Lockheed AC-130H/U Gunship: Aircraft profile

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Mission

The AC-130 gunship's primary missions are close air support, air interdiction and force protection. Missions in close air support are troops in contact, convoy escort and urban operations.

AC-130H/U Gunship front: An air-to-air front view of an AC-130A Hercules gunship aircraft. The aircraft is from the 919th Special Operations Group (AFRESO), Eglin Air Force Base Auxiliary Field) 3 (Duke Field) Florida. Airman Magazine, December 1984.AC-130H/U Gunship front: An air-to-air front view of an AC-130A Hercules gunship aircraft. The aircraft is from the 919th Special Operations Group (AFRESO), Eglin Air Force Base Auxiliary Field) 3 (Duke Field) Florida. Airman Magazine, December 1984.

Air interdiction missions are conducted against preplanned targets or targets of opportunity. Force protection missions include air base defense and facilities defense.

Features

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 any place, any time. The AC-130U employs synthetic apertures strike radar for long-range target detection and identification. The gunship's navigational devices include the inertial navigation systems and global positioning system. Both the AC-130s employ the latest technologies and can attack two targets simultaneously.

Background

The AC-130H's call sign is "Spectre." The AC-130U's call sign is "Spooky. " The U-model is the third generation of C-130 gunships. All gunships evolved from the first operational gunship, the AC-47

AC-130H/U Gunship: An AC-130H/U Gunship aircraft from the 4th Special Operation Squadron flies over an area near Hurlburt Field, Fla., Aug. 20, 2008. The gunship's primary missions include close-air support, air interdiction and force protection. (U.S. Air Force photo)AC-130H/U Gunship: An AC-130H/U Gunship aircraft from the 4th Special Operation Squadron flies over an area near Hurlburt Field, Fla., Aug. 20, 2008. The gunship's primary missions include close-air support, air interdiction and force protection. (U.S. Air Force photo)

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.

In 1997, gunships were diverted from Italy to provide combat air support for U.S. and allied ground troops during the evacuation of American noncombatants in Albania and Liberia. Gunships also were part of the buildup of U.S. forces in 1998 to convince Iraq to comply with U.N. weapons inspections. More recently, both aircraft have been employed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. Gunships provided armed reconnaissance, interdiction and direct support of ground troops engaged with enemy forces.

AC-130H/U Gunship: An air-to-air close-up view of a 919th Special Operations Group AC-130 Hercules gunship flying over the northeast coast of Honduras during Exercise PEGASUS '87.AC-130H/U Gunship: An air-to-air close-up view of a 919th Special Operations Group AC-130 Hercules gunship flying over the northeast coast of Honduras during Exercise PEGASUS '87.

General Characteristics

Primary Function: Close air support, air interdiction and force protection
Builder: Lockheed/Boeing Corp.
Power Plant: Four Allison T56-A-15 turboprop engines
Thrust: 4,910 shaft horsepower each engine
Wingspan: 132 feet, 7 inches (40.4 meters)
Length: 97 feet, 9 inches (29.8 meters)
Height: 38 feet, 6 inches (11.7 meters)
Speed: 300 mph (Mach .4) (at sea level)
Range: Approximately 1,300 nautical miles; unlimited with air refueling.
Ceiling: 25,000 feet (7,576 meters
Maximum Takeoff Weight: 155,000 pounds (69,750 kilograms)
Armament: AC-130H: 40mm and 105mm cannons; AC-130U: 40mm and 105mm cannons and 25mm gatling gun. AC-130Us are being retrofitted with 30mm Mk-44 single barrel cannons in place of the 40mm cannon and the 25mm gatling gun.
Crew: AC-130U - pilot, co-pilot, navigator, fire control officer, electronic warfare officer (officers) and flight engineer, TV operator, infrared detection set operator, loadmaster, four aerial gunners (enlisted)
Deployment Date: AC-130H, 1972; AC-130U, 1995
Unit Cost: AC-130H, $132.4 million; AC-130U, $190 million (fiscal 2001 constant dollars)
Inventory: Active duty, AC-130H, 8; AC-130U, 17; Reserve, 0; ANG, 0

Source: USAF

Detailed background:

Source: wikipedia.org

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. It is a variant of the C-130 Hercules transport plane. The AC-130 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 turboprops and has an armament ranging from 20 mm Gatling guns to 105 mm howitzers. 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).

