Located at Hurlburt Field, Fla., the 4th Special Operations Squadron (4th SOS) is the largest of nine flying squadrons within the 1st Special Operations Wing. The unit employs the AC-130U Spooky gunship.
The squadron plans, prepares and executes AC-130U Spooky gunship missions, providing precise delivery of 25/40/105mm munitions supporting joint conventional and special operations forces. In addition, it directly supports unified and theater special operations commands by conducting close air support, armed reconnaissance, and interdiction missions worldwide in support of Secretary of Defense taskings.
The AC-130U is the oldest of the three gunships in service today. The gunship adopted its Spooky nickname from the AC-47, the original, first-generation gunship. The U Model gunship is still one of the most complex aircraft weapon systems in the world today, containing more than 609,000 lines of software in its mission computers and avionics systems. Although it still uses the venerable Lockheed C-130 airframe, the AC-130U incorporates the latest sensor technology, along with an entirely unique fire-control system, to substantially increase the gunship's combat effectiveness. The fire control system offers a dual-target attack capability, whereby two targets up to one kilometer apart can be simultaneously engaged by two different sensors, using two different guns.
The aircraft uses two blended infrared/low light television sensors, and the Hughes APQ-180 radar (also found on the F-15E Strike Eagle) to provide both night and all weather strike capabilities. To enhance survivability, emphasis has been placed on increasing the stand-off range of the gunship's weapons system and improving first-shot accuracy. In addition, a set of electronic countermeasures has been installed to help defend the AC-130U against modern threats.
The AC-130U is armed with a 25mm Gatling-gun cannon (capable of firing 1800 rounds per minute), a single-barrel, rapid-fire 40mm Bofors cannon and a 105mm Howitzer.
The squadron traces its lineage back to the 4th Air Corps Ferrying Squadron, which was activated in Apr 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 Mar 1944.
The 4th Liaison Flight was activated in Oct 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 inactivated in Mar 1954.
The 4th Air Commando Squadron (Fire Support) was activated in Aug 1965 and was redesignated the 4th Special Operations Squadron in Aug 1969. The squadron's primary mission was to fly strikes 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 Dec of 1969, the squadron was inactivated.
The 4th Airborne Command and Control Squadron was activated in Apr 1970. It provided an airborne and auxiliary command post and a communications link for Fifteenth Air Force and Strategic Air Command. It occasionally flew "Looking Glass" missions to back up the SAC airborne command post. The squadron flew the EC-135A/C and G models and was inactivated in Sep 1992.
The squadron entered its latest iteration in 1995, with the activation of the 4th SOS at Hurlburt Field, FL. Following an extensive flight test program at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., AC-130U operations were transferred to Hurlburt Field in late 1994. At that time, the aircraft were delivered to the 16th Special Operations Squadron, which operates the AC 30H, the U-model's immediate predecessor. The squadron was officially activated May 4, 1995.
The 4th SOS Airmen participated in their first deployment soon after in October during Exercise Foal Eagle in the Republic of Korea. In Sep 1996, the squadron made its first operational deployment to Brindisi, Italy, supporting Operation Joint Endeavor in the skies over Bosnia-Herzegovina. Operating from Brindisi, Italy, the AC-130U conducted its first combat operations over Kosovo during Operation Allied Force in Apr 1999.
In the fall of 2001, the 4th SOS was again called upon, this time to fight the war on terrorism. It earned great distinction flying long missions in direct support of the Special Ops war in Afghanistan. The successful routing of Taliban and Al-Qaeda forces was of such great magnitude that congress approved the funding for an addition of 4 new AC-130U gunships.
In the spring of 2003, the 4th SOS played a pivotal role during Operation IRAQI FREEDOM by firing the first shots of the conflict. During the initial 2 months of action Ghostriders flew more than 1000 combat hours from 3 separate forward operating locations. Again the unit served with unwavering distinction and proved invaluable to the coalition's effort to topple the former Iraqi regime. Since then the 4th SOS has supplied unwavering combat support in Operations FREEDOM SENTINAL, RESOLUTE SUPPORT, and most recently INHERENT RESOLVE.
The AC-130U represents a major advancement over previous gunships and incorporates features to enhance maintainability and supportability making certain its crews, nicknamed the Ghostriders, are available -- "Any Time, Any Place."
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; inactivated on 22 Jul 1952; activated on 22 Jul 1952; inactivated 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; inactivated 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). Inactivated on 30 Sep 1992. Redesignated 4th Special Operations Squadron on 13 Feb 1995. Activated on 1 May 1995.
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-.
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-.
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, May 1995-.
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. Combat in Operations ENDURING FREEDOM, Oct 2001-, and IRAQI FREEDOM, Mar 2003-.
World War II American Theater
Kosovo: Air Campaign. Afghanistan: Liberation; Consolidation I; Consolidation II; Consolidation III. Iraq: National Resolution; Surge; Sovereignty; New Dawn.
Vietnam Air Offensive
Vietnam Air Offensive, Phase II
Vietnam Air Offensive, Phase III
Vietnam Air Offensive, Phase IV
Vietnam Summer-Fall, 1969
Vietnam Winter-Spring, 1970
Armed Forces Expeditionary Streamers
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
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
Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Crosses with Palm
1 Apr 1966 - 15 Dec 1969
1 Jan 1968 - 30 Aug 1968
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 to its original ancestor.)