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Lockheed/Boeing AC-130 Spectre/Spooky Gunship

The AC-130, solely used by the United States Air Force, is a turbo prop gunship variant of the C-130 Hercules. Although Lockheed was the designer of the original airframe, Boeing was responsible for the conversion of the Hercules to a gunship. There are two variants of the AC-130 which has two different names. The AC-130H Spectre and the AC-130U Spooky. The AC-130 has a standard crew of twelve-thirteen airmen, five of which are usually officers and the rest enlisted men.

The AC-130's are stationed at Hurlburt Airfield in Northwest Florida, part of the Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC), a component of the United States Special Operations Command (SOCOM).


AC-130's are heavily armed with many different weapons, even 105 mm howitzers. These weapons are fired from the side of the aircraft. They have both anti-personnel and anti-armor capabilities and are extremely accurate due to a continuous upgrade of on board systems such as radar.

The newer AC-130U Spooky variant is equipped with the AN/APQ-180, a synthetic aperture radar capable of detecting and identifying long-range targets. The airframe is much stronger with the integration of an armor protection system, or APS. It has an onboard GPS and an inertial navigation system. It also has twice the amount of munitions than the AC-130H. The AC-130U, employing technology developed in the 1990's, can attack two targets at one time with first round accuracy. Also, the Spooky has a higher service ceiling and longer range.

The older AC-130H Spectre variant, although it has half the amount of munitions capacity then the Spooky, is an excellent fire support platform. The Spectre is accurate enough to be able to place 105mm, 40mm, or 25mm munitions on targets with first round accuracy. The crews of these aircraft are extremely proficient working in military operations in urban terrain (MOUT) environments.

Operational History...
  • The AC-130 first appeared in Vietnam on September 27th, 1967 and began combat operations over Laos and South Vietnam.
  • By October 30th, 1968, enough AC-130 Gunship IIs arrived to form a squadron. The 16th Special Operations Squadron, or SOS, of the 8th Tactical Fighter Wing (TFW), at the Ubon Royal Thai Air Force Base in Thailand.
  • During the Vietnam War, the AC-130 was responsible for 10 000 trucks destroyed and participated in many crucial air support missions.
  • During the Invasion of Grenada (Operation Urgent Fury) in 1983, AC-130s were used to supress enemy defences enabling a successful assault of the Points Salines Airfield. One AC-130 crew won the Lieutenant General William H. Tunner Award for the mission.
  • AC-130s also participated in Operation Desert Storm. On January 31st, 1991, during the early morning hours, one AC-130H, AF Serial No. 69-6567, call sign Spirit 03, opted to stay and continue protecting the Marines despite the increasing threat of SAMs, or surface-to-air missiles. Unfortunately, Spirit 03 was shot down by a SAM and all fourteen crew members were KIA...
  • AC-130s participated in Operation Restore Hope and United Shield in Somalia.
  • AC-130s participated in the NATO mission in Bosnia-Herzegovina.
  • AC-130s participated in the 1997 evacuation of American noncombatants in Albania.
  • AC-130s were used in the buildup of US Forces in Iraq in 1998 the Iraqi government to comply with UN weapons inspections.
  • AC-130s participated in the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan and the Iraq War.
  • US Special Operations forces used AC-130s in 2007 on attacks on suspected al-Qaeda militants in Somalia.

The AC-130 has never lost a base under its protection to enemy forces.

World Records...

The AC-130 currently holds the record of the longest sustained flight. From the 22nd to the 24th of October 1997, two AC-130U Spookys flew 36.0 hours nonstop from Hurlbert Airfield, Florida to Taegu Air Base (Daegu), South Korea. There were altogether 7 air refuelings by KC-135 Stratotankers. This record shatted the previous one by over 10 hours and the two gunships took on 410 000 lb (184 500 kg) of fuel and displayed the Gunship's ability to match their squadron's motto of 'Any Time, Any Place!'.


General Characteristics (AC_130U)

Crew: 13
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)
Length: 97 ft 9 in (29.8 m)
Wingspan: 132 ft 7 in (40.4 m)
Height: 38 ft 6 in (11.7 m)
Wing area: 1745.5 ft² (162.2 m²)
Loaded weight: 122,400 lb (55,520 kg)
Max takeoff weight: 155,000 lb (69,750 kg)
Powerplant: 4× Allison T56-A-15 turboprops, 4,910 shp (3,700 kW) each

Performance (AC-130U)

Maximum speed: 260 knots (300 mph, 480 km/h)
Range: 2,200 nm (2,530 mi, 4,070 km)
Service ceiling: 30,000 ft (9,100 m)


AC-130A Project Gunship II
4× 7.62 mm GAU-2/A miniguns
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 Spectre
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

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