Lockheed AC-130 Spectre Gunship: nose view

Lockheed AC-130 Spectre Gunship: nose view

Lockheed AC-130 Spectre Gunship: nose view

Frontal view of a Lockheed AC-130 Spectre gunship, showing the four bladed propellors. The port guns can be seen protruding from the side of the aircraft.

This aircraft, No 53-3129, was the first production AC-130, and was built in 1953. Named "First Lady", it remained in service until 10 September 1995, when it was officially retired. This photograph was taken in the previous year.

AC-130W Stinger II

The AC-130W Stinger II, previously known as the MC-130W Dragon Spear, is a gunship that is created by applying a roll-on, roll-off Precision Strike Package to existing MC-130W Combat Spear aircraft. The resulting AC-130W Stinger IIs are operated by the Air Force 73rd Special Operations Squadron out of Cannon Air Force Base, New Mexico.

The Stinger II program is designed to augment the aging AC-130 gunship flee in lieu of a lapsed AC-130J project. Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) plans to eventually convert its entire fleet of AC-130W Combat Spears into Stinger IIs.

Site 12: Lockheed AC-130H Spectre / AC-130U Spooky

The Lockheed AC-130 is a special-mission gunship variant of the storied C-130 Hercules high-wing transport. The Spectre and Spooky systems have evolved to become an important part of the ever-changing battlefield, where contact with enemy forces is likely, and the need for precision yet powerful aerial artillery is evermore important.

From a basic design perspective, the AC-130 is a shoulder-mounted straight wing system with a single large rudder aft. Four Allison turboprops are mounted underwing, with two per wing. The spacious cargo bay of the base C 130 allows for the carrying of the powerful 105mm cannon along with additional weaponry, ammunition and necessary systems.

Unit Emblem


  • Origin: United States
  • Year: 1972
  • Status: Active, In-Service
  • Manufacturer(s): Lockheed Aircraft Corporation/ The Boeing Company - USA
  • Production: 21


  • Crew: AS-130H: 8/ AC-130U: 13
  • Length: 97.77 feet (29.8 meters)
  • Width: 132.55 feet (40.4 meters)
  • Height: 38.39 feet (11.7 meters)
  • Weight (Empty): 72,891 pounds (33,063 kilograms)
  • Weight (MTOW): 155,003 pounds (70,308 kilograms)
  • Engine: 4 x Rolls-Royce Allison T56-A-15 turboprop engines developing 4,910 horsepower each.
  • Speed (Max): 300 miles-per-hour (482 kilometers-per-hour 260 knots)
  • Range: 2,200 miles (3,540 kilometers 1,911 nautical miles)
  • Ceiling: 24, 856 feet (7,576 meters 4.71 miles)


  • AC-130 H “Spectre”:
  • 2 x 20 mm cannons
  • 1 x 40 mm cannons
  • 1 x 105 mm cannon

This video shows the U.S. Air Force's mighty AC-130U Spooky Gunship on a close air support training mission over Eglin Range, FL during the Exercise, Emerald Warrior, in 2016. This video was filmed on May 10, 2016 by the 4th Special Operations Squadron.

AC-130U Spooky Gunship at Hurlburt Field. Airman First Class Stephen Ellis expains in the video why Hurlburt Field has the Spooky.


The term "gunship" originated in the mid-19th century as a synonym for gunboat and also referred to the heavily armed ironclad steamships used during the American Civil War. [3]

Bomber escort Edit

During 1942 and 1943, the lack of a usable escort fighter for the United States Army Air Forces in the European Theatre of Operations led to experiments in dramatically increasing the armament of a standard Boeing B-17F Flying Fortress, and later a single Consolidated B-24D Liberator, to each have 14 to 16 Browning AN/M2 .50 cal machine guns as the Boeing YB-40 Flying Fortress and Consolidated XB-41 Liberator respectively each meant to accompany regular heavy bomber formations over occupied Europe on strategic bombing raids for long-range escort duties as "flying destroyer gunships". [4] The YB-40 was sometimes described as a gunship, [5] and a small 25-aircraft batch of the B-17-derived gunships were built, with a dozen of these deployed to Europe the XB-41 had problems with stability and did not progress.

The increased machine gun armament of a Boeing YB-40 Flying Fortress, leading it to be dubbed a gunship in 1942–43

Heavily armed Consolidated XB-41 Liberator gunship prototype. Note the chin and twin dorsal turrets.

