US Ghostrider gunship provides ‘lethal fire’ for Balikatan 2021

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An AC-130J Ghostrider gunship under United States Air Force (USAF) 73rd Special Operations Squadron participated in the close air support training at Colonel Ernesto Rabina Air Base, Crow Valley Military Reservation in Capas, Tarlac, during the recently concluded Balikatan 2021.

Exercise Balikatan 2021 photo

“Staged out of Kadena Air Base, Okinawa, Japan, the AC-130J rapidly deployed to the Philippines and provided lethal fire from its 30 mm and 105 mm cannons onto targets called in by a bilateral team of U.S. Airmen from the 320th Special Tactics Squadron and Philippine Air Force JTACs on the ground, demonstrating the specialized airpower that the U.S. can leverage from forward-postured bases to support the security of its allies and partners and promote peace and stability in the region,” said in the statement released by Exercise Balikatan 2021 organizers.

“This training shows a projection of power and displays the reach of the AC-130J. This is the first time this asset has been in the Philippines, so it will give Philippine controllers the ability to train with American pilots and vice versa and shows that we can accomplish the mission together, as friends and allies,” said USAF Captain Aaron Boudreau, AC-130J liaison for Exercise Balikatan and an AC-130J pilot for the 73rd Special Operations Squadron.

“This CAS integration between the FA-50PH and the AC-130J is a pioneering training for our PAF fighter pilots. It is a welcome opportunity for us to participate in such operations that offers a valuable training environment to enhance our capabilities. This exercise demonstrates the interoperability of the Fighting Eagle with the Gunship and with our allies in a combined operations setting,” said Philippine Air Force Squadron Commander Major Michael G. Rabina of the 7th Tactical Fighter Squadron.