Lockheed AC-130 Spectre

The Sandman Will Keep You Awake - The Loop


The Lockheed AC-130 Spectre is a heavily-armed ground-attack aircraft based on the Hercules C-130 created to replace the AC-47 Spooky. The basic airframe is manufactured by Lockheed, Boeing is responsible for the conversion into a gunship and for aircraft support.


The AC-130 gunship's primary missions are close air support, air interdiction and armed reconnaissance. Other missions include perimeter and point defense, escort, landing, drop and extraction zone support, forward air control, limited command and control, and combat search and rescue.

Ac-130 020516 60.jpg
AC-130H flying above the clouds

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 periods, at night and in adverse weather. The AC-130 has been used effectively for over thirty years to take out ground defenses and targets. One drawback to using the AC-130 is that it is typically only used in night assaults because of its poor maneuverability and limited orientations relative to the target during attack.

During Vietnam War, gunships destroyed more than 10,000 trucks and were credited with many life-saving close air support missions. AC-130s suppressed enemy air defense systems and attacked ground forces during Operation Urgent Fury in Grenada. This enabled the successful assault of Point Salines airfield via airdrop and airland of friendly forces.

The gunships had a primary role during Operation Just Cause in Panama by destroying Panamanian Defense Force Headquarters and numerous command and control facilities by surgical employment of ordnance in an urban environment. As the only close air support platform in the theater, Spectres were credited with saving the lives of many friendly personnel. Both the H-models and A-models played key roles. The fighting was opened by a gunship attack on the military headquarters of the dictator of Panama and the
Ac-130h spectre jettisons flares.jpg
AC-130 launching angel style flares
outcome was never in doubt. All objectives were quickly accomplished and democracy was restored to Panama.

During Operation Desert Storm, Spectres provided air base defense and close air support for ground forces. Both the AC-130A and AC-130H gunships were part of the international force assembled in the Persian Gulf region to drive out of Kuwait which Saddam Hussein had invaded in early August 1990. In the following January, the allies launched the actual war known as Desert Storm following the Desert Shield build-up. Victory was accomplished in a few weeks and Kuwait was set free of the foreign invader. Iraq shot down one AC-130H gunship. It resulted in the loss of all 14 crewmembers, the largest single air power loss of the war. Post war restriction on Iraq required the presence of gunships to enforce them.

AC-130s were also used during Operations Continue Hope and United Shield in Somalia, providing close air support for United Nations ground forces. The gunships played a pivotal role during operations in support of the NATO mission in Bosnia-Herzegovina, providing air interdiction against key targets in the Sarajevo area.

The Naval Surface Warfare Center, Dahlgren Division (NSWCDD), on behalf of Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) requested information in 2005 that may lead to the acquisition and qualification of a family of 120mm mortar ammunition for enhancing the AC-130 Gunship Lethality and Survivability. Sources Sought N00178-05-Q-1925 was posted 18 August 2005 to Federal Business Opportunities (FBO). NSWCDD and AFSOC are seeking information on any (guided or conventional) 120mm mortar round that is currently fielded, currently a Program of Record (POR), or technology mature enough to enter into an ACTD or similar demonstration.

The 120mm mortar concept shall offer benefits to the AC-130 fleet through: Employment flexibility through use
AC-130H making aerial refueling
of munitions currently available; Greater lethality through more fragmentation weight and greater blast damage; Precision strike capability; Increased standoff range and attack altitude while maintaining responsiveness; Reduction in collateral damage; and Reduction in danger close distance when supporting troops in contact.

For the 105-mm gun, 100 rounds weighs 4200 lbs. The recoil load is about 10,900 lbs, with a gun Recoiling Weight of 1,465 lbs. The muzzle pressure is 3,560 psi. It is a legacy system being phased out of the US Army inventory. There is little guided technology ongoing. For the 120-mm mortar, 100 Rounds weighs 3200 lbs. This weapon has a recoil Load of ~5,600 lbs with a gun weight of 1,315 lbs. The muzzle pressure is 1,620 psi. This is the leading FCS fire support weapon and the Stryker Brigade Combat Team fire support weapon. There is a lot of Guided Munition development work ongoing.


General Characteristics

  • Crew:
    AC-130U over Hurlburt Field.jpg
    AC-130U Spooky flying over Hulburt Field
    • Officers: 5 (pilot, copilot, navigator, fire control officer, electronic warfare officer)
    • Enlisted: 8 (flight engineer, TV operator, infrared detection set operator, loadmaster, four aerial gunners)
  • Length: 97 ft 9 in (29.8 m)
  • Wingspan: 132 ft 7 in (40.4 m)
  • Height: 38 ft 6 in (11.7 m)
  • Wing area: 1745.5 ft² (162.2 m²)
  • Loaded weight: 122,400 lb (55,520 kg)
  • Max takeoff weight: 155,000 lb (69,750 kg)
  • Powerplant: 4× Allison T56-A-15 turboprops, 4,910 shp (3,700 kW) each


  • Maximum speed: 260 knots (300 mph, 480 km/h)
  • Range: 2,200 nm (2,530 mi, 4,070 km)
  • Service ceiling: 30,000 ft (9,100 m)


AC-130A Spectre Gunship

  • 4× 7.62 mm GAU-2/A miniguns
  • 4× 20 mm (0.787 in) M61 Vulcan 6-barreled gatling cannon
AC-130A Surprise Package, Pave Pronto, AC-130E Pave Spectre
  • 2× 7.62 mm GAU-2/A miniguns
  • 2× 20 mm M61 Vulcan cannon
  • 2× 40 mm (1.58 in) L/60 Bofors cannon
AC-130E Pave Aegis
  • 2× 20 mm M61 Vulcan cannon
  • Ac-130 firing night.gif
    AC-130 firing his GAU-12 over Guam at night
    1× 40 mm (1.58 in) L/60 Bofors cannon
  • 1× 105 mm (4.13 in) M102 howitzer
AC-130H Spectre

(Prior to circa 2000)

  • 2× 20 mm M61 Vulcan cannon
  • 1× 40 mm (1.58 in) L/60 Bofors cannon
  • 1× 105 mm (4.13 in) M102 howitzer

(Current Armament)

  • 1× 40 mm (1.58 in) L/60 Bofors cannon
  • 1× 105 mm (4.13 in) M102 howitzer
AC-130U Spooky II
  • 1× General Dynamics 25 mm (0.984 in) GAU-12/U Equalizer 5-barreled gatling cannon
  • 1× 40 mm (1.58 in) L/60 Bofors cannon
  • 1× 105 mm (4.13 in) M102 howitzer

See also

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