US Air Force scraps new Ghostrider Gunship after test flight damages total $115mn

The US Air Force has scrapped a brand new Lockheed Martin AC-130J Ghostrider Gunship after a flight-test crew lost control of the aircraft, resulting in more than $115 million in damages.

The expensive mishap occurred during a test mission by personnel from the 413th Flight Test Squadron based out of Eglin Air Force Base. The flight took place over the Gulf of Mexico on April 21, approximately 40 miles south of Pensacola.

While the crew was performing maneuvers at approximately 15,000 feet, the aircraft “exceeded the targeted angle of sideslip until it departed controlled flight,” an Accident Investigation Board report released earlier this month states. The aircraft “momentarily inverted, before being recovered after losing approximately 5,000 feet of altitude.”

An officer in charge of the investigation found the cause of the accident to be the pilot's “excessive rudder input during the test point followed by inadequate rudder input to initiate a timely recovery from high angle of sideslip due to overcontrolled/undercontrolled aircraft and wrong choice of action during an operation.”

According to the report, other contributing factors included instrumentation and warning system issues; spatial disorientation; confusion; and inadequate provision of procedural guidance or publications to the team.

The aircraft sustained damages of more than $115 million and was rendered a “total loss.”

Once AC-130J aircraft are used on the frontline, they will be equipped with weapons including a 30mm cannon, 105mm cannon and a variety of precision-guided air-to-surface munitions. The Air Force plans to have an operational fleet of 32 aircraft by 2021, with initial capability scheduled for fiscal year 2017, according to The Pulse.