AC-130H/U Gunship: AC-130H Hercules aircraft after engine start during Exercise Team Spirit '81.AC-130H/U Gunship: AC-130H Hercules aircraft after engine start during Exercise Team Spirit '81.

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 convoys, and flying urban operations. Air interdiction missions are conducted against planned targets and targets of opportunity. Force protection missions include defending air bases 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).

Development

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.

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. 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.

Design

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

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 Lt. Gen. 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) shot down 69-6567, call sign Spirit 03. All 14 crew members perished.

The military has used 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. On 15 March 1994 over the Indian Ocean (off the coast of Kenya, near the town of Malindi), aircraft 69-6576 (then known as Predator but previously called both Bad Company and Widow Maker) was lost, taking the lives of eight crew members. The gunship has the distinction of holding the record for the longest sustained flight by a C130. From 22nd through the 24th of Oct 1997, two AC130U gunships flew 36.0 hours nonstop from Hurlburt Field Florida to Taegu (Daegu) South Korea while being refueled 7 times in the air by KC135 Tanker 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. The AC-130 has the distinction of never having a base under its protection lost to the enemy.

Notable airframes

One of the first seven AC-130A aircraft deployed was 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 19th 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 USAF Armament Museum at Eglin AFB, Florida USA.

The first AC-130A loss of the war, 54-1629, named The Arbitrator, occurred on 24 May 1969 while on armed reconnaissance (a.k.a. "truck hunting") over Southern Laos. The aircraft, piloted by Lieutenant Colonel W. H Schwehm, was hit by 57 mm AAA while orbiting at over 6,000 feet. LTC Schwehm had ordered his crewmen to bail out as they approached the airfield, while he attempted an emergency landing at his Ubon Air Base. As the battle damaged Spectre touched down, the right undercarriage collapsed and the Gunship veered off the runway into an obstacle, catching fire. Eleven crewmen survived, but Staff Sergeants Cecil Taylor and Jack W. Troglen were killed in action.

The second AC-130A Spectre, 54-1625, named War Lord, was lost on 22 April 1970 while truck hunting along the southern portion of the Ho Chi Minh trail, in Laos. While strafing the trucks, the AC-130 Gunship, from the 16th SOS, was hit by 37 mm AAA, catching fire. Ten crewmen were listed as KIA. Staff Sergeant E. Fields was the only survivor.

AC-130H/U Gunship: An AC-130H/U Gunship aircraft from the 4th Special Operation Squadron jettisons flares over an area near Hurlburt Field, Fla., Aug. 20, 2008. The flares are designed to intercept heat-seeking missiles that can track aircraft during real-world missions.AC-130H/U Gunship: An AC-130H/U Gunship aircraft from the 4th Special Operation Squadron jettisons flares over an area near Hurlburt Field, Fla., Aug. 20, 2008. The flares are designed to intercept heat-seeking missiles that can track aircraft during real-world missions.

