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Lockheed AC-130H Spectre / AC-130U Spooky

Close Air-Support (CAS) / Air Interdiction / Force Protection Gunship

Lockheed AC-130H Spectre / AC-130U Spooky

Close Air-Support (CAS) / Air Interdiction / Force Protection Gunship


The Lockheed AC-130 is a special-mission gunship variant of the storied C-130 Hercules high-wing transport.
National Flag Graphic
ORIGIN: United States
YEAR: 1972
STATUS: Active, In-Service
MANUFACTURER(S): Lockheed Aircraft Corporation / The Boeing Company - USA
OPERATORS: United States

Unless otherwise noted the presented statistics below pertain to the Lockheed AC-130H Spectre model. Common measurements, and their respective conversions, are shown when possible.
CREW: AC-130H: 8 / AC-130U: 13
LENGTH: 97.77 feet (29.8 meters)
WIDTH: 132.55 feet (40.4 meters)
HEIGHT: 38.39 feet (11.7 meters)
WEIGHT (EMPTY): 72,891 pounds (33,063 kilograms)
WEIGHT (MTOW): 155,003 pounds (70,308 kilograms)
ENGINE: 4 x Rolls-Royce Allison T56-A-15 turboprop engines developing 4,910 horsepower each.
SPEED (MAX): 300 miles-per-hour (482 kilometers-per-hour; 260 knots)
RANGE: 2,200 miles (3,540 kilometers; 1,911 nautical miles)
CEILING: 24,856 feet (7,576 meters; 4.71 miles)

AC-130H "Spectre":
2 x 20mm cannons
1 x 40mm cannon
1 x 105mm cannon

AC-130U "Spooky":
1 x 25mm gun
1 x 40mm cannon
1 x 105mm cannon
Graphical image of an aircrat automatic cannon

Series Model Variants
• C-130 - Base transport model
• AC-130H - Callsign of 'Spectre'; 8 crewmen; Dual 20mm Vulcan, 40mm and 105mm cannons.
• AC-130U - Callsign of 'Spooky'; 13 crewmen; Varying avionics and sub-systems; Third generation AC-130 gunship variant; Addition of 25mm gun to 40mm and 105mm standard armament.
• AC-130W "Stinger II" - Redesignation of MC-130W "Dragon Spear" model.


Detailing the development and operational history of the Lockheed AC-130H Spectre / AC-130U Spooky Close Air-Support (CAS) / Air Interdiction / Force Protection Gunship.  Entry last updated on 1/7/2019. Authored by Staff Writer. Content ©
Since the advent of the airplane as an instrument of war, warplanners have relied on the power of mobile aerial attacks to keep an enemy on its toes. From the simple dropping of flechettes on entrenched enemy positions in World War One, to the direct contact assaults prevalent in World War Two, this is no more truer than with the converted C-130 series of gunships (known respectively per models as the AC-130H "Spectre" and AC-130U "Spooky"). The Spectre and Spooky systems have evolved to become an important part of the ever-changing battlefield, where contact with enemy forces is likely, and the need for precision yet powerful aerial artillery is evermore important.

The AC-130, having been derived from the armed AC-47 gunship series, saw extensive and successful action against enemy forces in the Vietnam War. Appearing very much like the base C-130 transport model - a system that already came into its own as one of the most successful transport designs ever made - but were armed with a lethal array of miniguns, cannons and howitzers. From a basic design perspective, the AC-130 is a shoulder-mounted straight wing system with a single large rudder aft. Four Allison turboprops are mounted underwing, with two per wing. The spacious cargo bay of the base C130 allows for the carrying of the powerful 105mm cannon along with additional weaponry, ammunition and necessary systems.

AC-130's gain their lethality through support of troops in contact, often referred to in the short form as "TIC". AC-130 systems are charged with loitering above combat zones, often working in the darkness of night or inclement weather, using advanced targeting and fire control systems to assist ground troops in need. Though mounting an impressive array of armament, the AC-130's are not up to the task of defeating enemy heavy armor or bunkers but can target concrete structures and light armored vehicles with penetrator rounds. Due to the close proximity of engagement to friendly forces, AC-130's often bore sight with live-fire prior to arriving in the target zone. Firing is accomplished from one side of the aircraft only and requires the aircraft to be in a deliberate turn to engage. As a low-flying system, the AC-130 requires air defense threats to be neutralized before entering enemy airspace, though radar jamming and countermeasures are offered the system.

