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Final AC-130U Spooky returns from combat deployment

Final AC-130U Spooky returns from combat deployment

Two AC-130U Spooky gunships with the 4th Special Operations Squadron return from their final scheduled combat deployment at Hurlburt Field, Florida June 8, 2019. The Spookys have been almost constantly deployed since 2001 and are being replaced by the AC-130J Ghostrider, the most lethal and innovative gunship in the world. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Blake Wiles)

Final AC-130U Spooky returns from combat deployment

Two AC-130U Spooky gunships with the 4th Special Operations Squadron fly over Hurlburt Field, Florida, after returning from their last scheduled combat deployment, June 8, 2019. The Spookys have been almost constantly deployed since 2001 and are being replaced by the AC-130J Ghostrider, the most lethal and innovative gunship in the world. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Blake Wiles)

Final AC-130U Spooky returns from combat deployment

Two Air Commandos with the 4th Special Operations Squadron look out the back of an AC-130U Spooky at Hurlburt Field, Florida, July 8, 2019 after returning from a deployment. The return of these Spookys marks only the second time outside of a brief window in 2013 that the 4th Special Operations Squadron has not had any aircraft deployed overseas since 2001. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Blake Wiles)

HURLBURT FIELD, Fla. --

The final AC-130U Spooky gunship returned here from the airframe’s last scheduled combat deployment July 8, 2019.

While still on alert to respond to contingencies as needed for the next few months, the Spooky is being replaced downrange by the AC-130J Ghostrider, 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,” said U.S. Air Force Col. Michael Conley, commander of the 1st Special Operations Wing. “The Ghostrider is seamlessly taking the Spooky’s position downrange. 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, offering the most advanced technology and weapons available to support special operations forces on the ground. The 73rd Special Operations Squadron here is currently the only operational AC-130J squadron.

The Ghostrider is also equipped with a Precision Strike Package, armed with precision guided munitions delivery capabilities and trainable 30mm and 105mm weapons, a mission management console, robust communications suite, two electro-optical/infrared sensors, and advanced fire control equipment.

Aside from one previous, approximately six-month squadron reconstitution in 2013, AC-130U’s assigned to the 4th Special Operations Squadron have been constantly deployed in support of overseas contingencies since 2001, earning the unit the designation of “most deployed squadron in the Air Force” multiple times. The Spooky has spent nearly a quarter century in the operational field, seeing combat for the first time in 1995.