The last four Spectres lost in the Vietnam War were in 1972. On 28 March 1972, an AC-130A, 55-0044, named Prometheus, piloted by Major Irving B. Ramsower, from the 16th SOS, 8th TFW, was destroyed by a surface-to-air missile (SAM) while truck hunting over the Ho Chi Minh Trail. There were no survivors. On 30 March 1972, the first E-model was lost when AC-130E 69-6571 of the 16th SOS was truck hunting along the Ho Chi Minh Trail. Hit by 57 mm AAA, after confirming the destruction of three "killed" trucks, it crashed near An Loc. This time there were no fatalities from the crew, as they all bailed out of the aircraft safely. However, the SAR (Search And Rescue mission) that had been set in motion, turned out to be one of the largest in US history. When it was over, it had involved 7 HH-53s (known as Super Jolly Green Giants), 8 A-1 Skyraiders, 3 C-130s, ll sorties of ground-attack jet aircraft, 4 EB-66s (variant of B-66 Destroyer), 6 F-105 Thunderchiefs, 14 NAIL FACs, 3 RAVENs (CIA), 3 Air America Helicopters, 4 AC-130 Spectre Gunships, and an F-4 Phantom Fast FAC. The massive search and rescue operation was eclipsed a few days later by the famous Bat 21 rescue.

On 18 June 1972, a 16th SOS AC-130A, 55-0043, was operating approximately 25 miles southwest of Hue, South Vietnam, when an SA-7 struck its number 3 engine, tore off the wing, and caused an explosion. Three crewmen bailed out, but there were no other survivors.

The last Spectre lost in the Vietnam War was during the Linebacker II campaign. While the B-52s of Linebacker II were pounding North Vietnam, the Spectres continued their war against the truck convoys along the Ho Chi Minh Trail. On 21 December 1972, an AC-130A piloted by Captain Harry R. Lagerwall was attacking three trucks at nearly 8,000 feet, when the aircraft was struck by 37 mm AAA. The Spectre, 56-0490, named Thor, exploded into flames and only two crewmen managed to safely bail out; the remaining 14 crewmen perished.

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.

Operators

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

Specifications

General characteristics

* Crew: 13
o Officers: 5 (pilot, copilot, navigator, fire control officer, electronic warfare officer)
o 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

* 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)

Armament

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 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

Upgrades

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. 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.

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.

More photos:

AC-130H/U Gunship: Air to air top front view of Special Operations Wing AC-130 Hercules gunship on a training mission over the Gulf of Mexico.AC-130H/U Gunship: Air to air top front view of Special Operations Wing AC-130 Hercules gunship on a training mission over the Gulf of Mexico.

AC-130H/U Gunship: Close-up view of the 20mm Gatling guns of an AC-130H Hercules aircraft. The aircraft is assigned to the 16th Special Operations Squadron, 388th Tactical Fighter Wing.AC-130H/U Gunship: Close-up view of the 20mm Gatling guns of an AC-130H Hercules aircraft. The aircraft is assigned to the 16th Special Operations Squadron, 388th Tactical Fighter Wing.

AC-130H/U Gunship: A left side view of an AC-130 Hercules aircraft assigned to the 919th Special Operations Group in use during Operation OCEAN VENTURE '84.AC-130H/U Gunship: A left side view of an AC-130 Hercules aircraft assigned to the 919th Special Operations Group in use during Operation OCEAN VENTURE '84.

AC-130H/U Gunship front: An air-to-air front view of an AC-130A Hercules gunship aircraft. The aircraft is from the 919th Special Operations Group (AFRESO), Eglin Air Force Base Auxiliary Field) 3 (Duke Field) Florida. Airman Magazine, December 1984.AC-130H/U Gunship front: An air-to-air front view of an AC-130A Hercules gunship aircraft. The aircraft is from the 919th Special Operations Group (AFRESO), Eglin Air Force Base Auxiliary Field) 3 (Duke Field) Florida. Airman Magazine, December 1984.

AC-130H/U Gunship: KC-10A Extender aircraft refueling an AC-130H Hercules aircraft in flight.AC-130H/U Gunship: KC-10A Extender aircraft refueling an AC-130H Hercules aircraft in flight.

AC-130H/U Gunship: AC-130H Hercules aircraft after engine start during Exercise Team Spirit '81.AC-130H/U Gunship: AC-130H Hercules aircraft after engine start during Exercise Team Spirit '81.

