The U.S. Air Force’s newest generation of air gunships, the AC-130J Ghostrider, held its first live-fire exercise in the Philippines, where the AC-130J provided close air support to a target area during an exercise code-named Balikatan. The AC-130J provided close air fire support to the target area during the exercise, code-named Balikatan.
The Air Force Times reported that the Ghost Rider, part of the 73rd Special Operations Squadron at Camp Hurlburt Field, Florida, flew to Kadena AFB, Okinawa, before heading to the Philippines, where the exercise took place.
The flight was the AC-130J’s first overseas assignment and the first live-fire exercise.
The AC-130J is a replacement for the AC-130U Spooky, which has been in service for many years. The biggest difference is the increase in fuselage length, from the original 12.19 meters of the C-130H to 16.76 meters of the C-130J. The AC-130J’s flight time is also longer than that of previous gunships.
The AC-130J also had the same 105mm howitzer, 40mm fast gun, and 25mm cannon, but with upgraded avionics, navigation systems, and precision strike systems to hover over the target airspace and continuously gun the target area.
Captain Aaron Boudreau, pilot of the Ghost Rider, said this is the first time the AC-130J has come to the Philippines and the first time it has flown under the command of a Philippine controller, proving that the U.S.-Philippine alliance is quite solid.
Directing the AC-130J was an attack controller with the Philippine Air Force’s 710th Special Operations Wing.
“Balikatan” is a local Tagalog word meaning “shoulder to shoulder” and is consistent with the original meaning of U.S.-Philippine military cooperation.