Lockheed AC-130 Spectre, Spooky & Ghostrider
The Lockheed AC-130 gunship is a heavily armed ground-attack aircraft variant of the C-130 Hercules transport plane. The basic airframe is manufactured by Lockheed, while Boeing is responsible for the conversion into a gunship and for aircraft support. The AC-130A Gunship II superseded the AC-47 Gunship I during the Vietnam War. The gunship's sole user is the United States Air Force, which uses AC-130H Spectre, AC-130U Spooky, AC-130J Ghostrider, and AC-130W Stinger II variants for close air support, air interdiction, and force protection. Close air support roles include supporting ground troops, escorting convoys, and flying urban operations. Air interdiction missions are conducted against planned targets and targets of opportunity. Force protection missions include defending air bases and other facilities. AC-130Us are based at Hurlburt Field, Florida, while AC-130Hs and AC-130Ws are based at Cannon AFB, New Mexico. The AC-130s deploy to bases worldwide in support of operations. The gunship squadrons are part of the Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC), a component of the United States Special Operations Command (SOCOM). All of the weaponry aboard is mounted to fire from the left (port) side of the non-pressurised aircraft. During an attack the gunship performs a pylon turn, flying in a large circle around the target, allowing it to fire at its target far longer than a conventional attack aircraft. The AC-130H Spectre was armed with two 20 mm M61 Vulcan cannons, one Bofors 40mm autocannon, and one 105 mm M102 cannon, although after 1994 the 20 mm cannons were removed for most missions. The upgraded AC-130U "Spooky" has a single 25 mm GAU-12 Equalizer in place of the Spectre's twin 20 mm cannons, an improved fire control system, and increased ammunition capacity. New AC-130J gunships based on MC-130J Combat Shadow II special operations tankers were planned as of 2012. The AC-130W is armed with one 30 mm Bushmaster cannon, AGM-176 Griffin missiles, and GBU-39 Small Diameter Bombs.
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