Attack aircraft Edit

During World War II, the urgent need for hard-hitting attack aircraft led to the development of the heavily armed gunship versions of the North American B-25 Mitchell. For use against shipping in the Pacific 405 B-25Gs were armed with a 75 mm (2.95 in) M4 cannon and a thousand B-25Hs followed. The H models, delivered from August 1943, moved the dorsal turret forward to just behind the cockpit and were armed with the lighter 75mm T13E1 cannon. [6] The B-25J variant removed the 75mm gun but carried a total of eighteen 0.50 cal (12.7 mm) AN/M2 Browning machine guns, more than any other contemporary American aircraft: eight in the nose, four in under-cockpit conformal flank-mount gun pod packages, two in the dorsal turret, one each in the pair of waist positions, and a pair in the tail, [6] giving a maximum of fourteen guns firing forward in strafing runs. [7] Later the B-25J was armed with eight 5 in. (130 mm) high velocity aircraft rockets (HVARs). [6] [8]

B-25H Gunship Barbie III showing 75mm M5 gun and four .50 Browning machine guns and ammunition.

Closeup of an early model B-25 gun pod.

B-25J "Sunday Punch" showing eight nose-mounted .50 Browning machine guns and two more in gun pods.

Close-up of B-25J "Sunday Punch" showing eight nose-mounted .50 Browning machine guns.

The British also made large numbers of twin-engined fighter bombers. The de Havilland Mosquito FB.VI had a fixed armament of four 20 mm Hispano Mk.II cannon and four .303 (7.7 mm) Browning machine guns, together with up to 4,000 pounds of bombs in the bomb bay and on racks housed in streamlined fairings under each wing, or up to eight "60lb" RP-3 rockets. De Havilland also produced seventeen Mosquito FB Mk XVIIIs armed with a 57 mm QF 6-pdr anti-tank gun with autoloader, which were used against German ships and U-boats.

Mosquito four 20 mm cannon and four .303 in machine guns and four 500 lb bombs.

RAF Coastal Command Mosquito armed with eight RP-3 rockets on wings.

Mosquito showing the 57 mm "Molins gun" and streamlined blister used to accommodate the automatic loading mechanism

The Germans also made a sizable number of heavy fighter types (Zerstörer—"destroyer") armed with heavy guns (Bordkanone). Dedicated "tankbuster" aircraft such as the Ju 87Gs (Kanonenvogel) were armed with two BK 37mm autocannon in underwing gun pods. The Ju 88P gunships were armed with 37mm, 50mm and 75mm guns, and were used as tankbusters and as bomber destroyers. The Me 410 Hornisse were armed with the same BK 50mm autocannon as the Ju 88P-4, but were only used as bomber destroyers. None of the German twin-engine heavy fighters types were produced or converted in large numbers.

Ju 87Gs Kanonenvogel with twin 37mm autocannon in underwing gun pods

A Messerschmitt Me 410 with a 50mm BK 5 heavy autocannon peels off from attacking a 388th Bomb Group B-17 over Europe during the USAAF campaign against Germany, 1943

Fixed-wing aircraft Edit

In the more modern, post-World War II fixed-wing aircraft category, a gunship is an aircraft having laterally-mounted heavy armaments (i.e. firing to the side) to attack ground or sea targets. [1] [2] These gunships were configured to circle the target instead of performing strafing runs. Such aircraft have their armament on one side harmonized to fire at the apex of an imaginary cone formed by the aircraft and the ground when performing a pylon turn (banking turn). [1] [2]

The Douglas AC-47 Spooky was the first notable modern gunship. In 1964, during the Vietnam War, [1] the popular Douglas C-47 Skytrain transport was successfully modified into a gunship by the United States Air Force with three side-firing Miniguns for circling attacks. At the time the aircraft was known as a "Dragonship", "Puff, the Magic Dragon" or "Spooky" (officially designated FC-47, later corrected to AC-47). Its three 7.62 mm miniguns could selectively fire either 50 or 100 rounds per second. [9] Cruising in an overhead left-hand orbit at 120 knots air speed at an altitude of 3,000 feet (910 m), the gunship could put a bullet or glowing red tracer (every fifth round) into every square yard of a football field–sized target in potentially less than 10 seconds. [10] And, as long as its 45-flare and 24,000-round basic load of ammunition held out, it could do this intermittently while loitering over the target for hours.


A favorite from the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force in Dayton Ohio, shot with the super cool Canon 8-15mm Fisheye, the only way to get this beast in the frame with a tripod about 4 feet from the nose. I had another shot of the Globemaster that sits proudly above a mantle of a former Pilot of the same plane so I had to process this one as well, from the outside runway display.