The current breed of AC-130 systems break down into two variants designated as the AC-130H and the AC-130U. Different avionics and subsystems aside, the two aircraft share many similarities. In terms of armament however, the AC-130U incorporated a 25mm gun to compliment the standard 40mm cannon and 105mm howitzer. The accepted callsign for the AC-130H series is the threatening "Spectre" while the AC-130U series enjoys the mysterious "Spooky" callsign.

Cost estimates per unit in 2001 were slated at $132,400,000 for the AC-130H system and $190,000,000 for the AC-130U system. The AC-130U also employs more crew to function and consists of a pilot, co-pilot, fire control officer, flight engineer, navigator, TV operator, four aerial gunners, a loadmaster, infrared detection set operator and an electronic warfare officer. The AC-130H maintains a crew of just 8 personnel.

Seeing action in Vietnam, the AC-130 crews went on to prove the value of the system time and again in Operation Just Cause to retake the tiny island nation of Panama in 1989. From there, Operation Desert Storm threw the AC-130's into action once more, warming crews up for the inevitable action over Bosnia Herzegovina. Currently seeing action in Operation Enduring Freedom, the AC-130 has solidified its place in the US military inventory - for both wartime and even through emergency evacuation of American non-combatants overseas. The AC-130 is kept in limited supply of just eight AC-130H models and thirteen AC-130U models.


General Assessment

Values are derrived from a variety of categories related to the design, overall function, and historical influence of this aircraft in aviation history.
MF Power Rating
The MF Power Rating takes into account over sixty individual factors related to this aircraft entry. The rating is out of 100 total possible points.
Relative Maximum Speed
Hi: 300mph
Lo: 150mph
This entry's maximum listed speed (300mph).

Graph average of 225 miles-per-hour.
City-to-City Ranges
Graph showcases the Lockheed AC-130H Spectre's operational range (on internal fuel) when compared to distances between major cities.
Aviation Era
Pie graph section
Pie graph section
Pie graph section
Pie graph section
Pie graph section
Useful in showcasing the era cross-over of particular aircraft/aerospace designs.
Unit Production (21)
Comm. Market HI*: 44,000 units
Military Market HI**: 36,183 units

  * Commercial Market High belongs to Cessna 172.

  ** Military Market High belongs to Ilyushin Il-2.

Altitude Visualization
Small airplane graphic
Supported Roles
Ground Attack
Aerial Tanker
A2A=Air-to-Air; UAV=Unmanned; CAS=Close Support; ASW=Anti-Submarine; AEW=Airborne Early Warning; MEDEVAC=Medical Evac; EW=Electronic Warfare; SAR=Search-Rescue
In the Cockpit...
Commitments / Honors
Military lapel ribbon for Operation Allied Force
Military lapel ribbon for the Arab-Israeli War
Military lapel ribbon for the Battle of Britain
Military lapel ribbon for the Battle of Midway
Military lapel ribbon for the Berlin Airlift
Military lapel ribbon for the Chaco War
Military lapel ribbon for the Cold War
Military lapel ribbon for the Cuban Missile Crisis
Military lapel ribbon for pioneering aircraft
Military lapel ribbon for the Falklands War
Military lapel ribbon for the French-Indochina War
Military lapel ribbon for the Golden Age of Flight
Military lapel ribbon for the 1991 Gulf War
Military lapel ribbon for the Indo-Pak Wars
Military lapel ribbon for the Iran-Iraq War
Military lapel ribbon for the Korean War
Military lapel ribbon for the 1982 Lebanon War
Military lapel ribbon for the Malayan Emergency
Military lapel ribbon representing modern aircraft
Military lapel ribbon for the attack on Pearl Harbor
Military lapel ribbon for the Six Day War
Military lapel ribbon for the Soviet-Afghan War
Military lapel ribbon for the Spanish Civil War
Military lapel ribbon for the Suez Crisis
Military lapel ribbon for the Vietnam War
Military lapel ribbon for Warsaw Pact of the Cold War-era
Military lapel ribbon for the WASP (WW2)
Military lapel ribbon for the World War 1
Military lapel ribbon for the World War 2
Military lapel ribbon for the Yom Kippur War
Military lapel ribbon for experimental x-plane aircraft
* Ribbons not necessarily indicative of actual historical campaign ribbons. Ribbons are clickable to their respective campaigns/operations.

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