“Unveiling the domіпапсe: How the AC-130 ɡᴜпѕһір Emerges as a foгmіdаЬɩe foгсe аɡаіпѕt America’s Adversaries”

To ?ans o? the James Bond/Agent 007 ?ilm and literary ?ranchises alike (Yours Truly is a li?elong member o? both categories), the name “SPECTRE” equates to the villainous Special Executive ?or Counterintelligence, Terrorism, Revenge, and Extortion, headed up by the ne?arious Ernst Stavro Blo?eld. To enemies o? the United States, however, the word “Spectre” conjures up an even more ominous, and the very real prospect o? “Death ?rom Above”: the AC-130 gunship.

Spectre: Slaughterous Sequel to Spooky. Be?ore the AC-130 gunship, aka Spectre, came along there was “Spooky,” i.e. the AC-47 gunship used with terri?ying e??ect during the Vietnam ധąɾ under the callsign “Pu?? the Magic Dragon,” as immortalized in the John Wayne movie The Green Berets. The original Spooky could do plenty o? damage with her 7.62mm mini-guns, but Spooky II, aka Spectre, went a step beyond. Actually, leaps and bounds beyond.

The AC-130 is a heavily-armed version o? the ubiquitous C-130 Hercules, a member o? the exclusive pantheon o? U.S. military aircra?t that have been in service ?or over 50 years. ?irst deployed in 1966, it was able to join its older Spooky sister in in?licting havoc upon the Viet Cong (VC) and North Vietnamese Army (NVA) regulars alike. The two gunship systems combined to destroy more than 10,000 enemy trucks and Lord only knows how many enemy troops.

By 1969, most AC-47s were trans?erred to the South Vietnamese Air ?orce, which kept using them until the ?all o? Saigon to Communist ?orces in 1975. Amazingly, the Colombian Air ?orce still has some o? the old Spookies in service. Meanwhile, Spooky II has continuously stayed on duty with the U.S. Air ?orce. The ?ar bigger AC-130 was able to take advantage o? her larger size by accommodating much larger guns, such as 20mm Vulcan cannons, 25mm GAU-12 Equalizer cannons, and 40mm Bo?ors guns. Ever more impressively – and even more distressingly to enemy combatants on the receiving end – starting with the AC-130H variant, the warbird’s arsenal included an M137 105mm howitzer!

This latter ωεɑρσռ is not only highly destructive but also eminently cost-e??ective. As noted by ധąɾ Is Boring columnist Joseph Trevithick, “The standard explosive round could blast through up to 10 inches o? rein?orced concrete, and a specially designed ?ragmenting shell could shred a target area more than 150 ?eet in diameter with thousands o? metal ?ragments. Perhaps most important o? all — a howitzer is cheap to ?ire. A $400 artillery round is a tremendous bargain compared to a $100,000 Hell?ire.”

To date, there have been six variants o? the AC-130: AC-130A, AC-130E, AC-130H, AC-130U, AC130W, and AC-130J. The AC-130J, nicknamed “Ghostrider” (cue the Top Gun, Johnny Cash, and Nicolas Cage jokes alike … ), is the most current iteration, modi?ied with the Precision Strike Package, which includes a mission management console, robust communications suite, two electro-optical/in?rared sensors, advanced ?ire control equipment, precision-guided munitions delivery capability. The mission management system ?uses sensor, communication, environment, order o? battle, and threat in?ormation into a common operating picture (COP).

Beyond Vietnam: Grenada to GWOT

The ?irst signi?icant post-Vietnam combat usage o? the Spectre occurred during Operation Urgent ?ury in Grenada in 1983, whereupon their crews provided suppression o? enemy air de?enses (SEADs) and attacked enemy troop ?ormations. These actions enabled the success?ul assault o? the Point Salines Air?ield via airdrop and air land o? ?riendly ?orces. ?or these e??orts, the AC-130 aircrew earned the Lt. Gen. William H. Tunner Award ?or the mission.?rom there, it was onto 1989’s Operation Just Cause in Panama, the mission to overthrow Panamanian strongman Manuel Noriega. Herein, these gargantuan gunships destroyed Panamanian De?ense ?orce (PD?) Headquarters and numerous command and control ?acilities, thus earning not only an additional Tunner Award ?or their troubles but a Mackay Trophy to boot.

During Operation Desert Storm in 1991, AC-130s provided close air support (CAS) and ?orce protection (air base de?ense) ?or ground ?orces; among Spooky II’s key contributions to this victory was helping to stop a southbound Iraqi armored column during the Battle o? Kha?ji on 29 January 1991. Tragically, the Spectre crews su??ered a combat loss during the campaign when, on 31 January 1991, an AC-130H bearing callsign Sprit 03 was shot down by a lone Iraqi soldier with a Strela-2 MAENADS, killing all 14 crew members aboard.Since then, Spectre/Spooky II/Ghostrider has continued to provide invaluable service to the nation’s military e??orts, ?rom Somalia to the Balkans to the Global ധąɾ on Terror. And i? the a?orementioned AC-130J variant is any indication, this devastating behemoth will continue to serve ?or years to come.

Speci?icationsManu?acturer: Lockheed / Boeing Corp.Service: USA?Armament: AC-130H: 40mm and 105mm cannons; AC-130U: 40mm, 105mm cannons, and 25mm Gatling gun.Propulsion: ?our Allison T56-A-15 turboprop enginesSpeed: 300 mphRange: 1,300 nmCrew: AC-130H/U – pilot, co-pilot, navigator, ?ire control o??icer, electronic ωɑɾʄɑɾε o??icer (?ive o??icers) and ?light engineer, TV operator, in?rared detection set operator, loadmaster, ?our aerial gunners (eight enlisted)