More on the Angel of Death From the Museum website-The crew of this AC-130A Spectre gunship, named Azrael (Azrael, in the Koran, is the angel of death who severs the soul from the body) displayed courage and heroism during the closing hours of Operation Desert Storm. On Feb. 26, 1991, Coalition ground forces were driving the Iraqi army out of Kuwait. Azrael was sent to the Al Jahra highway between Kuwait City and Basrah, Iraq, to intercept the convoys of tanks, trucks, buses and cars fleeing the battle. Facing numerous enemy batteries of SA-6 and SA-8 surface-to-air missiles, and 37mm and 57mm radar-guided anti-aircraft artillery, the crew attacked the enemy skillfully, inflicting significant damage on the convoys. The crew’s heroic efforts left much of the enemy’s equipment destroyed or unserviceable, contributing to the defeat of the Iraqi forces. On Feb. 28, 1991, Iraq agreed to a cease-fire.

The Low Light Level Television Sensor (LLLTV) installed on AC-130 gunships enabled the aircrew to illuminate targets covertly during night operations. Located just in front of the 20mm guns bottom right of the nose in the picture, the LLLTV could amplify the existing light 60,000 times to produce television images as clearly as if it were noon. The crew used a laser, which was invisible to the naked eye but showed up clearly on the LLLTV, to aim the AC-130’s guns with great accuracy.

Lockheed AC-130

caption = AC-130H Spectre gunship jettisons flares in 2007
designer =
first flight = AC-130A: avyear|1966 AC-130U: avyear|1990
introduction = AC-130A: 1968 AC-130U: 1995
retired =
status = Active
primary user = United States Air Force
produced =
number built = 43, including all variants
unit cost = AC-130H: US$132.4 million
AC-130U: US$190 million (2001)
developed from = C-130 Hercules
variants with their own articles =

The Lockheed AC-130 gunship is a heavily-armed ground attack airplane. The basic airframe is manufactured by Lockheed, and Boeing is responsible for the conversion into a gunship and for aircraft support. [http://www.boeing.com/defense-space/support/maintenance/ac130u.html Boeing AC-130U Gunship page] ] It is a variant of the C-130 Hercules transport plane. The AC-130A Gunship II superseded the AC-47 Gunship I in Vietnam.

The gunship's sole user is the United States Air Force , which uses AC-130H Spectre and AC-130U Spooky variants. The AC-130 is powered by four turboprop s and has an armament ranging from 20 mm Gatling gun s to 105 mm howitzer s. It has a standard crew of twelve or thirteen Airmen, including five officers (two pilots, a navigator, an electronic warfare officer and a fire control officer) and enlisted personnel (flight engineer, electronics operators and aerial gunners).

The US Air Force uses the AC-130 gunships for close air support , air interdiction , and force protection. Close air support roles include supporting ground troops, escorting convoy s, and flying urban operations. Air interdiction missions are conducted against planned targets and targets of opportunity. Force protection missions include defending air base s and other facilities. Stationed at Hurlburt Field in Northwest Florida , the gunship squadrons are part of the Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC), a component of Special Operations Command (SOCOM).


The C-130 Hercules was selected to replace the AC-47 Gunship I (known as "Spooky" or "Puff the Magic Dragon") during the Vietnam War, to improve gunship endurance capabilities and increase capacity to carry munitions. [http://www.nationalmuseum.af.mil/factsheets/factsheet.asp?id=3216 USAF National Museum AC-130A fact sheet] ]

In 1967, JC-130A USAF 54-1626 was selected for conversion into the prototype AC-130A gunship. The modifications were done that year at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, by the Aeronautical Systems Division. A direct view night vision telescope was installed in the forward door, an early forward looking infrared (FLIR) in the forward part of the left wheel well, and Gatling guns fixed mounted facing down and aft along the left side. The analog fire control computer prototype was handcrafted by RAF Wing Commander Tom Pinkerton at the USAF Avionics Laboratory. Flight testing of the prototype was subsequently performed primarily at Eglin Air Force Base , followed by further testing and modifications. By September 1967, the aircraft was certified ready for combat testing and was flown to Nha Trang Air Base, South Vietnam for a 90 day test program. [ [http://www.nationalmuseum.af.mil/factsheets/factsheet.asp?id=3216 USAF National Museum AC-130A fact sheet] ] Following these successes, a few more AC-130As were constructed using similar equipment and manufactured versions of the analog computer. The original 54-1626 Gunship is displayed at the USAF Museum.

The AC-130 was supplemented by the AC-119 Shadow Gunship III during the Vietnam War, which would later prove underpowered with a wartime payload. In 1970, an additional dozen AC-130As were acquired under the " Pave Pronto " project. Regardless of their project names, the aircraft were more commonly referred to by the Squadron's call sign: "Spectre".

