AC-130J Ghostrider
An AC-130J Ghostrider gunship over in Wisconsin in July 2021.US Air Force/Senior Airman Miranda Mahoney
  • The AC-130 gunship of the US Air Force is known for its ability to deliver.

  • The two AC-130Js used a more subtle tool to help the US forces on the ground in Afghanistan.

  • The gunships kept an eye on the troops as they left.

One of the most capable aircraft is the AC-130. Even though ground troops love the gunship, it can be effective without using its large arsenal.

Two AC-130J Ghostrider crews used a little known laser sensor on their planes to help control the chaotic situation around the airport and keep enemy forces at bay as friendly troops carried out the evacuate.

Lieutenant General Jim Slife, commander of Air Force Special Operations Command, said in September that the crews from the 73rd Expeditionary Special Operations Squadron distinguished themselves during the operation.

The green beam

AC-130J Ghostrider gunship green laser beam light
An AC-130J crew identifies a target with green light during an exercise in Florida in May.US Air Force/Staff Sgt. Ridge Shan

The green beam is a targeting technology used by Air Force special-operations crews.

The green beam is used to point out to friendly forces and to deter adversaries by letting them know that they are in the gunship's sights. The lasers were put on several of the aircraft.

The AC-130 is more vulnerable than other aircraft due to it's large size and need to fly relatively low and slow to fire.

The laser makes it easier to target the gunship from the ground.

The purpose of the laser is to let the adversaries know that you see him. I don't want to highlight my position like that because the other end of the green beam is connected to me.

An AC-130J conducts call-for-fire training with Special Tactics operators in Florida in May.US Air Force/Tech. Sgt. Carly Kavish

Air cover for troops on the ground, who had to evacuate tens of thousands of people who crowded the airport to escape the Taliban, was provided by AC-130 gunships and helicopter.

AC-130J crews used green lasers, which are visible to the naked eye, to illuminate people who broke into the airport compound.

Slife said that gunship crews used the green beam to communicate with ground forces about potential threats in order to build situational awareness for the force on the ground.

It's helpful to have aids to see where you are aiming, and the AC-130 has other laser-targeting and range-finding sensors to aid in the crew's marksmanship.

Since gravity, elevation, speed, and atmospheric conditions affect the trajectory of the AC-130's cannon fire, it's important for gunship crews to have those aids.

The AC-130 gunship

An AC-130J crew operates the gunship's 105mm howitzer during training in Romania in May 2021.US Air Force/Staff Sgt. Brandon Nelson

In addition to being heavily armed, the AC-130 can stay over the battlefield for a long time, though its dwell time is limited by darkness. The gunship is one of the most valued aircraft by ground troops.

The AC-130 is a gun that fires on targets. It has 105mm and 30mm cannons, Hellfire air-to-ground missiles, small diameter bombs, and precision guided glide bombs.

The gunship could use a high-energy laser to carry out stealthier ground attacks and to defeat incoming missiles.

The "pylon turn" technique that the AC-130 uses allows its gun crews to fire away while aiming at a fixed point on the ground.

The AC-130 has been around since the Vietnam War and has been upgraded many times. The AC-130A has been flown by US crews since 1968. There was extensive combat in Afghanistan in the Ghostrider version.

A Hellenic Army veteran, a defense journalist specializing in special operations, and a graduate of a prestigious university are just some of the things that Stavros Atlamazoglou is. He is a student at the School of Advanced International Studies.

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