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Gunship II: Spectre

AC-130A at Ubon Royal Thai Air Force Base in the spring of 1969. It is armed with four 20mm cannons and four 7.62mm miniguns. (U.S. Air Force photo)

AC-130A at Ubon Royal Thai Air Force Base in the spring of 1969. It is armed with four 20mm cannons and four 7.62mm miniguns. (U.S. Air Force photo)

The AC-130’s 105mm gun proved effective against enemy tanks. (U.S. Air Force photo)

The AC-130’s 105mm gun proved effective against enemy tanks. (U.S. Air Force photo)

AC-130 gunner Sgt. Donald Dawson pulls out a four-round 40mm clip from the onboard storage rack. (U.S. Air Force photo)

AC-130 gunner Sgt. Donald Dawson pulls out a four-round 40mm clip from the onboard storage rack. (U.S. Air Force photo)

View of the 40mm guns on an AC-130 from the inside of the aircraft. (U.S. Air Force photo)

View of the 40mm guns on an AC-130 from the inside of the aircraft. (U.S. Air Force photo)

View of the 40mm guns on an AC-130 from the outside of the aircraft. (U.S. Air Force photo)

View of the 40mm guns on an AC-130 from the outside of the aircraft. (U.S. Air Force photo)

When the AC-130’s 20mm guns fired, hundreds of empty casings fell to the floor. Gunners shoveled them into bags, as pictured here. (U.S. Air Force photo)

When the AC-130’s 20mm guns fired, hundreds of empty casings fell to the floor. Gunners shoveled them into bags, as pictured here. (U.S. Air Force photo)

“Black Crow” sensor on Thor, an AC-130A. This sensor detected and tracked vehicles by the electrical impulses of their spark plugs. Thor was shot down by antiaircraft fire in December 1972, with the loss of 14 members of its 16 crew. (U.S. Air Force photo)

“Black Crow” sensor on Thor, an AC-130A. This sensor detected and tracked vehicles by the electrical impulses of their spark plugs. Thor was shot down by antiaircraft fire in December 1972, with the loss of 14 members of its 16 crew. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Master Sgt. Jacob Mercer (left) prepares to load a AC-130 Spectre 105mm howitzer. Mercer was one of the crewmembers killed on June 18, 1972. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Master Sgt. Jacob Mercer (left) prepares to load a AC-130 Spectre 105mm howitzer. Mercer was one of the crewmembers killed on June 18, 1972. (U.S. Air Force photo)

The results of a deadly new threat -- the man-portable SA-7 surface-to-air missile. The warhead sprayed fragments through the back of this AC-130 and seriously wounded Ken Felty, who provided these photographs. (U.S. Air Force photo)

The results of a deadly new threat -- the man-portable SA-7 surface-to-air missile. The warhead sprayed fragments through the back of this AC-130 and seriously wounded Ken Felty, who provided these photographs. (U.S. Air Force photo)

North Vietnamese soldier preparing to fire an SA-7 surface-to-air missile. (U.S. Air Force photo)
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North Vietnamese soldier preparing to fire an SA-7 surface-to-air missile. (U.S. Air Force photo)

The AC-130 Spectre gunship was far more capable than the AC-47. It first flew in combat in the fall of 1967. Spectre gunship crews primarily flew night missions to stop enemy transportation on the Ho Chi Minh Trail in Laos. The AC-130 became the Air Force's most successful "truck-killer." Despite its effectiveness, however, it was never available in large numbers.

The AC-130 was continuously improved during the war. AC-130s carried 7.62mm, 20mm, and 40mm guns, and even a 105mm howitzer, depending on the version. AC-130s also possessed sophisticated sensors to detect the enemy at night. These sensors included forward looking radar (FLIR), low-level light television (LLTV) and infrared illuminators.

Click here to return to the Gunships Overview.

Please note Springfield Street, the road that leads to the museum’s entrance, is undergoing construction through the beginning of September. Expect lane reductions and some delays. Please follow the signs and instructions provided by the road crews.

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