These heavily-armed aircraft incorporate side-firing weapons integrated with sophisticated sensors, navigation and fire control systems to provide precision firepower or area-saturation fire with its varied armament. The AC-130 can spend long periods flying over their target area at night and in adverse weather. The sensor suite consists of a television sensor, infrared sensor, and radar . These sensors allow the gunship to visually or electronically identify friendly ground forces and targets in most weather conditions.

The AC-130U is equipped with the AN/APQ-180 , a synthetic aperture radar for long-range target detection and identification. The gunship's navigational devices include the inertial navigation systems and Global Positioning System . The AC-130U employs technologies developed in the 1990s and can attack two targets simultaneously. It also has twice the munitions capacity of the AC-130H.

During the Vietnam era the various AC-130 versions following the Pave Pronto modifications were equipped with a Magnetic Anomaly Detector (MAD) system called the Black Crow (AN/ASD-5), a highly sensitive passive device with a phased-array antenna located in the left-front nose radome that could pick up localized deviations in earth's magnetic field and is normally used to detect submerged submarines. The Black Crow system on the AC-130A/E/H could accurately detect the unshielded ignition coils of Russian trucks driven by the North Vietnamese that were hidden under the dense foliage of the jungle canopy along the Ho Chi Minh trail. It could also detect the signal from a hand-held transmitter that was used by air controllers on the ground to identify and locate specific target types. The system was slaved into the targeting computer.

Operational history

gatling gun during twilight operations in 1988]

The AC-130 Gunship first arrived in South Vietnam on 21 September 1967 under the Gunship II program, and began combat operations over Laos and South Vietnam that year. By 30 October 1968, enough AC-130 Gunship IIs arrived to form a squadron. The 16th Special Operations Squadron (SOS), of the 8th Tactical Fighter Wing (TFW) were activated on the above date at Ubon AB, Thailand.

By December 1968 most AC-130s were flown under F-4 escort from the 479th TFS (Tactical Fighter Squadron), normally three Phantoms per Gunship. In late 1969, under the code name of "Surprise Package", 56-0490 arrived with solid state laser illuminated low light level TV with a companion YAG laser designator, an improved forward looking infrared (FLIR) sensor, video recording for TV and FLIR, inertial navigation, and a prototype digital fire control computer. Surprise Package was equipped with the latest 20 mm Gatling guns and 40 mm Bofors cannon, but no 7.62 mm close support armament. Surprise Package was refitted with upgraded similar equipment in the summer of 1970, and then redeployed to Ubon RTAFB. Surprise Package served as a test bed for the avionic systems and armament for the AC-130E. In the summer of 1971, Surprise Package was converted to the Pave Pronto configuration, and assumed its new nickname, Thor.

In Vietnam, gunships destroyed more than 10,000 trucks and participated in many crucial close air support missions. During the Invasion of Grenada (Operation Urgent Fury) in 1983, AC-130s suppressed enemy air defense systems and attacked ground forces enabling the successful assault of the Point Salines Airfield via airdrop and air land of friendly forces. The AC-130 aircrew earned the "Lieutenant General William H. Tunner Award" for the mission.

AC-130s also had a primary role during the United States invasion of Panama (Operation Just Cause) in 1989 when they destroyed Panama Defense Force headquarters and numerous command and control facilities. Aircrews earned the Mackay Trophy for the most meritorious flight of the year and the Tunner Award for their efforts.

During Operation Desert Storm , AC-130s provided close air support and force protection (air base defense) for ground forces, and battlefield interdiction. The primary interdiction targets were early warning/ground control intercept (EW/GCI) sites along the southern border of Iraq. The first gunship to enter the Battle of Khafji helped stop a southbound Iraqi armored column on 29 January 1991. One day later, three more gunships provided further aid to Marines participating in the operation. The gunships attacked Iraqi positions and columns moving south to reinforce their positions north of the city. Despite the threat of SAMs and increasing visibility during the early morning hours of 31 January 1991, one gunship opted to stay to continue to protect the Marines. A surface-to-air missile (SAM) subsequently shot down this AC-130H, AF Serial No. 69-6567, call sign Spirit 03. All 14 crew members of Spirit 03 perished. [ [http://www.specialoperations.com/Memorial/spirit.html Spirit 03 and the Battle for Khafji] ]

The military has used AC-130 gunships during Operations Restore Hope and United Shield in Somalia , in the NATO mission in Bosnia-Herzegovina , and in the 1997 evacuation of American noncombatants in Albania .

