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AC-119 SHADOW

Posted 7/8/2008 Printable Fact Sheet
 
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Fairchild Corporation concentrated on building small aircraft until World War II when the Army wanted a specialized troop and cargo carrier. The company recommended a high-wing, twin-boom design with a large capacity nacelle suspended under the wing between the booms for the crew, passengers and cargo. It would have a hinged rear section for loading vehicles, artillery and similar items that were too large for the doors of the C-46 or C-47. The rear clamshell cargo doors had embedded standard doors so those two rows of paratroopers could jump at the same time. The mock-up was approved in October 1942 and the first prototype of XC-82 Packet flew Sept. 10, 1944. With two 2,100 horsepower Pratt & Whitney R-2800 Double Wasp engines, it was clearly the most capable aircraft in its class. Wingspan was 106 feet 5.5 inches, and wing area was 1,400 square feet. The aircraft weighed 32,500 pounds empty and 54,000 pounds loaded.

Other characteristics were a maximum speed of 281 mph at 18,000 feet, an initial climb of 950 feet per minute, a service ceiling of 21,200 feet, and a range over 3,000 miles. The company received large orders, but the war ended in 1945 and it was generally perceived that most of the military need ceased to exist.

At that time the Army Air Force honored an existing order for 200 of these aircraft plus an additional 20 which carried their production into September 1948. Fairchild designers looked for new markets through modifications to the C-82. A tracked landing gear for soft airstrips worked but didn't interest customers. However, in the post-war years, the need for larger transport aircraft became more apparent. In November 1947, Fairchild flew a modified C-82 with greater capacity by redesigning the forward fuselage area. They moved the flight deck from an upper level to a position in the nose. Fairchild utilized 3,500 horsepower R-4360-20 Pratt & Whitney engines with four-blade, paddle-type, hollow steel propellers. The empty weight increased to 39,800 pounds, but more importantly the gross weight reached 74,000 pounds. Aircraft dimensions were a wingspan of 109 feet 3 inches, a length of 86 feet 6 inches, height of 26 feet 6 inches, and a wing area of 1,447 square feet. The greater capability of this modified C-82 resulted mostly from the more powerful engines since the airframe remained essentially the same. A comparison of the performance characteristics of the two aircraft finds the maximum speed unchanged and the initial climb rate only slightly increased to 1,010 feet per minute. The service ceiling of 23,900 feet was an increase of 2,700 feet, but even with the 1,400 horsepower increase in each engine, the range dropped to about 2,000 miles. In 1948, Fairchild received orders for 143 of these newly designated C-119B transports. The Air Force bought most of them, but a few with the R4Q-1 designation went to the Marine Corps beginning in 1950.

More than a thousand C-119 "Flying Boxcars" in various models were produced between 1949 and 1955, including 141 under Mutual Defense Assistance Program funding for Belgium, Italy and India. Finally, more than 400 of the Air Force inventory were sold or given to 11 other countries. Main variants included the C-119C with water-injection engines, C-119F with 2,500 horsepower Wright R-3350-85 Duplex Cyclone engines, and the G-model. Conversion programs also produced the J-model with series of later variants for us in Southeast Asia. To increase performance, the Air Force added two underwing pods with 2,850-pound thrust General Electric J85 jet engines. Two models served as ground support gunships in Vietnam as the Air Force moved from the AC-47 through the AC-130 in its search for the best aircraft to fill this vital need in special operations.

Firsts have been a part of the history of this aircraft. The Flying Boxcars first saw combat in Korea when they dropped 4,000 troops plus equipment and supplies in the first airborne attack of the war. It was a daring mission to rescue a northbound trainload of American prisoners of war. Also, Chinese communist soldiers cut off a Marine division at the Chosin reservoir. They were saved by C-119 airdrops of supplies, which kept them alive and able to fight for 10 days. The Marines broke out of the trap only to face an impassible gorge blocking their access to the Navy at Hungan. The C-119s delivered a 32-ton bridge so they could make good their escape. This was the first time in history that an entire bridge had been dropped by air. In addition to airdrops, they made air catches. A C-119 accomplished the first mid-air recovery of an Orbital Vehicle, Aug. 19,1960, when Discovery XIV was caught at 8,600 feet altitude as it descended by parachute.

The AC-119G gunship, a modified G-model, carried four 7.62mm miniguns firing from the left side of the aircraft. Equipped with a 20-kilowatt illuminator, aluminum ceramic armor in crew and cargo areas, a semi-automatic flare-launching system, foam in the fuel tanks for fire suppression, and new communications equipment, this was a weapons system to be respected. In the now classic gunship tactic, the AC-119G flew a continuous left orbit to keep the guns and sensors on the target. Fighter aircraft made passes and after each pass had to reacquire the target with lost time on target which the gunship tactic avoided. Success with the G-model led directly and quickly to the AC-119K with its two auxiliary jet engines. Armed also with 20mm Gatling guns with more than 4,200 rounds of ammunition and advanced avionics, the K-model proved to be even more effective.

