that ship drivers seem to have trouble employing “see and avoid” anti-collision.

      • Well, the UK is building two new supercarriers when they don’t even have enough sailors to man even _one_ supercarrier — let alone the money to pay for the supercarriers.
        The UK government ordered the supercarriers (that they can’t afford to man, or even build!) as a “status symbol” for the UK, another sad, expensive attempt to regain the “glory days” of the old “British Empire.”
        The Brits buying supercarriers is like an unemployed person buying a Mercedes; it’s just plain stupid.

        As for the U.S. Navy, well, our toys are even more expensive than the UK’s toys.
        The U.S. wrote the book on overpriced, overbudget, hyper-expensive ships that we can’t afford to even risk sailing near enemy territory because they’re too expensive to risk losing!
        Warships that have to avoid wars, because they’re too expensive to lose!
        What a colossal waste of taxpayer money.
        It would be better for the Navy to invest in transport ships to ferry tanks and infantry into battle, because land power is what wins wars, not hyper-expensive ships that are too expensive to sail into enemy waters for fear of getting sunk!

  5. This why Flight Testing occurs. Working out the bugs. Every weapons system ever invented has had its problems. After all, humans are not perfect. In less of course you have a “D” after your name. LOL

  6. It is encouraging to read all these comments. I stated in 1980 or 81 that the Wehrmacht lost WWII because they let excellence get in the way of good enough and the US military was embarking on the same course.

    Let’s blame the F-35! All the other branches got jealous after the AF sold idiot politicians on that Turkey, and used the same tactics for the same results.

    Sure wish I could predict the stock market as easily!!!

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