The AC-130 gunship has the distinction of holding the record for the longest sustained flight by a C-130. From 22nd through the 24th of October 1997, two AC-130U gunships flew 36.0 hours nonstop from Hurlburt Field , Florida to Taegu Air Base (Daegu), South Korea while being refueled 7 times in the air by KC-135 Stratotanker aircraft. This record flight shattered the previous record longest flight by over 10 hours while the 2 gunships took on 410,000 lbs of fuel and displayed the Gunship's ability to match their wings motto of 'Any Time, Any Place!'. Gunships also were part of the buildup of U.S. forces in 1998 to convince Iraq to comply with U.N. weapons inspections. The United States later used gunships during the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan, and the Iraq War . In 2007 US Special Operations forces used the AC-130 in attacks on suspected al-Qaeda militants in Somalia . [ [http://www.cnn.com/2007/WORLD/africa/01/08/somalia.strike/index.html "Pentagon official: U.S. attacks al Qaeda suspects in Somalia"] ] [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/6296971.stm "US plane 'bombed Somalia targets'"] ] The AC-130 has the distinction of never having a base under its protection lost to the enemy.Fact|date=July 2008

Notable airframes

One of the first seven AC-130A aircraft deployed was AF Serial No. 53-3129, named "First Lady" in November 1970. In addition to being the first AC-130, this aircraft was a conversion of the first production C-130. On 25 March 1971, it took an anti-aircraft artillery hit in the nose over the Ho Chi Minh Trail in Laos. The 37 mm shell destroyed everything below the crew deck. In 1975, after the conclusion of US involvement in the hostilities in Indochina, it was transferred to the Air Force Reserve, where it served with the 711th Special Operations Squadron of the 919th Special Operations Wing . In 1980 the aircraft was upgraded from the original three-bladed propellers to the quieter four-bladed propellers and was eventually retired in late 1995. The retirement also marked an end to the Air Force Reserve flying the AC-130A. The aircraft now sits on display in the final Air Force Reserve configuration with grey paint, black markings, the four-bladed Hamilton Standard props at the Air Force Armament Museum at Eglin AFB , Florida USA. [ [http://www.gunships.org/birds.html List of AC-130 Gunships] ] [ [http://www.gunships.org/1stlady.html "First Lady" retires, era ends] ]

Current aircraft

The AC-130H has a unit cost of US$132.4 million, and the AC-130U a unit cost of US$190 million (fiscal 2001 constant dollars). Currently there are eight AC-130H and seventeen AC-130U aircraft in active duty service. [ [http://www.af.mil/factsheets/factsheet.asp?fsID=71 AC-130H/U Gunship] ]

* United States Air Force
** Air Force Special Operations Command
*** 1st Special Operations Wing
**** 4th Special Operations Squadron
**** 16th Special Operations Squadron
**** 19th Special Operations Squadron


aircraft specifications
plane or copter?=plane
jet or prop?=prop
** Officers: 5 (pilot, copilot, navigator, fire control officer, electronic warfare officer)
** Enlisted: 8 (flight engineer, TV operator, infrared detection set operator, load master, four aerial gunners)
payload main=
payload alt=
length main=97 ft 9 in
length alt=29.8 m
span main=132 ft 7 in
span alt=40.4 m
height main=38 ft 6 in
height alt=11.7 m
area main=1745.5 ft²
area alt=162.2 m²
empty weight main=
empty weight alt=
loaded weight main=122,400 lb
loaded weight alt=55,520 kg
max takeoff weight main=155,000 lb
max takeoff weight alt=69,750 kg
more general=
engine (prop)= Allison T56 -A-15
type of prop= turboprop s
number of props=4
power main=4,910 shp
power alt=3,700 kW
max speed main=260 knots
max speed alt=300 mph, 480 km/h
range main=2,200 nm
range alt=2,530 mi, 4,070 km
ceiling main=30,000 ft
ceiling alt=9,100 m
climb rate main=
climb rate alt=
loading main=
loading alt=
power/mass main=
power/mass alt=
more performance=

AC-130A Project Gunship II
* 4× 7.62 mm GAU-2/A minigun s
* 4× 20 mm M61 Vulcan cannon

AC-130A Surprise Package, Pave Pronto, AC-130E Pave Spectre
* 4× 7.62 mm GAU-2/A miniguns
* 2× 20 mm M61 Vulcan cannon
* 2× 40 mm (1.58 in) L/60 Bofors cannon

AC-130E Pave Aegis
* 2× 20 mm M61 Vulcan cannon
* 1× 40 mm L60 Bofors cannon
* 1× 105 mm (4.13 in) M102 howitzer

