The AC-130A and H Hercules aircraft are gunship models of the C-130A and H. They are specially equipped to perform close-air support, armed reconnaissance, and air interdiction missions. Beginning in 1968 the gunships were used in the Southeast Asia conflict, where they were given the nickname "Spectee."
These heavily-armed aircraft have side-firing weapons linked by on-board computer to a highly sophisticated sensor system. Forward-looking infrared target acquisition equipment, Iow-light-level TV camera, and laser target designators give the AC-130 night operation capability. The gunships also have a two-kilowatt searchlight that can be operated as an infrared system.
The AC-130 has been employed extensively in peacetime night search and rescue missions using its infrared and Iow-light-level TV detection systems. When a commercial airliner crashed in the Everglades near Miami in 1973, a gunship orbited the area for hours, using its two-kilowatt searchlight to locate and direct rescue workers to victims in the scattered wreckage. Since then, the aircraft has been used in search and rescue operations in other parts of the nation.
All the AC-130As were transferred from the active force to the Air Force Reserve in 1975. They are operated by the 919th Special Operations Group at Duke Field in Florida which is the Reserve's only special operations group. These aircraft are armed with two 7.62mm Miniguns, two 20mm Vulcan cannons, and two 40mm Bofors cannon. The guns on the A model have a total firepower capability of over 17,000 rounds per minute.
The active Air Force has ten AC-130Hs assigned to the 16th Special Operations Squadron of the 1st Special Operations Wing at Hurlburt Field, Florida. These aircraft have the same armament as the A models, except a 105mm howitzer replaces one of the 40mm cannon. The H model also has in-flight refueling capability.
Primary function: armed reconnaissance, close-air support, air interdiction
Prime contractor: Lockheed Aircraft Corp.
Power plant/manufacturer: four Allison turboprop engines: AC-130A--T56-A-9C, AC-130H--T56-A-15
Horsepower: each engine: AC-130A--3,750 hp, AC-130H--4,508 hp
Dimensions: wingspan 132 feet 7 inches, length 97 feet 9 inches, height 38 feet 3 inches
Speed: 336 mph at maximum takeoff weight
Ceiling: above 25,000 feet
Range: AC-130A-- 1,950 miles, AC-130H--2,450 miles
Armament: AC-130A--two 7.62mm Miniguns, two 20mm Vulcan cannon, two 40mm Bofors cannon; AC-130H has one 40mm can-non replaced by a 105mm howitzer
Crew: 14-five officers and nine enlisted
Maximum takeoff weight: AC-130A-- 124,000 pounds, AC-130H-155,000 pounds