The Lockheed AC-130 is a heavily equipped air ship ground-assault flying machine derived from the C-130 Hercules transport plane. The fundamental airframe is constructed by Lockheed , and Boeing is in charge of the change into gunboat and flying machine support. The AC-130A Gunship II superseded the AC-47 Gunship I in Vietnam War .
The Lockheed AC-130 is used only by the United States Air Force , currently using the AC-130H Spectre and AC-130U Spooky II only versions. The AC-130 is powered by four turboprops and has an armament ranging from rotary automatic guns of 20 mm, until the shells of 105 mm. Its standard crew is normally composed of twelve or thirteen airmen, including five officers (two pilots, a navigator, an official of electronic warfare and fire control officer) and enlisted personnel (five engineers, electronics operators and aerial gunners).
The AC-130H Spectre 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.
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.
During Vietnam, 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.