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The Lockheed AC-130A "Spectre" Gunship


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The crew of this AC-130A "Spectre" gunship, named Azrael--Angel of Death, (Azrael, in the Koran, was the angel of death who severed the soul from the body) displayed courage and heroism during the closing hours of Desert Storm. On February 26, 1991, the allied ground forces were driving the Iraqi army out of Kuwait. The crew of Azrael, Spectre #54-1630, was sent to the Al Jahra highway between Kuwait City and Basrah, Iraq, to intercept the convoys of tanks, trucks, buses, and cars that were fleeing the battle. Facing numerous enemy batteries of SA-6 and SA-8 missiles, and 37mm and 57mm radar-guided anti-aircraft artillery, the crew attacked the enemy skillfully, inflicting significant damage to the convoys. The crew's heroic efforts left much of the enemy's equipment destroyed or unserviceable, contributing to the defeat of the Iraqi forces. On February 28, 1991, Iraq agreed to a cease-fire.

During the 1950s the versatile C-130 Hercules was originally designed as an assault transport but was adapted for a variety of missions, including weather mapping and reconnaissance, mid-air space capsule recovery, search and rescue, ambulance service, drone launching, and mid-air refueling of helicopters. The C-130 could transport up to 92 combat troops and their gear or 45,000 pounds of cargo. Where facilities were inadequate, the Hercules could deliver cargo by parachute or by using the low altitude parachute extraction system (LAPES) without landing. The AC-130A "Spectre" is a C-130 that was converted to a side-firing gunship, primarily for night attacks against ground targets. In addition to its armament, it also possessed sensors, a target acquisition system, and a forward looking infra-red (FLIR) and lowlight television system.

The aircraft on display was assigned to the 919th Special Operations Wing (SOW) and was retired to the Museum in October 1995.

132 ft. 7 in.
Length: 96 ft. 10 in.
Weight: 124,200 lbs. max.
Armament: Two 7.62 miniguns plus two 20mm and two 40mm cannon
Engines: Four Allison T-56-A-9D turboprops of 3,750 equivalent shaft horsepower ea.
Serial number: 54-1630

Max. speed:
380 mph/330 knots
Cruising speed: 335 mph/291 knots
Range: 2,500 statute miles/2,172 nautical miles
Service ceiling: 33,000 ft.




The AC-130A "Spectre" Gunship


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The A-model gunship was the first AC-130 model. The aircraft is 97 feet 9 inches long and 38 feet 3 inches tall. It has a wingspan of 132 feet 7 inches and a wing area of 1,745 sq. feet. Initially, the C-130 had a maximum speed of 384 mph and an unrefueled range of 2,450 miles with maximum load. However, with the aerial refueling modification, the range for the later model gunships was only limited by crew endurance.

The high-wing design of this aircraft and its large capacity made it especially suited as a gunship. The first gunship, the AC-47, with low wings, reduced its field of fire. Having the guns below the wings eliminated the basic problem of the AC-47. Also, the large C-130 could carry more ammunition for its heavier weapons. The AC-47 was equipped with three 7.62mm miniguns. In contrast the AC-130A carried 7.62mm and 20mm weapons; the AC-130H fired 20mm, 40mm and 105mm guns; and the newest gunship, the AC-130U, is equipped with 25mm, 40mm and 105mm weapons.

The C-130 gunship was a new weapon system in an old airframe. Therefore, there were a number of firsts that one model or another chalked up for the gunship. Spectre was operationally tested at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., from June to September 1967. It initially deployed to Nha Trang, Republic of Vietnam Sept. 20, 1967, and flew its first combat mission Sept. 27. Its first truck busting mission was flown Nov. 8, 1967, and all A-model gunships were assigned to Detachment 2, 14th Commando Wing. In 1968, Det. 2 was assigned to the 8th Tactical Fighter Wing and became the 16th Special Operations Squadron. At that time the C-130A was renamed the AC-130A.

Spectre suffered it first battle damage from anti-aircraft artillery Sept. 26, 1968. The sturdy C-130 returned to base. In December 1968, F-4 Phantoms first escorted the gunship in an effort to protect it from ground fire. However, the first gunship was lost with two crewmembers May 24, 1969. One was killed when the gunship was hit and the other perished when the plane crashed at home base. Five of the 18 gunships were shot down or crashed while serving in Vietnam. A gunship accomplished an unusual feat, May 8, 1969, when it shot down an enemy helicopter. Thus was born the nickname the "fabulous four engine fighter" to the chagrin of fighter pilots who where having few opportunities for air-to-air kills. Firepower increased when the first 105mm cannon arrived for installation on the gunship Feb. 17, 1972. The artillery piece was first used in combat March 1, 1972.

The Air Force commemorated the end of an era 10 September 1995 with the retirement of the first C-130 aircraft to come off a production line. The aircraft, tail number 53-3129, went into production at the Lockheed Aircraft Co. in Marietta, Ga., in 1953 and was the original prototype of what was to become a long line of C-130 Hercules aircraft designed and built by Lockheed. The aircraft, affectionately dubbed "The First Lady," was one of five AC-130A gunship aircraft retired during an official ceremony. While the other four aircraft were sent to the Aerospace Marketing and Regeneration Center at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, the First Lady went on permanent display at the Eglin Air Force Base Armament Museum. The 919th Special Operations Wing's gunships, all around 40 years old, had reached the age of mandatory retirement. The only other gunships in the Air Force inventory are employed by active-duty members at Hurlburt Field, which has less than 20 gunships assigned.

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