The US Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) has taken delivery of the first AC-130J aircraft to undergo the AC/MC 130J Radio Frequency Countermeasures (RFCM) upgrade at Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC).
The RFCM suite, integrated by SNC, operates the ALQ-251 system developed by Northrop Grumman.
It provides threat detection, precision geolocation and active countermeasure capabilities, giving special operation forces (SOF) operators accurate and timely situational awareness information and improving aircraft survivability.
SNC is delivering the upgrade under a $700 million contract from 2020 that covers RFCM systems for the AC-130J Ghostrider and MC-130J Commando II aircraft operated by Air Force Special Operations Command, with the aim of helping protect aircrews from air- and land-based enemy radar and missile systems.
“SNC is excited to deliver this critical capability to the SOF warfighter,” said Brendan Walsh, vice president of programs for SNC’s IAS business area. “With this delivery, USSOCOM can gain confidence operating in the modern, ever-evolving threat environment thanks to the protection RFCM provides.”
This aircraft, the first AC-130J in the Engineering and Manufacturing Development program phase, will continue to support upcoming developmental and operational test objectives, the company said.
The AC-130J integrates modular components onto existing MC-130J aircraft for close air support, air interdiction and armed reconnaissance. These components include a dual-console mission operator pallet (MOP) in the cargo bay that controls all subsystems with remote displays and control panels on the flight deck; internal, pallet-mounted 30 mm side-firing chain gun and 105 mm cannon; wing-mounted GBU-39/B GPS-guided small diameter bombs and AGM-176 Griffin laser-guided missiles.
In addition to these, USSOCOM is also testing directed energy weapon systems, or laser weapons, on the aircraft after receiving the first Airborne High Energy Laser (AHEL) system from Lockheed Martin in October last year.