Fairchild AC-119 (Shadow / Stinger) Gunship / Close-Air Support (CAS) Aircraft
The Fairchild AC-119 gunship proved to be a successful conversion of the Fairchild C-119 transport aircraft.
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The Fairchild AC-119 series was a modified form of the successful Fairchild C-119 "Flying Boxcar" transport aircraft. AC-119's saw service in the Vietnam War (1955-1975) and fulfilled a "dual-role" capability based on model type: "Shadow" versions represented the adopted name by crews of their respective AC-119G models whereas "Stinger" versions were AC-119K models. Though similar aircraft in many respects, Shadows were called serve in the close-support and airbase defense roles whereas Stingers fulfilled more aggressive search-and-destroy sorties. Concentration of the AC-119K variants revolved heavily on the Ho Chi Minh supply trail as these aircraft were required to target any and all incoming and outgoing supplies as well as troop convoys.
A standard operating crew during day sorties was six with night sorties adding two more specialists. The aircraft received drive power from 2 x Wright R-3350-85 "Duplex Cyclone" radial piston engines of 3,500 horsepower each (AC-119G models) to which maximum speeds reached 210 miles per hour, cruising speeds reached 150 miles per hour, ranges were out to 1,930 miles and a service ceiling of 23,300 feet was possible. Armament varied between the two models - 4 x 7.62mm GAU-2/A miniguns was standard while the AC-119K carired an additional 2 x 20mm M61 "Vulcan" six-barreled Gatling guns. Each aircraft also carried 60 x Mk 24 flares fired from an LAU-74/A series launcher.
Service entry of this line came during November 1968. Operating squadrons were part of the 14th Special Operations Wing and 56th Special Operations Wing (Thailand) - all serving under the banner of the United States Air Force's Tactical Air Command service. In 1972, control of at least sixteen AC-119K models was given to the South Vietnamese Air Force and limited numbers operated from Thai airfields during the year but the line had seen its end.
52 total AC-119 aircraft were constructed and only five of these were lost during the war.