AC-130H/U Gunship: AC-130H Hercules aircraft taking off during exercise Team Spirit '81.AC-130H/U Gunship: AC-130H Hercules aircraft taking off during exercise Team Spirit '81.

AC-130H/U Gunship: AC-130A Hercules gunship, followed by the other two Hercules, during a firing practice, a part of Exercise Brim Frost '81.AC-130H/U Gunship: AC-130A Hercules gunship, followed by the other two Hercules, during a firing practice, a part of Exercise Brim Frost '81.

AC-130H/U Gunship: A formation of four AC-130A Hercules gunship aircraft during a firing practice, a part of Exercise Brim Frost '81.AC-130H/U Gunship: A formation of four AC-130A Hercules gunship aircraft during a firing practice, a part of Exercise Brim Frost '81.

AC-130H/U Gunship: AC-130 Hercules aircraft during target practice.AC-130H/U Gunship: AC-130 Hercules aircraft during target practice.

AC-130H/U Gunship: Air to air front view of Special Operations Wing AC-130 Hercules gunship on a training mission over the Gulf of Mexico.AC-130H/U Gunship: Air to air front view of Special Operations Wing AC-130 Hercules gunship on a training mission over the Gulf of Mexico.

AC-130H/U Gunship: AC-130A Hercules aircraft taking off.AC-130H/U Gunship: AC-130A Hercules aircraft taking off.

AC-130H/U Gunship: A front view of a 16th Special Operations Squadron AC-130H Hercules gunship aircraft starting its engines on the flight line. The aircraft is armed with a 105 mm Howitzer and a 40 mm cannon.AC-130H/U Gunship: A front view of a 16th Special Operations Squadron AC-130H Hercules gunship aircraft starting its engines on the flight line. The aircraft is armed with a 105 mm Howitzer and a 40 mm cannon.

AC-130H/U Gunship: AC-130A Hercules aircraft taking off.AC-130H/U Gunship: AC-130A Hercules aircraft taking off.

AC-130H/U Gunship: AC-130H Hercules aircraft on a training flight. The aircraft was assigned to the 16th Special Operations Squadron, 388th Tactical Fighter Wing.AC-130H/U Gunship: AC-130H Hercules aircraft on a training flight. The aircraft was assigned to the 16th Special Operations Squadron, 388th Tactical Fighter Wing.

AC-130H/U Gunship: An AC-130H/U Gunship aircraft from the 4th Special Operation Squadron jettisons flares over an area near Hurlburt Field, Fla., Aug. 20, 2008. The flares are designed to intercept heat-seeking missiles that can track aircraft during real-world missions. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Julianne Showalter/Released)AC-130H/U Gunship: An AC-130H/U Gunship aircraft from the 4th Special Operation Squadron jettisons flares over an area near Hurlburt Field, Fla., Aug. 20, 2008. The flares are designed to intercept heat-seeking missiles that can track aircraft during real-world missions. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Julianne Showalter/Released)

AC-130H/U Gunship: An air-to-air left front view of a AC-130 Hercules aircraft in flight near Hurlburt Field at sunset.AC-130H/U Gunship: An air-to-air left front view of a AC-130 Hercules aircraft in flight near Hurlburt Field at sunset.

AC-130H/U Gunship: An AC-130H/U Gunship aircraft from the 4th Special Operation Squadron jettisons flares over an area near Hurlburt Field, Fla., on Aug. 20, 2008. The flares are used as a countermeasure to heat-seeking missiles that can track aircraft during real-world missions. DoD photo by Senior Airman Julianne Showalter, U.S. Air Force.AC-130H/U Gunship: An AC-130H/U Gunship aircraft from the 4th Special Operation Squadron jettisons flares over an area near Hurlburt Field, Fla., on Aug. 20, 2008. The flares are used as a countermeasure to heat-seeking missiles that can track aircraft during real-world missions. DoD photo by Senior Airman Julianne Showalter, U.S. Air Force.