AC-130H Pave Spectre II
* 1× 40 mm L60 Bofors cannon
* 1× 105 mm (4.13 in) M102 howitzer

AC-130U "Spooky" Gunship
* 1× 25 mm (0.984 in) 5-Barrel GAU-12/U Equalizer gatling gun
* 1× 40 mm L60 Bofors cannon
* 1× 105 mm (4.13 in) M102 howitzer

In 2007, AFSOC initiated a program to upgrade the armament of existing AC-130s still in service. The test program planned for the 25 mm GAU-12/U and 40 mm Bofors cannon on the AC-130U gunships to be replaced with two Mk 44 Bushmaster II 30 mm cannons. [cite web|url=http://www.strategypage.com/dls/articles/200610105842.asp|title=30 mm Everywhere - Strategy Page] In 2007, the Air Force modified four AC-130U gunships as test platforms for the Bushmasters. However, AFSOC canceled its plans to install the new cannons on its fleet of AC-130Us. It has since removed the guns and re-installed the original 40 mm cannons and returned the planes to combat duties. [cite web|url=http://www.nwfdailynews.com/share/profiles/?slid=52836bbc-64ad-c2d4-9dae-291a895b67d1&plckController=PersonaBlog&plckScript=personaScript&plckElementId=personaDest&plckPersonaPage=BlogViewPost&plckPostId=Blog%3a52836bbc-64ad-c2d4-9dae-291a895b67d1Post%3a4d252120-6dcd-4132-b823-23038489868d&sid=sitelife.nwfdailynews.com|title=AIR FORCE CANCELS 30 MM CANNON PROGRAM FOR AC-130U GUNSHIPS - Inside the Air Force, 11 July 2008]

There are also plans to possibly replace the M102 howitzer with a breech-loading 120 mm mortar, and to give the AC-130 a standoff capability using either the AGM-114 Hellfire missile, the Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System (based on the Hydra 70 rocket), or the Viper Strike glide bomb. [cite web|url=http://www.dtic.mil/ndia/2006garm/tuesday/elliot.pdf|title=Future AC-130 Gunship Integrated Weapons Systems (PDF)|format=PDF]

Popular culture

The AC-130 was prominently featured in the 2007 movie "Transformers". The Department of Defense and Hollywood cooperated with each other on the production of the film. [cite video|title = Transformers|medium = Feature Movie only in Theaters in both Digital and film|publisher = DreamWorks Pictures Paramount Pictures and UIP|location = Various locations worldwide|date = 4 July 2007] [cite web| last = Simmons| first = Tech. Sgt. Larry A. | title = 'Transformers' put Airmen, aircraft on big screen| work = Air Force News Agency| publisher = Air Force Link| date = 3 July 2007| url = http://www.af.mil/news/story.asp?id=123059424| accessdate = 2007-07-08] [cite web| last = Ponder| first = Arlan | title = Movie project transforms Holloman| work = Air Force News Agency| publisher = Air Force Link| date = 5 June 2006| url = http://www.af.mil/news/story.asp?id=123021221| accessdate = 2007-07-08 cite web| last =Kruzel| first = John J.| title = Servicemembers Get Sneak Preview of 'Transformers'| work = American Forces Press Service| publisher = www.Military.com| date = 29 June 2007| url = http://www.military.com/features/0,15240,140778,00.html| accessdate = 2007-07-08]

* Lockheed C-130 Hercules
similar aircraft=
* Alenia AC-27J
* AC-47 Spooky
* Fairchild AC-119
* A-10 Thunderbolt II
* List of active military aircraft of the United States
* List of Lockheed aircraft
* List of C-130 Hercules crashes

* Hobson, Chris. "Vietnam Air Losses - United States Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps Fixed-Wing Aircraft Losses in Southeast Asia, 1961-1973". Hinckley, England: Midland Publishing, 2001. ISBN 1-85780-115-6.

External links

* [http://www.af.mil/factsheets/factsheet.asp?fsID=71 AC-130H/U Gunship fact sheet on US Air Force site] on which this article was originally based.
* [http://www.spectre-association.org/history/historySpectre.htm "Gunship History" from the Spectre Association site]
* [http://www.gunships.org/birds.html List of AC-130 Gunships on Gunships.org]
* [http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/systems/aircraft/ac-130.htm AC-130 on GlobalSecurity.org]
* [http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=7608428 "Powerful Gunships Prowl Iraq, and Limits Show"] on NPR.org from " All Things Considered "

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Lockheed AC-130A Spectre

The success of the AC-47 Spooky COIN aircraft in Vietnam led to consideration given to an upgraded version in a larger, newer aircraft—the AC-47s already approaching 30 years old during the war. The C-130 was the natural choice, and in 1967 a JC-130A testbed was modified as a gunship. It was initially given the callsign Super Spooky, but later changed to Spectre. After successful operational trials over both South Vietnam and the Ho Chi Minh Trail in Laos, several more C-130As and C-130Es were modified to Project Spectre standard, mounting four GAU-2/A 7.62mm Minigun gatling cannons and four M61A1 Vulcan 20mm gatling cannons. A few were in turn modified by removing two of the Vulcans in favor of two Bofors 40mm cannon for use against armored targets under Project Surprise Package.

