4th SOS performs first FARRP between an AC-130J and an MC-130J in exercise Agile Ghost

  • Published
  • By SrA Andrew Ancona
  • 1st Special Operations Wing Public Affairs

4th SOS performs first FARRP between an AC-130J and an MC-130J in exercise Agile Ghost

In the Avon Park Range near MacDill Air Force Base a coalition of Joint Terminal Attack Controllers need backup.

The kind of backup that only a 165 million dollar cargo plane with a mounted 105mm cannon can deliver.

“SPOOKY 11, SLAMMER 20, fire mission, over,” says the JTAC on the ground over his radio.

“Send it,” the AC-130J circling above replies.

On the ground, the JTAC’s radio target locations.

“SPOOKY TALLY, standby rounds.”

Aboard the aircraft the crew begins firing procedures, quickly communicating all the necessary details to deliver high explosive rounds on the target.

“Gun ready, HE!”

“Arm gun 2.”

“Gun 2 armed.”

“SLAMMER 20, SPOOKY 11, rounds away.”

On the ground the JTAC’s watch as 105mm cannon rounds hits the target

“SLAMMER 20, SPOOKY 11, rounds complete, target destroyed,” says the gunship.

In order to adapt to an ever changing landscape of potential militaristic threats, the Air Force is implementing Agile Combat Employment or ACE.

This concept aims to further increase the strategic maneuverability and overall force projection of the Air Force’s warfighting capability.

On Hurlburt Field, squadrons like the 4th Special Operations Squadron are performing exercises that demonstrate fundamental ACE concepts.

The 4th SOS performed a three day exercise July 24- 26, called Agile Ghost, where they performed three sorties from an austere location in the Avon Park Range as well as the first ever FARRP between an MC-130J and an AC-130J.

“We at the 4th SOS wanted to get after agile combat employment and put our own kind of flavor on it,” said Captain Weston Havens, an AC-130J Instructor Weapons Systems Officer at the 4th Special Operations Squadron.

Members of the 4th SOS began planning an exercise off base where they would challenge themselves to bring everything they would need to execute a 72 hour mission independently.

“We brought everything, to include food, water, shelter, force protection, power, all of our flight mission planning software, and communication equipment,” added Havens.

Havens emphasized the challenge the maintenance team faced with supporting the 72 hour mission with limited space available on the aircraft.

“The maintenance team went through historical data for the AC-130J, they figured out what breaks the most and what was most easily repairable and did a kind of cost benefit analysis as to what equipment was needed repair the aircraft in a way that still let us get three sorties accomplished with the most bare bones of equipment,” said Havens. “They did an outstanding job with that.”

During the three day exercise the team supported a coalition of JTAC teams with live fire exercises and performed the first full FARRP between an AC-130J and an MC-130J.

“Normally we have infrastructure on the ground to support us with rearming, refueling, and basic necessities but Agile Combat is to prove we can operate out of an austere location and really focus on maneuverability," said Captain Tyler Burk, a pilot at the 4th SOS.

Members of the 4th SOS saw an opportunity to grow their Airmen’s experience by operating from an austere location.

“This was a great opportunity to get the younger Airmen used to working in an austere environment,” said Staff Sgt. Drew Bogel, a 4th SOS aerial gunner. “Additionally it allowed us to reinforce the multi-capable Airmen concept and demonstrate its versatility and importance to our mission.”

An agile force of air power challenges adversaries ability to respond to threats as well as minimizes dangers when aircrew are most vulnerable.

“If we can pick up and move inside of 12 hours, inside of an enemy’s targeting cycle, the enemy can't hurt you,” said Havens. “By the time they've decided to drop a bomb on your airplane, we’ve already moved somewhere else. That's what we want.”

Together the teams from the 4th and the 15th SOS planned and executed the mission, successfully establishing a precedent of ACE versatility in Air Force Special Operations Command air power.

“Exercises like this demonstrate our capability to challenge our near peer adversaries across global theaters with agile air power projection," said Havens. “As long as we have a runway, or a dirt strip, we can execute a mission and pick up and move the next day, that opens up doors to employment anywhere on the globe.”