4th Special Operations Squadron


Located at Hurlburt Field, Florida, the 4th Special Operations Squadron (4 SOS) currently employs the Block 30 AC-130J, the newest iteration of gunship fielded in the United States Air Force.  Home to an impressive service record, the 4 SOS holds the distinction not only as the oldest operational gunship squadron but also as the most continuously deployed over the past 20 years.  Overall, the 4 SOS plans, prepares, and executes a wide variety of mission sets and is tasked to support theater commanders in the completion of operations including Close Air Support (CAS), Air Interdiction (AI), Armed Reconnaissance, and Armed Escort.  The squadron also actively pursues new roles to provide commanders with uninterrupted connectivity and increased situational awareness across an increasingly vast battlespace.

The 4 SOS is the second gunship squadron to receive and operate the AC-130J, a highly modified MC-130J aircraft. The aircraft is operated by a crew of four officers and four enlisted crew members who manage the fully integrated digital avionics and precision strike package. The aircraft’s aerial refueling system allows greater range and extended loiter times unmatched by other CAS aircraft.

What sets the AC-130J apart from previous models is the addition of the Precision Strike Package.  This equipment consists of a mission management console, two electro-optical/infrared sensors, advanced fire control computers, precision guided munitions delivery capability, as well as trainable 30mm and 105mm weapons. The mission management system fuses sensor, communication, environment, order of battle, and threat information into a common operating picture for crew members and commanders to efficiently manage the battle space. 

The AC-130J provides a variety of munitions for commanders and users to employ during mission execution.  In keeping with gunship tradition, the Ghostrider is armed with side firing 30mm and 105mm howitzer guns.  The aircraft can employ both weapons at the same time on multiple targets that are geographically separated.  The newest munitions added to the AC-130J are the precision guided munitions.  The aircraft is designed to carry three different variants of the GBU-39, various AGM-114 hellfire missiles, AGM-176 Griffin missiles, and the GBU-69 Small Glide Munition.  The AC-130J can employ each of these munitions independently or with terminal guidance provided by a ground party or other airborne asset.  Overall, the addition of these smart munitions greatly increases the lethality of the gunship, which is no longer limited to its side firing guns.

Emblem Significance
Blue background represents the sky, the primary theater of Air Force operations. Yellow refers to the sun and the excellence required of Air Force personnel.
The black disc with crescent suggests a night sky in which the unit is especially adapted to operate.
The ghost specter reflects the unit's history and the aircraft named "Spooky." It further alludes to the squadron's ability to appear and disappear.
The flames spewing from the ghost's arm denotes the firepower of the unit's aircraft from high altitude. (The ghost represented on the unit emblem was originally portrayed on nose art on the first gunship (AC-47). The AC-47 was universally called "Spooky" and inclusion of the "Spooky" ghost on the patch ties the AC-130U gunship that the 4 SOS operated for over 25 years to its original ancestor.)

4th Ferrying Squadron (constituted 4th Air Corps Ferrying Squadron on 18 Feb 1942; activated on 8 Apr 1942; redesignated 4th Ferrying Squadron on 12 May 1943; disbanded on 31 Mar 1944; reconstituted on 19 Sep 1985) consolidated (19 Sep 1985) with the following units: 4th Liaison Squadron (constituted 4th Liaison Flight on 27 Sep 1949; activated on 27 Oct 1949; redesignated 4th Liaison Squadron on 15 Jul 1952; deactivated on 22 Jul 1952; activated on 22 Jul 1952; deactivated on 8 Mar 1954); 4th Special Operations Squadron (constituted 4th Air Commando Squadron [Fire Support], and activated, on 2 Aug 1965; organized on 8 Aug 1965; redesignated 4th Special Operations Squadron on 1 Aug 1968; deactivated on 15 Dec 1969); and 4th Airborne Command and Control Squadron (constituted 4th Airborne Command and Control Squadron on 12 Mar 1970; activated on 1 Apr 1970). Deactivated on 30 Sep 1992. Redesignated 4th Special Operations Squadron on 13 Feb 1995. Activated on 4 May 1995.

