AC130 Gunship
AC-130 Close Air Support, AC130 Air Interdiction and Force Protection, 40mm Cannon and 105mm Cannon; AC-130 U 25mm gun

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AC-130 Recent and planned 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 30 mm Mk 44 Bushmaster II cannons.[9] In 2007, the Air Force modified four AC-130U gunships as test platforms for the Bushmasters.
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AC130, C130 Gunship
AC-130 Gunship AC130
in flight
AC-130
Front View
AC130 Gunship AC130

The AC-130 (AC130) Gunship is armed variant of the Lockheed C-130 Hercules.

The primary missions of the United States Air Force's AC-130H Spectre and AC-130U Spooky gunships are close air support, air interdiction, and force protection. Missions in close air support are troops in contact, convoy escort and urban operations. Air interdiction missions are conducted against preplanned targets or targets of opportunity. Force protection missions include air base defense and facilities defense.


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 AC130 U 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. The AC130 U employs the latest technologies and can attack two targets simultaneously. It also has twice the munitions capacity of the AC130 H.

The AC-130 gunship has a combat history dating to Vietnam where it was humorously known as "Puff the Magic Dragon." Gunships destroyed more than 10,000 trucks and were credited with many crucial 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 AC130 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, AC130 s 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. More recently, gunships played a pivotal role in supporting the NATO mission in Bosnia-Herzegovina. The AC130 H 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. Gunships also were part of the buildup of U.S. forces in 1998 to convince Iraq to comply with U.N. weapons inspections. Gunships were later used in the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan and 2003 Iraq War.

AC130
Current deployment
The AC130 H is produced at a cost of $132.4 million US Dollars and the AC130 U is produced at a cost of $190 million US Dollars (fiscal 2001 constant dollars). Currently there are eight AC130 H and thirteen AC-130U aircraft in Active Duty service. No aircraft of either type is on reserve or National Guard duty.

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AC-130 Civilian casualties and controversy
The use of gunships in general and the AC130 in particular has been controversial at times. Although the on-board systems are effective at identifying targets, it is unable to reliably tell whether those targets are civilians or military. Incidents of attacks on, for example weddings, have been explained by celebratory firing of small calibre weapons (e.g. AK-47s in Afghanistan[1]). Further, in combat areas such as Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq, fighters tend to be mixed with the local population either since they are part of that population or, according to American Military sources, because they use the local population as "human shields". This intermingling of population with fighters means that air attack by the AC-130 on a "military targets" risks civilian casualties since it is "not possible to distinguish" combatants from non-combatants.

The greater accuracy of attacks from the AC130 has been claimed to reduce accidental casualties compared to high level bombing.

AC-130 General Characteristics

  • Primary Function: Close air support, air interdiction and force protection
  • Builder: Lockheed/Boeing
  • Power Plant: Four Allison T56-A-15 turboprop engines
  • Thrust: 4,910 shaft horsepower each engine
  • Length: 97 feet, 9 inches (29.8 meters)
  • Height: 38 feet, 6 inches (11.7 meters)
  • Wingspan: 132 feet, 7 inches (40.4 meters)
  • Speed: Mach 0.4 (300 mph) (at sea level)
  • Ceiling: 25,000 feet (7,576 meters)
  • Range: Approximately 1,300 nautical miles; unlimited with air refueling.
  • Maximum Takeoff Weight: 155,000 pounds (69,750 kilograms)
  • Crew: AC-130U - Five officers (pilot, co-pilot, navigator, fire control officer, electronic warfare officer) and eight enlisted (flight engineer, TV operator, infrared detection set operator, loadmaster, four aerial gunners)
  • Deployment Date: AC-130H, 1972; AC-130U, 1995
  • Unit Cost: AC130 /H, US$132.4 million; AC-130U, US$190 million (fiscal 2001 constant dollars)
  • Inventory: Active duty: AC-130H, 8; AC130 U, 13; Reserve, 0; ANG, 0

Armament AC130
1x GAU-12 Equalizer 25mm Gatling gun (AC-130H: 2x M61 Vulcan 20 mm Gatling guns)
1x L60 Bofors 40 mm rapid-fire single-barrel autocannon
1x M102 105 mm howitzer
Note: The two M61 Vulcan cannons were removed from the AC-130H around 2002. They, along with the L60 Bofors are being replaced by two M-242 25mm chain guns. The AC-130U is also replacing the GAU-12 and L-60 with two 25mm M-242's.

