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Posted 1/8/2009 Printable Fact Sheet
Lockheed AC-130H
Lockheed AC-130H of the 16th Special Operations Squadron, 8th Tactical Fighter Wing, Ubon Royal Thai Air Force Base. (U.S. Air Force photo)
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During the early 1970s, the 10 operational AC-130Es were upgraded with additional and improved systems and redesignated AC-130H. Many of the new systems were designed to provide better protection in high threat operating environments. The Electronic Countermeasure system was improved to include two AN/ALQ-87 ECM pods mounted on pylons added between the engines on both wings. The AC-130H also had improved threat detection and warning system installed. More traditional countermeasures could be fitted on the outboard wing pylons. Flare dispensers were used to counter heat seeking missiles and chaff dispensers countered radar guided missiles.

The 16th Special Operations Squadron was the only combat unit flying the AC-130H and it remained at Ubon Royal Thai Air Force Base until July 1974, when the unit moved to Korat RTAFB. In December 1975, the 16th Special Operations Squadron moved once more to Hurlburt Field, Fla. The 16th Special Operations Squadron, now part of the 16th Special Operations Wing, is currently active at Hurlburt Field.

The AC-130H fleet has undergone several modification programs to continually improved its capabilities. One major improvement was the addition of an in flight refueling system to give the aircraft virtually unlimited range. An extensive upgrade program was completed in the early 1990s -- major updates were done to the fire control system, forward looking infrared, and weapons subsystems (head up display, gun mounts, targeting, etc.). Global Positioning System equipment was added and another ECM equipment upgrade program was completed.

The AC-130H has participated in many notable combat operations since the end of the Vietnam War including the attempted rescue of the crew of the USS Mayaguez in 1975, the Grenada operation in October 1983, Operation Just Cause in Panama 1989-1990, Operation Desert Storm in Iraq in 1991, Operation Restore Hope in Somalia from 1993-1994, and Operation Deliberate Force in Bosnia in 1995.

On Jan. 31, 1991, the first AC-130H was lost in combat supporting coalition forces engaged in ground combat during the battle of Khafji in Operation Desert Storm. A second aircraft supporting operations in Somalia was lost on March 15, 1994 when the 105mm cannon exploded while the aircraft was airborne. The eight remaining AC-130H Spectre gunships continued to fly with the 16th Special Operations Squadron.

Type Number built/
AC-130A 1 (cv) Prototype AC-130 gunship
AC-130A 7 (cv) "Plain Jane" initial conversion
AC-130A 1 (cv) "Surprise Package" test aircraft
AC-130A 10 (cv) "Pave Pronto" version
AC-130E 11 (cv) C-130E conversions
AC-130H 10 (cv) Updated AC-130E

Armament: Two 20mm M61A1 Vulcan cannons firing at 2,500 rpm (3,000 rounds typically carried onboard), one 40mm M1 "Bofors" cannons with a selectable firing rate of single shot or 120 rpm (approx. 250 rounds typically carried onboard), and one 105mm M-102 Howitzer cannon (96 rounds typically carried onboard)
Engines: Four Allison T-56-A-15 turboprops of 4,910 hp 
Attack speed: 145+ knots
Cruising speed: 180+ knots
Duration: 3-5 hours for a typical combat mission (6 hours maximum with 30 minutes reserve fuel); most missions were about 5 hours in duration
Attack altitude: Between 5,500 and 10,500 ft. above ground level depending on the threat environment
Span: 132 ft. 7 in.
Length: 97 ft. 10 in.
Height: 38 ft. 6 in.
Weight: 160,000 lbs. maximum
14 (pilot, co-pilot, navigator, fire control officer, low light level television operator, forward looking infrared operator, illuminator operator, electronic warfare officer, flight engineer, loadmaster, master armorer, and four gunners/armorers)
Serial numbers: (Prototype) 54-1626; (Initial conversions [from JC-130A]): 53-3129, 54-1623, 54-1625, 54-1627 to 54-1630; ("Surprise Package") 56-0490; ("Pave Pronto") 55-11, 55-14, 55-29, 55-40, 55-43, 55-44, 55-46, 56-469, 56-471, 56-509; ("Pave Spectre" [from C-130E]): 69-6567 to 69-6577

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