The squadron traces its lineage back to the 4th Air Corps Ferrying Squadron, which was activated in April 1942 and was subsequently redesignated the 4th Ferrying Squadron in May 1943. It ferried a variety of fighter, bomber, and non-combat aircraft to locations in Alaska, Africa, and Europe. The squadron was disbanded in March 1944.

The 4th Liaison Flight was activated in October 1949 and was redesignated the 4th Liaison Squadron in July 1952. Its mission included transport, air evacuation, courier duty, and reconnaissance. The squadron flew the L-13, C-45 and L-20 aircraft. The unit was subsequently deactivated in March 1954.

The 4th Air Commando Squadron (Fire Support) was activated in August 1965 and was redesignated the 4th Special Operations Squadron in August 1969. The squadron's primary mission was to provide close air support to friendly positions against enemy forces in Southeast Asia. The 4th also flew reconnaissance, forward air control, search and rescue, and equipment test missions. The squadron flew C/AC/FC and HC-47s. In December of 1969, the squadron was deactivated.

The 4th Airborne Command and Control Squadron was activated in April 1970. Flying the EC-135A/C/G, it provided an airborne and auxiliary command post and a communications link for Fifteenth Air Force and Strategic Air Command (SAC). It occasionally flew "Looking Glass" missions to back up the SAC airborne command post. This squadron was then deactivated in September 1992.

The 4th Special Operations Squadron was reactivated on May 4, 1995 at Hurlburt Field, FL. Armed with the AC-130U, 4 SOS Airmen participated in their first deployment soon after in October during Exercise Foal Eagle in the Republic of Korea. In September 1996, the squadron made its first operational deployment to Brindisi, Italy, supporting Operation JOINT ENDEAVOR over the skies of Bosnia-Herzegovina. The next operational deployment came in April 1999, in support of the NATO-led Operation ALLIED FORCE over Kosovo.  It was during this deployment that the U-model conducted its first combat mission. 

Following the tragedy of September 11, 2001, the 4 SOS was called upon to fight the war on terrorism in Afghanistan. It earned great distinction flying long missions in direct support of the Special Operations war in Afghanistan. In the spring of 2003, the 4 SOS played a pivotal role during Operation IRAQI FREEDOM by firing the first shots of the conflict. During the initial two months of action, the 4 SOS operating the AC-130U flew more than 1000 combat hours from three separate forward operating locations. The unit served with unwavering distinction and proved invaluable to the coalition's effort to topple the former Iraqi regime. Following OIF, the AC-130U continued to be a vital asset, expertly employed by the 4 SOS in Operations ENDURING FREEDOM, FREEDOM’S SENTINEL, RESOLUTE SUPPORT, and INHERENT RESOLVE, earning the title of most deployed squadron in the U.S. Air Force since the events of September 11, 2001.

The 4th Special Operations Squadron operated the AC-130U for nearly 24 years before receiving its first AC-130J Ghostrider on March 6, 2019. The squadron continued to operate the AC-130U until its retirement in June of 2020, marking more than 25 years of distinguished service with that airframe.

The 4 SOS first deployed with the AC-130J in support of Operation INHERENT RESOLVE in the Fall of 2021, marking a new era of gunship excellence “Any Time, Any Place.”

Northeast Sector, Air Corps Ferrying Command (later, 2d Ferrying Group), 8 Apr 1942-31 Mar 1944. Fourteenth Air Force, 27 Oct 1949; Tactical Air Command, 1 Aug 1950; Ninth Air Force (Tactical), 14 Aug 1950-22 Jul 1952. Eighteenth Air Force, 22 Jul 1952; Twelfth Air Force, 13 Feb 1953-8 Mar 1954. Pacific Air Forces, 2 Aug 1965; 2d Air Division, 8 Aug 1965 (attached to 6250th Combat Support Group, 8 Aug 1965-1 Mar 1966); 14th Air Commando (later, 14th Special Operations) Wing, 8 Mar 1966-15 Dec 1969. 28th Bombardment Wing, 1 Apr 1970; 28th Operations Group, 1 Sep 1991-30 Sep 1992. 16th Operations Group, 1 May 1995-15 November 2006. 1st Special Operations Group, 16 November 2006-Present.

