HURLBURT FIELD — The final AC-130U Spooky gunship returned to the base Monday from its last scheduled combat deployment, marking another milestone in the transition from the Spooky to the updated AC-130J Ghostrider gunship.
The Spooky has spent nearly a quarter-century in the field, seeing combat for the first time in 1995.
In a news release on the last Spooky's return to Hurlburt Field, headquarters of Air Force Special Operations Command, the Ghostrider is called "the most lethal and innovative gunship in the world."
“This begins the ending of an era for one of the most well-known aircraft in the special operations world, but it doesn’t mean our Air Commandos will be making any less of impact on the battlefield,” Air Force Col. Michael Conley, commander of the 1st Special Operations Wing at Hurlburt, said in the news release.
“The Ghostrider is seamlessly taking the Spooky’s position downrange," Conley added. "There is no rest for our enemies, and our gunships will own the night for years to come.”
The AC-130J is the latest in a long line of gunships built on the venerable C-130 airframe, which has been around since the 1950s. The 73rd Special Operations Squadron at Hurlburt currently is the only operational AC-130J squadron.
The Ghostrider is armed with precision-guided munitions delivery capabilities, along with 30mm and 105mm weapons, a mission management console, robust communications suite, two electro-optical/infrared sensors and advanced fire control equipment, according to the release.
Aside from one six-month squadron reconstitution in 2013, AC-130U Spookys assigned to the 4th Special Operations Squadron at Hurlburt Field have been constantly deployed in support of overseas contingencies since 2001. That operational tempo has earned the 4th SOS the designation of “most deployed squadron in the Air Force” on multiple occasions.
While the Spooky gunships assigned to Hurlburt have been returned from combat deployments, they will continue to be used in training and other missions until the transition to the AC-130J Ghostrider is completed.