CLOVIS, N.M. (KAMR/KCIT) — The 17th Special Ops Squadron took delivery of it’s new AC-130J Ghostrider gunship in July 2021, and let me tell you, the AC-130J Ghostrider is a beast!

“Our role and our job is to meet national security goals, by providing close air support to conventional operations and Special Forces,” said Lt. Colonel Andrew Saylor, Commander of the 17th SOS. “As well as providing non-traditional surveillance and reconnaissance or interdiction missions.”

All of this right in our own backyard by the men and women of the 17th Special Ops Squadron based at Cannon Air Force Base in Clovis, New Mexico.

The AC-130J is the fifth generation gunship replacing the aging fleet of AC-130’s. These gunships have a long combat history dating back to Vietnam, where they destroyed more than 10,000 trucks, and performed many life-saving missions, according to the Air Force.

“It’s the evolution of 50 years of gunship experience,” Lt. Col. Saylor said. “It started in Vietnam, when they first started to research trying to use side-firing weapons out of a cargo plane.”

Over time, America’s adversaries evolved, and so did it’s missions.

“About the mid-2010 timeframe, we started thinking a little bigger,” Lt. Col. Saylor said. “‘How can we put some precision guided weapons? How can we enhance the capabilities of our aircraft?'”

And enhance they did, with some of the biggest cannons you’ve ever seen, and a slew of precision-guided weapons, like small diameter bombs and precision-guided missiles.

“That gave us better situational awareness, better ability to defend our team, and better weapons, more accurate weapons that sometimes offered a bigger punch, sometimes they just offered a better scalpel,” said Lt. Colonel Saylor. “You have an aircraft that has a little bit longer range, it can get there a little bit faster, and it can stay a little bit longer.”

So, what’s it like to fly this bad boy?

“These new planes were just built within the last couple of years,” said Lt. Derek Fox, Evaluator Pilot/AC-130J Aircraft Commander. “The technology we have is amazing. It’s a very special plane to fly.”

Amazing technology, a well-trained crew, all for one purpose.

“Our job is to be ready to go, anywhere, anytime, any place,” Lt. Col. Saylor said.