The AC-130H gunship's primary missions were close air support, air interdiction and force protection. Missions included troops in contact, convoy escort and urban operations. Air interdiction missions were conducted against pre-planned targets or targets of opportunity. Force protection missions included 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 consisted of a television sensor, infrared sensor and radar. These sensors allowed the gunship to visually or electronically identify friendly ground forces and targets Any Time, Any Place.
The AC-130H's call sign is "Spectre.” The H-model is the second generation of C-130 gunships, all of which evolved from the first operational gunship, the AC-47.
The AC-130 gunship has a combat history dating to Vietnam. All AC-130Hs started out as AC-130Es, but in the 1970s received upgraded engines, and other modifications, that led to their redesignation as AC-130Hs. 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 airland 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. It also participated in Operation JUST CAUSE in Panama in 1994/1995.
Additionally, gunships 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.
Gunships were also part of the buildup of U.S. forces in 1998 to convince Iraq to comply with U.N. weapons inspections. More recently, AC-130H aircraft have been employed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. Gunships are charged with providing armed reconnaissance, interdiction and direct support of ground troops engaged with enemy forces.
Of note, the AC-130H displayed in the airpark forward deployed to Egypt and stood ready to participate in Operation RICE BOWL, the planned operation to rescue American embassy workers held hostage in Iran.
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
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: 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: 40mm cannon and 105mm cannon
Crew: 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: 1972
Point Of Contact
1st Special Operations Wing, Public Affairs Office, 344 Tully Street; Hurlburt Field, FL 32544; DSN 579-7464 or (850) 884-7464; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org