The aircraft we present today is the Lockheed AC-130, the gunship aircraft that was built to be a heavily armed and along with endurance aircraft for ground attack missions developed a variant of the original C-130 Hercules. The aircraft ah been upgraded to not nobly have a range of the weapons but also other systems for navigation, fire control, and sensors. The Lockheed AC-130 is not like any other military gunship because of its large size. Due to the aircraft only being able to fly at a low altitude of 7000 feet, most close air support mission that this aircraft undertakes are for night time to avoid getting hit by the enemy forces.
Under the Project Gunship II, started jointly by both the Boeing and the Lockheed Martin, the Douglas AC-47 Spooky was converted into its successor the Lockheed AC-130U Spooky II.
Today we are giving you some insight on the mind blowing facts about the very same Lockheed AC-130U Spooky II.
After the Vietnam War ended the outdated Douglas AC-47 Spooky needed a replacement. US Air Force gave out a contract for a new gunship aircraft and both Boeing and Lockheed Martin joined in hands on the Project Gunship II. For making this new aircraft, the USAF recommended the use of the C-130 Hercules’s airframe as the aircraft would be able to fly not faster but also at a higher altitude and for a longer range along with payload capacity of more ammunition.
After half a century later of its creation, the Lockheed AC-130U Spooky II is still in service of the USAF and serves the close air support missions along with armed reconnaissance and air interdiction missions.
Comes from a long family of Gunships:-
The C-130 Hercules Gunship has been through 3 generations of the gunship variants and the AC-130U belongs to the 3rd generation. The first one was the AC-47 which paved way for the AC-119 that was debuted I USAF back in the 1960s. after that came the AC-130H Specter which happens to be a close relative to the Lockheed AC-130U Spooky II, which saw its first action back in 1972. As for the Lockheed AC-130U Spooky II, it saw its very first action back in the early 1990s and is the preferred USAF aircraft for attack and cargo missions.
The Lockheed AC-130U Spooky II is powered by 4 of the T56-A-15 turboprop engines that allow for this massive aircraft to move on the runway while carrying a payload of 155000 pounds. This much weight when pout in perception is equal to the weight of nearly 30 Humvee of the US Army. As for the service altitude of the Lockheed AC-130U Spooky II, it is about 25000 feet while traveling at a top speed of nearly 300 mph. each of the Lockheed AC-130U Spooky II’s engine is able to create a thrust of 4300 shp.
The specifications for the Lockheed AC-130U Spooky II are as follows.
- Its length is about 97 feet 9 inches
- Its height is about 38 feet 6 inches
- Its wingspan is about 132 feet 7 inches
The original ferry range of the Lockheed AC-130U Spooky II is about 1500 miles which can be made unlimited with aerial refueling. The cost for a single one of the Lockheed AC-130U Spooky II is about 210 million dollars.
Due to the massive size as well as the wide array of weapons and other sort of systems installed in the Lockheed AC-130U Spooky II, it takes a large team of military personnel to operate it. The Lockheed AC-130U Spooky II is operated by the following personnel.
- 5 officers which include a pilot, a co-pilot, a navigator, a fire control officer and the electronic warfare officer
- In addition to this, other personnel on board of the Lockheed AC-130U Spooky II include the flight engineer, a TV operator, a loadmaster, an infrared detection set operator and lastly 4 of the aerial gunners.
AC-130U Spooky II: The Gunship
The task of the loadmasters and the 4 aerial gunners are to load the ammunition on the Lockheed AC-130U Spooky II. The Lockheed AC-130U Spooky is equipped to have the following weapons onboard.
- L60 Bofors Cannon of 40 mm which is able to fire at a rate of 120 rpm
- M102 Howitzer cannon of 10 mm which fires at a rate of 6 to 10 rpm
- Downward facing GAU-12/U Gatling gun of 25 mm with a firing rate of 1800 rpm
This Gatling gun is fitted on the left of the Spooky II.
The two contractors of the Spooky II project, Lockheed and Boeing, both made use of the state of the art fire control and sensor systems to increase the range of the weapons as well as their accuracy. As for the infrared and the electronic countermeasures added in the aircraft, they allowed for a boost to its survivability when facing enemy aircraft. The All Light Level and the Infrared Detections systems are able to scan for an area in the 360 degrees diameter at a rate which is faster compared to other aircraft of its family.
The Television of the Lockheed AC-130U Spooky II is fitted with a rangefinder and the laser target designator. These features allow for the designating targets to other aircraft through the use of its laser-guided weaponry.
As for the strike radar of the Lockheed AC-130U Spooky II, it allows for the aircraft to have an all-weather and the night time target acquisition features for attacks.
The Lockheed AC-130U Spooky was incorporated in the USAF’s service back in 1994 and to this day, it is an integral part of the air force’s arsenal. Back in 1997, the Lockheed AC-130U Spooky II was rerouted from Italy to the regions of Liberia and Albania to provide close air support to help with the evacuation of the noncombatant Americans living in those regions.
The aircraft has been used extensively during eh following mission of US military undertaken by the USAF.
- Operation Iraqi Freedom
- Operation Enduring Freedom
- Operation Resolute Support
The DOD (Department of Defense) has best explained the AC-130 in the following words,
“The AC-130 gunship is a devastating display of force and firepower. Through the years the aircraft has been equipped with an array of side-fired cannons, howitzers, mini-guns, wing-mounted missiles and bombs, and laser-guided missiles launched from the rear cargo door – earning it the moniker, ‘The Angel of Death.”