An Air Force Special Operations AC-130J Ghostrider plane valued at $115 million will be scrapped due to a "mishap" that occurred during a test flight earlier this year, the military announced this month.
Air Force Materiel Command released an Accident Investigation Board report in early November detailing that the plane on April 21 was performing medium-risk flying maneuvers at an altitude of 15,000 feet over the Gulf of Mexico when it "momentarily inverted before being recovered after losing approximately 5,000 feet of altitude."
There were no injuries in the incident, which involved a crew from the 413 Flight Test Squadron at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida, and the plane was able to return to base and land safely.
"As a result of the mishap, the aircraft was 'over G'd,' and exceeded its design limit load, thereby nullifying the airworthiness of the aircraft and rendering it a total loss. The damages are estimated at more than $115 million," the Air Force statement about the incident report read.
The accident was caused by 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."
Other contributing factors included "instrumentation and warning system issues, spatial disorientation, confusion, and inadequate provision of procedural guidance or publications to the team."
An Air Force fact sheet about the AC-130J Ghostrider describes it as a "highly modified C-130J aircraft that contains many advanced features." Some of these features include "precision-guided munitions delivery capability as well as trainable 30mm and 105mm weapons."
The Ghostrider's main mission is for "close air support and air interdiction."
Despite one such plane being deemed unfit for use, the Air Force celebrated the delivery of the first AC-130J at Hurlburt Field in Florida in July. The plane there will be undergoing initial operational tests.
“Putting it through these tests will allow us to wring out the AC-130J in a simulated combat environment, instead of the more rigid flight profiles in formal developmental testing,” Lt. Col. Brett DeAngelis, the 1st SOG Det. 2 commander, said in a statement at the time. “Now that we know the equipment works when we turn it on, it’s our task to determine the best way to employ our newest asset.”
Master Sgt. Michael Ezell, the 1st SOAMXS production superintendent, described the AC-130J as giving Air Force Special Forces planes that are more efficient with the "ability to fly higher, further and quieter."
He also praised the aircraft's weapons system as well.
"Additionally, the modified weapons system it possesses is a precision strike package that was collected from the older models, such as the laser-guided bombs and AGM-176 Griffin bombs, and combined to give us all the capabilities of the AC-130W Stinger II and AC-130U Spooky all in one package," Ezell said.
Watch the plane's arrival at the air field:
After testing is complete, the Air Force plans to add about three dozen AC-130J to its fleet with the hope to have them operational in a couple of years, according to an article by the Air Force Times earlier this year.