Catchy gunship call signs were selected to provide unit cohesiveness and esprit de corps. The AC-47 gunships and their people were Spooky. To that end, the AC-119G people adopted the name Shadow and the follow-on AC-119K force became Stingers. The two AC-119 models had two completely different missions. The Shadows provided troops in contact and airbase defense. Their business card advertised their mission with a measure of humor, such as "When Uninvited Guests Drop In ... Call for 'THE SHADOW.'" We Provide: Lightning for All Occasions...," "We Defend: Special Forces Camps, Air Bases, Outposts, Troops in Contact," and "Who Knows What Evil Lurks Below the Jungle Canopy? THE SHADOW KNOWS!" The Stingers were devoted to the truck hunting mission especially on the Ho Chi Minh Trail. With their 20mm weapons in addition to their 7.62mm guns, they could very effectively destroy most trucks used by the North Vietnamese.

The 4413th Combat Crew Training Squadron received its first AC-119K gunship Nov. 8, 1968. This squadron had been organized at Lockbourne Air Force Base, Ohio, March 1, 1968, and assigned to the 1st Air Commando Wing with a mission to train gunship crews. The 71st Air Commando Squadron (Reserve) was called to active duty at Lockbourne May 12. Although assigned to the 1st ACW at Hurlburt Field, they received their gunship training at Lockbourne in the AC-119 and deployed to Southeast Asia in late December for assignment to the 14th Special Operations Wing. Four gunships, two AC-119s and two AC-130s, of the 4413th CCTS at Lockbourne deployed to Hurlburt Field for COMBAT RENDEZVOUS. That exercise evaluated the ability of these gunships to strike targets close to friendly forces. The tests validated their offset mode of fire control. Training during the first half of 1969 qualified 341 aircrew members in the AC-119G/K gunships. The 18th SOS although assigned to the 1st SOW activated at Lockbourne Jan. 25, 1969, to fly the AC-119. They received their first gunship March 5 and transferred to Southeast Asia and assignment to Pacific Air Forces Oct. 1, 1969.

ENHANCE PLUS directed by the Air Force Chief of Staff, Oct. 1, 1972, transferred 16 AC-119Ks assigned to PACAF and the six assigned to the 1st SOW to the Air Force of South Vietnam. This decision wiped out the entire 1st SOW AC-119K force.
Therefore, on Oct. 20, with no available aircraft, the AC-119K class at Hurlburt was advised that their training had been cancelled. Since they require auxiliary fuel tanks in order to fly across the Pacific Ocean, the Hurlburt aircraft deployed Oct. 22 to Robins Air Force Base, Ga., for that modification. However, when ENHANCE PLUS was cancelled, three of the six 1st SOW aircraft redeployed home. Hardly had they returned when the program was revived and all six aircraft departed for SEA Oct. 29.

Title to the aircraft didn't automatically provide the needed aircraft capability. In December 1972, six AC-119K crewmembers from the 415th Special Operations Training Squadron deployed to SEA to train the South Vietnamese. This training team consisted of one pilot, two navigators, one flight engineer, one gunner and one illuminator operator. It completed its mission and returned home March 5, 1973. The 415th SOTS earned the Air Force Outstanding Unit Award for the period between Sept. 15, 1970 and July 25, 1971, when it had been located at Lockbourne and had flown the gunships.

C-119G TAIL #53-3144 HISTORY
The aircraft in the airpark is a C-119G model received by the Air Force on April 23, 1954. It served troop carrier assignments with both the active and reserve forces in Japan, Oregon, Texas and Rhode Island. The Air Force retired it to storage at the "Boneyard" at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base before selling it to a private individual in 1975. Its next assignment involved agricultural spraying for grasshoppers until that became unprofitable. The owners then turned to contraband and delivered television sets from Texas into Mexico. Customers bought the TV sets directly from the aircraft. On its sixth and final illegal operation, it was damaged when it struck a large cactus tree in the middle of an airstrip. It returned to the United States and sat at Laredo, Texas, until sold again to a private individual who exchanged it and an AT-11 for a Beechcraft U-8 and a C-118. In 1987, the aircraft flew to Hurlburt for display in the airpark in honor of all commandos who served on this type of aircraft. It arrived Sept. 23 after being chased by Customs and Drug Enforcement Agency aircraft after Beaumont, Texas, and New Orleans. The pilot had no aircraft radios and failed to file a flight plan. When he was picked up on radar and couldn't be contacted, he was considered a drug smuggler. Following engine and propeller changes and other work, the aircraft was moved to the airpark and installed June 28, 1988.

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Hurlburt Field, FL 32544-5271
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