AC-130H/U Gunship: An air-to-air front view of a AC-130 Hercules aircraft in-flight near Hurlburt Field.AC-130H/U Gunship: An air-to-air front view of a AC-130 Hercules aircraft in-flight near Hurlburt Field.

AC-130H/U Gunship: An AC-130H/U Gunship aircraft from the 4th Special Operation Squadron flies over an area near Hurlburt Field, Fla., Aug. 20, 2008. The gunship's primary missions include close-air support, air interdiction and force protection. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Julianne Showalter/Released)AC-130H/U Gunship: An AC-130H/U Gunship aircraft from the 4th Special Operation Squadron flies over an area near Hurlburt Field, Fla., Aug. 20, 2008. The gunship's primary missions include close-air support, air interdiction and force protection. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Julianne Showalter/Released)

AC-130H/U Gunship: Air-to-air front view of a AC-130 Hercules aircraft in-flight near Hurlburt Field.AC-130H/U Gunship: Air-to-air front view of a AC-130 Hercules aircraft in-flight near Hurlburt Field.

AC-130H/U Gunship: Professional boxer Felix "Tito" Trinidad enjoys the view from the cockpit of an AC-130U Spooky gunship aircraft at Hurlburt Field, Fla., Dec. 5, 2007. Trinidad, along with boxer Roy Jones, Jr., and their promoter, visited Hurlburt Field as part of their tour of military installations to show support for military members. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jason C. Epley)AC-130H/U Gunship: Professional boxer Felix "Tito" Trinidad enjoys the view from the cockpit of an AC-130U Spooky gunship aircraft at Hurlburt Field, Fla., Dec. 5, 2007. Trinidad, along with boxer Roy Jones, Jr., and their promoter, visited Hurlburt Field as part of their tour of military installations to show support for military members. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jason C. Epley)

AC-130H/U Gunship: An air-to-air left front view of a AC-130 Hercules aircraft in flight near Hurlburt Field.AC-130H/U Gunship: An air-to-air left front view of a AC-130 Hercules aircraft in flight near Hurlburt Field.

AC-130H/U Gunship: A U.S. Air Force AC-130 Gunship aircraft executes an evasive maneuver and drops chaff and flares during a firepower demonstration at the Nevada Test and Training Range in Nevada on Sept. 14, 2007. DoD photo by Lawrence Crespo, U.S. Air Force.AC-130H/U Gunship: A U.S. Air Force AC-130 Gunship aircraft executes an evasive maneuver and drops chaff and flares during a firepower demonstration at the Nevada Test and Training Range in Nevada on Sept. 14, 2007. DoD photo by Lawrence Crespo, U.S. Air Force.

AC-130H/U Gunship: An air-to-air front view of a AC-130 Hercules aircraft in flight near Hurlburt Field at sunset.AC-130H/U Gunship: An air-to-air front view of a AC-130 Hercules aircraft in flight near Hurlburt Field at sunset.

AC-130H/U Gunship: A sensor operator with 4th Special Operations Squadron performs pre-flight system checks before takeoff on an AC-130 U Gunship aircraft at Hurlburt Field, Fla., Aug. 6, 2007. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Ali E. Flisek)AC-130H/U Gunship: A sensor operator with 4th Special Operations Squadron performs pre-flight system checks before takeoff on an AC-130 U Gunship aircraft at Hurlburt Field, Fla., Aug. 6, 2007. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Ali E. Flisek)

AC-130H/U Gunship: An air-to-air front view of an AC-130 Hercules aircraft in-flight near Hulburt Field.AC-130H/U Gunship: An air-to-air front view of an AC-130 Hercules aircraft in-flight near Hulburt Field.

AC-130H/U Gunship: An AC-130H Gunship aircraft from the 16th Special Operations Squadron flies over Destin, Fla., Aug. 24, 2007. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Julianne Showalter)AC-130H/U Gunship: An AC-130H Gunship aircraft from the 16th Special Operations Squadron flies over Destin, Fla., Aug. 24, 2007. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Julianne Showalter)

AC-130H/U Gunship: AC-130 Hercules aircraft banks to the left near Hurlburt Field.AC-130H/U Gunship: AC-130 Hercules aircraft banks to the left near Hurlburt Field.