Units using the AC130. C-130 Hercules (all variants)
United States Air Force
1st Special Operation Squadron - Kadena Air Base, Japan (MC-130H)
2nd Airlift Squadron - Pope Air Force Base, Fayetteville, North Carolina (C-130E)
4th Special Operation Squadron - Hurlburt Field, Florida ( AC-130 /U)
5th Special Operation Squadron Reserve Command - Eglin Air Force Base, Florida (MC-130P)
7th Special Operation Squadron - Mildenhall, United Kingdom (M C-130 H)
8th Special Operation Squadron - Duke Field, Florida (M C-130 E)
9th Special Operation Squadron - Eglin Air Force Base, Florida (MC-130P)
14th Weapons Squadron - Hulburt Field, Florida (MC-130H)
15th Special Operation Squadron - Hulburt Field, Florida (MC-130H)
15th Test Squadron - Hill Air Force Base, Utah (C-130H)
16th Special Operation Squadron - Hulburt Field, Florida ( AC130 H)
17th Special Operation Squadron - Kadena Air Base, Japan (MC-130P)
19th Special Operation Squadron - Hulburt Field, Florida ( AC130 U/H)
35th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron - Munoz Marin IAP, Puerto Rico (C-130E/H)
36th Airlift Squadron - Yokota Air Base, Japan (C-130E)
37th Airlift Squadron - Ramstein Air Base, Germany (C-130E)
38th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron - Ramstein Air Base, Germany (C-130E/H)
39th Airlift Squadron - Dyess Air Force Base, Texas (C130 H)
39th Rescue Squadron Reserve Command - Patrick Air Force Base, Cocoa Beach, Florida (HC-130N/P)
40th Airlift Squadron - Dyess Air Force Base, Texas (C-130 H)
40th Flight Test Squadron - Eglin Air Force Base, Florida (NC-130E)
41st Airlift Squadron - Pope Air Force Base, Fayetteville, North Carolina ( C-130 E)
41st Electronic Combat Squadron - Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Tucson, Arizona (EC-130H)
43rd Electronic Combat Squadron - Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Tucson, Arizona (EC130 H)
48th Airlift Squadron - Little Rock Air Force Base, Arkansas (C-130 J)
50th Airlift Squadron - Little Rock Air Force Base, Arkansas (C-130 H)
53rd Airlift Squadron - Little Rock Air Force Base, Arkansas (C-130 E)
53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron Command-Keesler Air Force Base, Biloxi, Mississippi (WC-130H/J)
61st Airlift Squadron - Little Rock Air Force Base, Arkansas (C-130 E)
62nd Airlift Squadron - Little Rock Air Force Base, Arkansas (C-130 E)
67th Special Operation Squadron - Mildenhall, United Kingdom (MC-130 P)
71st Rescue Squadron - Moody Air Force Base, Georgia (HC-130P)
79th Rescue Squadron - Davis Monthan Air Force Base, Tucson, Arizona (HC-130P)
95th Airlift Squadron Reserve Command - Mitchell Field (C-130H)
96th Airlift Squadron Reserve Command - Minneapolis, Minnesota (C-130E)
102nd Rescue Squadron Air National Guard - Suffolk Field, Westhampton, New York (HC-130N/P)
105th Airlift Squadron - Air National Guard Nashville, Tennessee (C-130 H)
109th Airlift Squadron - Air National Guard Minneapolis, Minnesota (C-130 H)
115th Fighter Squadron Air National Guard - Channel Island, Port Huebeme, California (C-130E)
122nd Fighter Squadron Air National Guard - New Orleans (C-130E)
130th Airlift Squadron - Air National Guard Kanawha, West Virginia (AC-130 H)
130th Rescue Squadron Air National Guard - Moffett Field, Sunnyvale, California (MC-130P)
135th Airlift Squadron - Air National Guard Martin Field (C-130 J)
139th Airlift Squadron - Air National Guard Schenectady County Airport, Scotia, New York (LC/C-130H)
142nd Airlift Squadron - Air National Guard Wilmington, Delaware (C-130H)
143rd Airlift Squadron - Air National Guard Quonset Point, (C-130 J)
154th Training Squadron - Air National Guard, Little Rock Air Force Base, Arkansas (C-130H)
156th Airlift Squadron - Air National Guard Charlotte Douglas Airport, Charlotte, North Carolina (C130H)
157th Fighter Squadron - Air National Guard McEntire, Columbia, South Carolina (C-130H)
158nd Airlift Squadron - Air National Guard Savannah, Georgia (C-130H)
159th Fighter Squadron Air National Guard - Jacksonville Florida (C-130H)
164th Airlift Squadron - Air National Guard Mansfield, Ohio (C-130H)
165th Airlift Squadron - Air National Guard Louisville International Airport, Louisville, Kentucky (C-130H)
167th Airlift Squadron - Air National Guard Martinsburg, West Virginia (C-130H)
169th Airlift Squadron Air National Guard - Peoria (C-130E)
171st Airlift Squadron Air National Guard - Selfridge, Michigan (C-130E)
180th Airlift Squadron - Air National Guard Rosecrane (C-130H)
181st Airlift Squadron - Air National Guard Carswell Air Force Base, Fort Worth, Texas (C-130H)
185th Airlift Squadron - Air National Guard Will Rogers Field, Oklahoma (C-130H)
187th Airlift Squadron - Air National Guard Cheyenne, Wyoming (C-130H)
189th Airlift Squadron Air National Guard - Gowen Field, Boise, Idaho (C-130E)
192nd Airlift Squadron - Air National Guard (C-130H)
193rd Special Operation Squadron Air National Guard - Olmsted Field (EC-130E)
