In 1987, North American Rockwell began to modify the C-130 Hercules airframe, manufactured by the Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Company, for the AC-130 gunship.
The newest version, the AC-130U Spectre gunship, replaces the original AC-130A and represents a major advancement. It uses the latest sensor technologies and fire control systems and features increased weapon stand-off range and improved first-shot accuracy. A state-of-the-art suite of electronic and infrared countermeasures greatly enhance the AC-130U's survivability against modern threats.
Both the AC-130U gunship's All Light Level Television and the Infrared Detection System can scan a full 360 degrees, allowing the gunship crew to search for and find targets much faster. The television also incorporates a laser target designator and rangefinder that allows the AC-130U to designate targets for other aircraft armed with smart, laser-guided weapons. The AC-130U also incorporates Night Vision Imaging System, with compatible lighting throughout, to support use of night vision equipment by its crew. Its strike radar provides the first gunship capability for all-weather/night target acquisition and strike.
The Boeing Company continues to support the aircraft for the U.S. Air Force Special Operations Command. During 2001, it flew close air support missions over Afghanistan. In 2003 Boeing began to modify four C-130H aircraft into AC-130Us, substantially increasing the gunship's combat effectiveness and survivability. Another major upgrade is the integration of a 30mm weapon, replacing the 25mm and 40mm guns on the U-models.
AC-130U Gunship page
||132 feet 7 inches
||97 feet 9 inches
||38 feet 6 inches
||Four Allison T56-A-15 4,910-horsepower turboprop engines
||Unlimited with air refueling
||One 25mm GAU-12 Gatling gun, one L60 40mm Bofors cannon, one M102 105mm cannon