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The U.S. Air Force reached a milestone in the test phase of the service’s AC-130J Ghostrider aircraft. Airmen from Hurlburt Field successfully tested the deployment of a Laser Guided Small-Diameter Bomb for the first time ever.

While this event is historic for the AC-130J, it also highlights the momentum to get the aircraft combat ready to deploy and bring its capabilities to the battlefield.

“It will give commanders substantially more strike options, ground forces more protection, and some respite to the heavily tasked gunship community, which is carrying a heavy burden as we undergo an AC-130 transition that last years,” said Lt. Col. Brett DeAngelis, commander of the 1st Special Operations Group, Detachment 2. “The first release of a Laser Small-Diameter Bomb from an AC-130J is a great accomplishment that reflects the teamwork of all involved in the Ghostrider program.”

The 1st SOG, Det 2, was not only tasked with operationally testing the AC-130J, but also training aircrews and developing new tactics, techniques and procedures for the aircraft. The aircraft has been in its initial operational test and evaluation (IOT&E) stage for 15 months and this milestone is only one of many it has and will accomplish.

“Being a part of the AC-130J team is an incredible experience that I’m immensely proud of,” DeAngelis said. “The things we are doing today we will each remember for a long time. While first-time events like the Laser SDB drop get some attention, the day-to-day work in this program is full of unknowns that need solutions based on judgment and experience.”

Master Sgt. Matthew Colbert, senior enlisted manager with the 1st SOG Det 2, who was the sensor operator to drop the payload, was honored to be involved in this testing and has enjoyed the mission Det 2 is tasked with.

“Enlisted members in the Air Force have very few opportunities to drop and guide munitions from aircraft, so I feel extremely grateful that I was able to take part in that piece of the AC-130J developmental test program,” he said. “It is a great feeling to know that we are setting the foundation for the next generation gunship and the culture that comes with that.”

The unit has set a goal to complete the aircraft’s IOT&E by the end of summer 2017 and declare the AC-130J combat ready.

“This event is only historic if the program continues in its forward momentum and can ultimately replace the aging fleet of gunships,” said Colbert. “We have a ton of work ahead of us, but I am confident we can make it happen.”

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