Logan Field, MD, 8 Apr 1942; New Castle AAB, DE, c. 25 May 1942-31 Mar 1944. Pope AFB, NC, 27 Oct 1949-22 Jul 1952 (deployed at Camp MacKall, NC, 14 Apr-4 May 1950; Ft Hood, TX, 14 Mar-7 Apr 1952). Donaldson AFB, SC, 22 Jul 1952-23 Jan 1953; Furstenfeldbruck AB, Germany, 10 Feb 1953-8 Mar 1954. Tan Son Nhut AB, South Vietnam, 8 Aug 1965 (deployed at Forbes AFB, KS, 8 Aug-c. 1 Nov 1965); Nha Trang AB, South Vietnam, 1 Jun 1966; Phan Rang AB, South Vietnam, 1 Oct 1969-15 Dec 1969. Ellsworth AFB, SD, 1 Apr 1970-30 Sep 1992. Hurlburt Field, FL, 1 May 1995-Present.

Ferried a variety of combat aircraft, 1942-1944. L-13, 1949-1951, 1951-1952;
C-45, 1951-1952; L-20, 1952. L-20, 1952-1953. FC(later, AC)-47, 1965-1969; C-47, 1966-1967, 1969; HC-47, 1969. EC-135, 1970-1992. AC-130U, 1995-2020. AC-130J 2019-Present.

Ferried aircraft to locations in Alaska, Africa, and Europe, Apr 1942 - Feb 1944; also airlifted cargo, and evacuated wounded to US military hospitals. Combat in Vietnam, c. 20 Nov 1965-30 Nov 1969. Provided an auxiliary command post and a communications link for the Fifteenth Air Force and SAC, 1 Apr 1970 - 30 Sep 1992; Routinely deployed personnel and aircraft to contingency operations in the Balkans, 1996 - 2001 supporting Operations JOINT ENDEAVOR and ALLIED FORCE. After the 11 Sep 2001 terrorist attack on the United States, the 4 SOS participated in the Global War on Terror (GWOT) by deploying personnel and aircraft in support of Operations ENDURING FREEDOM, Oct 2001-Dec 2014, IRAQI FREEDOM, Mar 2003-Aug 2010, RESOLUTE SUPPORT Jan 2015-Sep 2021, FREEDOM’S SENTINEL Jan 2015-Aug 2021, and INHERENT RESOLVE Jun 2014-Present.


Service Streamers:
World War II American Theater

Campaign Streamers
























IRAQI SURGE 2007-2008


NEW DAWN 2010-2011


Presidential Unit Citations:
8 Mar 1966 - 7 Mar 1967
21 Jun 1968 - 30 Jun 1969

Meritorious Unit Awards:
1 Jul 2006-31 May 2008
1 Jul 2007-30 Jun 2009
1 Oct 2009-30 Sep 2011
1 Oct 2011-30 Sep 2013
1 Oct 2013-30 Sep 2015
1 Oct 2017-30 Sep 2019

Gallant Unit Citation:
6 Oct 2001 - 30 May 2003

Air Force Outstanding Unit Awards with Combat "V" Device:
1 Nov 1965 - 9 March 1966
16 Jun 1967 - 15 Jun 1968
16 Jun 1967 - 20 Jun 1968
21 Jun 1968 - 15 Jun 1969
1 Jun 1997 - 31 May 1999
1 Jul 2003 - 30 Jun 2005
1 Sep 2006 - 30 Jun 2007

Air Force Outstanding Unit Awards:
9 Jun - 10 Jul 1972
1 Jul 1976 - 30 Jun 1978
1 Jul 1978 - 30 Jun 1980
1 Jul 1981 - 30 Jun 1983
1 Jul 1984 - 30 Jun 1986
1 Jul 1986 - 30 Jun 1988
1 Jul 1988 - 30 Jun 1990
1 Jul 1990 - 29 May 1992
1 Sep 1991 - 30 Sep 1992
1 Jun 1995 - 31 May 1997
1 Jul 1999 - 30 Jun 2001
1 Jul 2001 - 30 Jun 2003
1 Sep 2004 - 31 Aug 2006
1 Jan 2015 – 31 Dec 2016

Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Crosses with Palm:
1 Apr 1966 - 15 Dec 1969
1 Jan 1968 - 30 Aug 1968