198th Airlift Squadron Air National Guard - Muniz (C-130E)
199th Fighter Squadron Air National Guard - Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii (C-130H)
204th Airlift Squadron Air National Guard - Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii (C-130H)
210th Rescue Squadron Air National Guard - Kulis Air National Gaurd Base, Anchorage, Alaska (HC-130N)
327th Airlift Squadron Reserve Command - Willow Grove Naval Air Station, Philadelphia Pennsylvania (C130)
328th Airlift Squadron Reserve Command - Niagara Falls, New York (C-130 H)
339th Flight Test Squadron - Robins Air Force Base, Georgia
357th Airlift Squadron Reserve Command - Maxwell Air Force Base, Montgomery, Alabama (C-130H)
418th Flight Test Squadron - Edwards Air Force Base, California (NC-130H, C-130J AC130 /H)
517th Airlift Squadron - Elmendorf Air Force Base, Anchorage, Alaska (C-130H)
550th Special Operations Squadron - Kirtland Air Force Base,Albuquerque,New Mexico (MC-130P, MC-130H)
645th Material Squadron Det.1 - Palmdale, California (NC-130E, EC-130H)
700th Airlift Squadron Reserve Command - Dobbins Air Reserve Base, Atlanta, Georgia (C-130H)
711th Special Operation Squadron Reserve Command - Duke Field, Florida (MC-130E)
731st Airlift Squadron Reserve Command - Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado Springs, Colorado (C-130H)
737th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron - Ali Al Salem, Kuwait ( C-130 E )
738th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron - Ali Al Salem, Kuwait ( C-130 E/H )
745th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron - Al Udeid, Qatar (C-130H)
746th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron - Al Udeid, Qatar (C-130H/J)
757th Airlift Squadron Reserve Command - Youngstown Municipial Airport, Mansfield, Ohio (C-130H)
758th Airlift Squadron Reserve Command - Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (C-130H)
773rd Airlift Squadron Reserve Command - Youngstown Municipial Airport, Mansfield, Ohio (C-130H)
774th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron - Karshi-Khanabad, Uzbekistan ( C-130 H )
777th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron - Talil, Iraq ( C-130 E )
815th Airlift Squadron Reserve Command - Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi (C-130J)
United States Coast Guard
5th Coast Guard District Elizabeth City, North Carolina (HC-130H)
7th Coast Guard District Clearwater, Florida (H AC130 H)
14th Coast Guard District Kalaeloa Airport, Oahu, Hawaii (HC-130H)
17th Coast Guard District Kodiak Island, Alaska (AC130 H)
United States Marine Corps
VMGR-152 Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron "Sumos" Okinawa, Japan (KC-130F/R)
VMGR-234 Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron "Rangers" Fort Worth, Dallas, Texas (KC-130R/T)
VMGR-252 Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron "Otis" Cherry Point, North Carolina (KC-130F/R/J)
VMGRT-253 Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Training Squadron "Titans" Cherry Point, North Carolina (KC-130F/R/J)
VMGR-352 Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron "Raiders" Miramar, San Diego California (KC-130F/R)
VMGR-452 Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron "Yankees" Stewart Air National Guard Base, New York (KC-130R/T)
United States Navy
Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron "Blue Angels" - Naval Air Station Jacksonville Florida (C130 R)
VX-20 Development Squadron - Patuxent River, Washington DC (K C130 F)
VX-30 Development Squadron "Bloodhounds" - Point Mugu California ( AC-130 A )

 
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.[10] Brig. Gen. Bradley A. Heithold, AFSOC's director of plans, programs, requirements and assessments, said on 11 August 2008 that the effort was canceled due to problems with the Bushmaster's accuracy "at the altitude we were employing it" in tests. There were also schedule considerations that drove the decision, he said.

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.

As a result of the demand for AC-130s, Air Force Special Operations Command will increase the gunship force by converting an unknown number of MC-130W Combat Spears. The decision to stick with the C-130s to fill the need came after funding to acquire 16 C-27s had been stripped from the fiscal 2010 budget. Specifics were not given on what weapons the new gunships would be armed with.[13] On 19 May 2009, USAF Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz stated that the new gunships are most likely going to feature a lighter weapons load than the AC-130 H and U-models. The General stated that the new gunships will probably look a little bit more like what they were working on with the AC-27, but it will be on a C-130 platform.
 
     
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AC130 Gunship ( AC-130 )
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