Besides their heavy weaponry, the AC-130s also had a comphrensive electronics suite, consisting of night vision equipment, FLIR, improved avionics and navigation equipment, and a digital fire-control system. In addition, AC-130s also carried a modified MAD sensor called Black Crow, which allowed the gunships to detect spark plugs used by North Vietnamese trucks. Following the end of the Vietnam War, the USAF retired all other gunship designs but kept the AC-130 in service, standardizing them as the AC-130H with two Vulcans, a single Bofors, and a M102 105mm howitzer, as the gatlings and the 40mm cannon had proven inadequate against hardened targets (such as tanks) or area attacks.

This proved to be a prescient choice, as AC-130s have seen service in every war fought by the United States since Vietnam: Grenada, Panama, both Gulf Wars, Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan, and Libya. During the Panama operation, Spectre crews successfully decapitated Panamanian Defense Force leadership by destroying the PDF’s headquarters, while they were instrumental in stopping an Iraqi armored column during the Battle of Khafji. In Afghanistan in 2001, AC-130s were the first USAF aircraft to see action, and proved so devastating in their first combat, the Battle of Konduz, that the city fell the next day to Northern Alliance forces without a shot.

The Spectre has been continually improved, and current USAF units use AC-130H/U variants. The AC-130U deletes the two Vulcans in favor of a single trainable GAU-12/A Equalizer 25mm gatling cannon, and has a much more advanced sensor suite over the H model. The “U-Boats” use an APQ-180 synthetic aperature radar and GPS-guided fire control, and can attack two targets simutaneously with twice the ammunition storage of the AC-130H.

The effect of the AC-130 in any form is devastating no camp or unit defended by Spectres has ever been overrun by an enemy force. The guns of a Spectre can place a bullet on every square foot of a football field every second until the ammunition runs out. The only real weakness of the AC-130 is its vulnerability to ground fire, though most threats to the Spectre from light antiaircraft fire are usually eliminated quickly, while heavier flak can be defeated by escorts. Spectres carry a range of powerful ECM and countermeasures against SAMs, but aside from shoulder-fired SAMs, AC-130s rarely operate in such a high-threat environment and never in areas where enemy fighters could intercept them. Currently, the USAF has a single wing of AC-130s, with AC-130Hs being slated for retirement soon, while the AC-130U will serve for some years to come.

Built as the 10th C-130A, 54-1623 began its career with the 314th Troop Carrier Wing at Little Rock AFB, Arkansas in 1957, but in 1960 it was redesignated as a JC-130A testbed and used in various duties at Edwards AFB, California. In 1968, it was converted to an AC-130A and joined the 16th Special Operations Squadron at Ubon RTAFB, Thailand for operations over the Ho Chi Minh Trail, and named "Ghost Rider." While operating over the Trail, it was hit five times by ground fire and flew over 4300 combat hours.

"Ghost Rider" returned home in 1974 and was assigned to the 919th SOG (Air Force Reserve) at Duke Field, Florida. As an older A-model, it was moved to the Reserves as more advanced AC-130Hs took over active duty roles. This did not mean that "Ghost Rider" was done yet, however: it had one last ride. In February 1991, it was deployed to King Fahd Airport in Saudi Arabia to operate against Iraqi forces in Operation Desert Storm, and was one of three 919th AC-130s sent to attack the Kuwait-Basra Road--the so-called "Highway of Death."

After its second war, "Ghost Rider" returned home, and in 1995 was retired. Since it was, by that time, one of the oldest C-130s in service, it was returned to Lockheed to be displayed as a gate guard at Dobbins ARB, Georgia, home of Lockheed's C-130 plant. In 2013, it was moved to its present location at the Marietta Museum of History's airpark on the northwest side of Dobbins.

While acting as a gate guard, 54-1623 retained its overall gunship gray scheme worn at the end of its career, but after being moved to the airpark, it was beautifully restored to its Vietnam appearance, in overall matte black and full-color nose art. The Spectre emblem is carried on most AC-130s, but looks especially good on "Ghost Rider." 54-1623 had also been retrofitted with four-bladed propellers after its Vietnam service, but was restored with the earlier A-model three-blade props went it went on display.

