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Posted 10/23/2009 Printable Fact Sheet

The AC-130U is the latest in a long line of side firing gunships which began in the early 1960s with the AC-47D "Spooky". The AC-130U is named for the AC-47D and has the "Spooky" nickname rather than the "Spectre" nickname used by all other AC-130 gunships.

"The AC-130U Gunship program consists of 13 new C-130H airframes that Rockwell International Corporation modified for improved armament, avionics, battle management, sensors and countermeasures. The modifications allow the aircraft to perform the full range of special operations and conventional gunship missions. The AC-130U Gunship is capable of operating at low levels at night and in adverse weather, providing precision fire support and loitering for long periods over targets." (Source: Fielding of the AC-130U Gunship - AFAA)

The prototype AC-130U (S/N 87-128) made its first flight on Dec. 20, 1990, on a short flight from the Lockheed Palmdale facility to Edwards Air Force Base (AFB), Calif. The initial flight test period lasted from Dec. 20, 1990, through Dec. 21, 1991. Forty-eight test flights were flown for a total of 165 hours. Thirteen aircraft were built and all are currently assigned to the 4th Special Operations Squadron "Ghostriders," 16th Special Operations Wing, Hurlburt Field, Fla.

The AC-130U incorporated a variety of upgraded systems. The weapons array consists of a 105mm cannon, a 40mm cannon and a 25mm gatling gun. The aircraft has a dual inertial navigation system (INS). The fire control system (FCS) is integrated with the global positioning system (GPS) for increased targeting accuracy under all conditions. Targeting equipment installed in the gunship includes an All Light Level Televison (ALLTV) system with a laser illuminator, laser target designator, laser range finder, infrared detection set and night vision goggles for the pilots. The AC-130U has in flight refueling capability and a full range of electronic warfare countermeasures.

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
AC-130U 13 "Spooky" gunships

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.
160,000 lbs. maximum
Crew: 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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