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​An Air Force Special Operations Command AC-130J Ghostrider flies a training sortie from Hurlburt Field, Fla., June 17, 2016. AFSOC decided not to field the gunships early, citing system immaturity, and will instead press forward with operational testing. Air Force photo by SSgt. Christopher Callaway.

​The initial AC-130J Ghostrider gunships are not technologically mature enough to press into combat early, the annual Director of Operational Testing and Evaluation report revealed on Tuesday. Air Force Special Operations Command conducted an Operational Utility Evaluation to judge the Block 10 configuration’s suitability for early deployment. Following the 18-sortie evaluation, however, “almost none of the surveyed aircrew” rated the system as “usable.” High operational demands have forced AFSOC to delay retiring its legacy gunships, and although early Block aircraft lack a 105-millimeter gun, the interim capability could have relieved strain on the heavily tasked fleet. Testers instead found that a handful of issues, mostly related to the aircraft’s Precision Strike Package, “required aircrews to use burdensome workarounds,” rendering initial AC-130Js unsuitable for combat. AFSOC dropped early fielding plans as a result, and Block 20 modifications should rectify many of the discrepancies, including cyber vulnerabilities identified in the PSP. Upgraded AC-130Js are slated to begin initial operational testing in March, which will validate the Block 20 configuration ahead of an initial operational capability planned for later this year.