AC-130H/U Gunship

Service: USAF Armament: AC-130H: 40mm and 105mm cannons AC-130U: 40mm, 105mm cannons and 25mm gatling gun. Propulsion: Four Allison T56-A-15 turboprop engines Speed: 300 mph Range: 1,300 nm Crew: AC-130H/U - pilot, co-pilot, navigator, fire control officer, electronic warfare officer (five officers) and flight engineer, TV operator, infrared detection set operator, loadmaster, four aerial gunners (eight enlisted)

The AC-130H Spectre and the AC-130U Spooky primary missions are close air support, air interdiction and armed reconnaissance. Close air support missions include troops in contact, convoy escort and point air defense. Air interdiction missions are conducted against preplanned targets or targets of opportunity and include strike coordination and reconnaissance and armed overwatch mission sets.

These heavily armed aircraft incorporate side-firing weapons integrated with sophisticated sensor, navigation and fire control systems to provide surgical firepower or area saturation during extended loiter periods, at night and in adverse weather. The sensor suite consists of a television sensor, infrared sensor and radar. These sensors allow the gunship to visually or electronically identify friendly ground forces and targets.

The AC-130 is armed with a fearsome array of weaponry, including a 105 mm cannon and 25 or 40 mm gatling guns.

The AC-130U employs a synthetic aperture strike radar for long-range and adverse weather target detection and identification. The AC-130's navigational devices include inertial navigation systems and global positioning systems. Both of the AC-130s employ the latest technologies and can attack two targets simultaneously.

The Spooky (U-model) is the third generation of C-130 gunships. All gunships evolved from the first operational gunship, the AC-47

The AC-130 gunship has a combat history dating to Vietnam. Gunships destroyed more than 10,000 trucks and were credited with many life-saving close air support missions. During Operation Urgent Fury in Grenada in 1983, AC-130s suppressed enemy air defense systems and attacked ground forces enabling the successful assault of the Point Salines Airfield via airdrop and air land of friendly forces. The AC-130 aircrew earned the Lt. Gen. William H. Tunner Award for the mission.

AC-130s also had a primary role during Operation Just Cause in Panama in 1989 when they destroyed Panamanian Defense Force Headquarters and numerous command and control facilities. Aircrews earned the Mackay Trophy for the most meritorious flight of the year and the Tunner Award for their efforts.

During Operation Desert Storm, AC-130s provided close air support and force protection (air base defense) for ground forces. Gunships were also used during operations Continue Hope and United Shield in Somalia, providing close air support for United Nations ground forces. Gunships also played a pivotal role in supporting the NATO mission in Bosnia-Herzegovina. The AC-130H provided air interdiction against key targets in the Sarajevo area.


An enormous rocket-powered swing-wing gunship, the Spectre tore across the skies towards its designated target area, before unleashing a barrage of fire from a battery of gatling guns and artillery cannons. The Gunship moved so fast towards its target that it could not be hit by enemy fire. Upon reaching the target area, the Spectre would slow down considerably and fly in a tight circle. Within this circle, commanders could designate a specific area to be targeted, and change this on-the-fly.

Upon running out of ammunition, the Spectre would return to the airfield it originated from with its wings swept back once again. For most generals, only the first rank of Spectre Gunship attack was available, loaded with the least amount of ammunition on board. However, for General Alexander and General Granger, two further ranks were available, increasing the amount of time the Spectre was able to remain on site. The maximum amount of time a single Spectre could be on-site for, provided it didn't get shot down, was an impressive thirty seconds. However, given the nature of the aircraft, almost anything would likely be utterly destroyed while under assault for that amount of time.

The Spectre could lay waste to any unit in its sights, and could bring down the majority of buildings. Although it could be shot down while attacking, the Spectre was extremely tough, particularly if equipped with countermeasures.

The original OH-6 Cayuse helicopter proved its worth during the Vietnam War in the light helicopter role.

Marine Sgt. fires a GAU-17 "Vulcan" minigun at a fast inshore attack craft during a live-fire exercise on board.

82nd Airborne Division provides aviation support to 1BCT during the Devil CALFEX.

Apaches provide aviation support, and lots of firepower, to 1BCT infantry companies during the Devil CALFEX.

PACIFIC OCEAN (March 28, 2019) Marine Sgt. Cade Allen, from Bartlesville, Okla., fires a GAU-17 minigun at a fast.

The 4th Special Operations Squadron receives its first AC-130J Ghostrider.