AC-130H/U Gunship: A U.S. Air Force AC-130H Spectre gunship jettisons flares as an infrared countermeasure during training off the Gulf Coast of Florida on Aug. 24, 2007. The primary missions of this Spectre from the 16th Special Operations Squadron of Hurlburt Field, Fla., are close air support, air interdiction and armed reconnaissance. DoD photo by Senior Airman Julianne Showalter, U.S. Air Force.AC-130H/U Gunship: A U.S. Air Force AC-130H Spectre gunship jettisons flares as an infrared countermeasure during training off the Gulf Coast of Florida on Aug. 24, 2007. The primary missions of this Spectre from the 16th Special Operations Squadron of Hurlburt Field, Fla., are close air support, air interdiction and armed reconnaissance. DoD photo by Senior Airman Julianne Showalter, U.S. Air Force.

AC-130H/U Gunship: An AC-130U Spectre gunship aircraft from the 4th Special Operations Squadron flies over Hurlburt Field, Fla., Aug. 24, 2007, during multi-gunship formation egress training. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Emily Moore)AC-130H/U Gunship: An AC-130U Spectre gunship aircraft from the 4th Special Operations Squadron flies over Hurlburt Field, Fla., Aug. 24, 2007, during multi-gunship formation egress training. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Emily Moore)

AC-130H/U Gunship: An air-to-air front view of a 919th Special Operations Group AC-130 Hercules gunship flying over the northeast coast of Honduras during Exercise Pegasus '87. The aircraft, nicknamed "The First Lady," is flying day and night combat air support for Honduran and U.S. Army Special Forces.AC-130H/U Gunship: An air-to-air front view of a 919th Special Operations Group AC-130 Hercules gunship flying over the northeast coast of Honduras during Exercise Pegasus '87. The aircraft, nicknamed "The First Lady," is flying day and night combat air support for Honduran and U.S. Army Special Forces.

AC-130H/U Gunship: U.S. Air Force Capt. Carlos Alvarado, a 4th Special Operations Squadron AC-130U Gunship pilot, flies in formation with an AC-130H Gunship aircraft during multi-gunship egress training over Hurlburt Field, Fla., Aug. 24, 2007. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Julianne Showalter)AC-130H/U Gunship: U.S. Air Force Capt. Carlos Alvarado, a 4th Special Operations Squadron AC-130U Gunship pilot, flies in formation with an AC-130H Gunship aircraft during multi-gunship egress training over Hurlburt Field, Fla., Aug. 24, 2007. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Julianne Showalter)

AC-130H/U Gunship: A KC-135 Aerial Refueling Squadron deployed to Nairobi, Kenya provides fuel for an AC-130 gunship. The gunship is patrolling the skies over Mogadishu during the United States efforts to evacuate remaining United Nations Forces from Somalia.AC-130H/U Gunship: A KC-135 Aerial Refueling Squadron deployed to Nairobi, Kenya provides fuel for an AC-130 gunship. The gunship is patrolling the skies over Mogadishu during the United States efforts to evacuate remaining United Nations Forces from Somalia.

AC-130H/U Gunship: An air-to-air close-up view of a 919th Special Operations Group AC-130 Hercules gunship flying over the northeast coast of Honduras during Exercise PEGASUS '87. The aircraft, nicknamed "The First Lady," is flying day and night combat air support for Honduran and US Army Special Forces.AC-130H/U Gunship: An air-to-air close-up view of a 919th Special Operations Group AC-130 Hercules gunship flying over the northeast coast of Honduras during Exercise PEGASUS '87. The aircraft, nicknamed "The First Lady," is flying day and night combat air support for Honduran and US Army Special Forces.

More photos: AC-130H/U Gunship photo gallery

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