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AC-130 Spectre / Spooky II Gunship

The Lockheed AC-130 is a C-130 cargo plane converted into a gunship. The port side of the AC-130 houses firing ports for an array of cannons, howitzers and gatling guns.

AC-130 - Role

The AC-130 is flown by USAF Special Operations, mostly in the close air support role. Other roles include air interdiction (pre-planned air-to-ground strikes), armed reconnaissance and force protection (flying defensive patrols over friendly forces / bases).

AC-130s missions are often coordinated by JTAC units on the ground, usually by USAF Combat Controllers (CCTs).

ac-130 gunship

AC-130 Video

AC-130 Variants

The 2 variants of the AC-130 Featured on this page are:

  • AC-130H (Spectre)
    operated by the 16th Special Operations Squadron
    armed with:
    • 2 x 20mm M61 Vulcan cannon
    • 1 x 40mm L60 Bofors cannon (120 rpm)
    • 1 x 105mm M102 howitzer (6-10 rpm)
  • AC-130U (Spooky II)
    operated by the 4th Special Operations Squadron
    armed with:
    • 1 x 25mm GAU-12/U gatling gun (1800 rpm)
    • 1 x 40mm L60 Bofors cannon (120 rpm)
    • 1 x 10mm M102 howitzer (6-10 rpm)
    AC-130Us are pressurized, allowing them to operate 5000ft higher then the H models, which results in a greater range.

Note: AFSOC retired the AC-130H Spectre from service in 2014. The Spectre is being replaced with the AC-130J Ghostrider (see below).

Since this article was first published, AFSOC have adopted 2 other AC-130 variants:

  • AC-130W Stinger II - based on MC-130W Combat Spear + Precision Strike Package
    more info: AC-130W Stinger II

  • AC-130J Ghostrider - based on MC-130J Commando II + Precision Strike Package
    more info: AC-130J Ghostrider

ac-130h screens
The AC-130U interior features an array of screens and sensors that allow the operators to find ground targets.
ac-130h guns
A 40mm cannon and 105mm howitzer protruding from the fuselages of a AC-130H

AC-130 Operational History

  • 1960s/70s - Vietnam / Laos
  • 1983 - Grenada - Operation Urgent Fury
  • 1989 - Panama - Operation Just Cause
  • 1991 - Persian Gulf - Operation Desert Storm
  • 1993 - Somalia - Operation Restore Hope
  • 1995 - Bosnia - Operation Deliberate Force
  • 2001 - Present - Afghanistan - Operation Enduring Freedom
  • 2003 - Present - Iraq - Operation Iraqi Freedom

A total of 7 AC-130s have been lost during combat operations, including 5 over South East Asia, 1 during Desert Storm and 1 over Somalia, 1993.


Crew AC-130H
14 crew consisting of:
  • pilot
  • co-pilot
  • navigator
  • fire control officer.
  • electronic warfare officer
  • flight engineer
  • loadmaster
  • low-light TV operator
  • infrared detection set operator
  • 5 aerial gunners
13 crew consisting of:
  • pilot
  • co-pilot
  • navigator
  • fire control officer.
  • electronic warfare officer
  • flight engineer
  • loadmaster
  • all-light-level TV operator
  • infrared detection set operator
  • 4 aerial gunners
Engines 4 Allison turboprop engines T56-A-15
Dimensions 29.8 meters
11.7 meters
40.4 meters
Max Takeoff Weight 69,750 kilograms
Range 1,300 nautical miles (AC-130H) / 2,200 nm (AC_130U)
Ceiling 25,000 feet (AC-130H) / 30,000 feet (AC-130U)
Speed 300 mph (sea level)
Countermeasures AC-103U:
AN/AAQ-24 Directional Infrared Countermeasures (DIRCM)
AN/AAR-44 infrared warning receiver
AN/AAR-47 missile warning system
AN/ALE-47 flare and chaff dispensing system
AN/ALQ-172 Electronic Countermeasure System
AN/ALQ-196 Jammer
AN/ALR-69 radar warning receiver
AN/APR-46A panoramic RF receiver
QRC-84-02 infrared countermeasures system ;
Sensors AC-130U:
Multi-mode strike radar
All-Light Level Television (ALLTV)
Laser illuminator
Laser Designator
Laser Range Finder
Infrared detection set

AC-130 gunship
a USAF AC-130 Gunship pictured in flight.

AC-130U Spooky
USAF AC-130U Spooky gunships assigned to the 4th Special Operations Squadron.
U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Barry Loo/Released

AC-130 Spectre Resources

« Special Ops Aircraft

Featured AC-130 Photo
AC-130U Spooky
An AC-130U Spooky banks over Hurlburt Field airbase, Florida.
(click photo for fullsize image)
more USAF Special Operations Aircraft photos

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