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Fairchild AC-119 (Shadow / Stinger)

Gunship / Close-Air Support (CAS) Aircraft

United States | 1968

"The Fairchild AC-119 fixed-wing gunship platform proved to be a successful conversion of the original Fairchild C-119 transport aircraft."

Authored By: Staff Writer | Last Edited: 03/12/2020 | Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com | The following text is exclusive to this site; No A.I. was used in the generation of this content.
The Fairchild AC-119 "Shadow" / "Stinger" aircraft series was nothing more than converted forms of the successful Korean War-era (1950-1953) Fairchild C-119 "Flying Boxcar" transport. During the Vietnam War (1955-1975), the United States Air Force (USAF) found itself woefully short of capable C-130 "Hercules" transports for conversion to fixed-wing gunships and therefore set its sights on the C-119 which was still available in useful numbers. The result of this initiative became the AC-119G "Shadow" and the related AC-119K "Stinger" variants.

By this point in military history, it became apparent to American warplanners that slow-moving, low-flying, loitering aircraft mounting considerable war loads were an important part of fighting a drawn-out war in Southeast Asia. As such, the side-firing gunship was developed, typically from converting existing fixed-wing, prop-driven military transports to the role. When properly armed and outfitted with sensors and applicable equipment, these aircraft could remain on station and supply considerable firepower against targets or target areas. As such, the converted Fairchild AC-119G and K-models were used - and excelled - in the Close-Air Support (CAS) role where their tremendous firepower could be brought to bear, laying waste to anything unlucky enough to find itself within the crosshairs of their guns.

AC-119G (Shadow) models were taken into service to succeed an aging line of converted C-47 transports (as the AC-47 "Spooky") and were outfitted with 4 x 7.62mm electrically-powered GAU-2/A miniguns (afforded a total of 1,500 rounds of 7.62mm ammunition) as well as armoring along the critical sections of the airframe. K-models were notable in their expanded armament suite - 4 x 7.62mm miniguns to go along with 2 x 20mm "Vulcan" six-barreled Gatling-style automatic cannons (a total of 4,200 rounds of ammunition) - as well as being outfitted with auxiliary jet engines under the wings for increased performance.

Each aircraft carried 60 x Mk 24 flares fired from an LAU-74/A series launcher.

Though similar aircraft in many respects, Shadows were typically operated in the CAS role while Stingers were deployed for "Search-and-Destroy" sorties. In either case, both models were put to good use in targeting enemy convoys, especially along known supply routes in and around the Ho Chi Minh Trail, as well as engaging other called targets.

G-models had a crew of six (one pilot, two navigators, a flight engineer, a dedicated gunner, and an illuminator operator) for daytime missions and, for night missions, two additional specialists were added. The aircraft retained its overall length of 86.f feet and had a wingspan of 109.3 feet with a height reaching 26.7 feet. Empty weight was 40,125lb against an MTOW of 62,000lb when fully-loaded. Power was from 2 x Wright R-3350-85 "Duplex Cyclone" air-cooled radial piston engines developing 3,500 horsepower each driving four-bladed propeller units. Performance included a maximum speed of 210 miles-per-hour, a cruising speed near 150 mph, a range out to 1,950 miles, and a service ceiling up to 23,300 feet.

The aircraft retained its general form from the original C-119 transports. The fuselage was centrally located with the high wing mainplane carrying an engine. Twin booms extended from the trailing edges of the wings and were joined by a shared horizontal plane. Each boom terminated with a vertical tailplane. A tricycle undercarriage (retractable) was used for ground-running.

Service entry began during November 1968 and 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 (TAC) 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 more or less seen its end by then.

The USAF formally gave up use of the type in 1971 and a total of 52 airframes were converted for the role - just five being lost in combat.

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Power & Performance
Those special qualities that separate one aircraft design from another. Performance specifications presented assume optimal operating conditions for the Fairchild AC-119G Shadow Gunship / Close-Air Support (CAS) Aircraft.
2 x Wright R-3350-85 "Duplex Cyclone" air-cooled radial piston engines developing 3,500 horsepower each driving four-bladed propeller units; AC-119K model fitted with under-wing jets for enhanced limited performance.
208 mph
335 kph | 181 kts
Max Speed
23,294 ft
7,100 m | 4 miles
Service Ceiling
1,926 miles
3,100 km | 1,674 nm
Operational Range
950 ft/min
290 m/min
City-to-City Ranges
Operational range when compared to distances between major cities (in KM).
The nose-to-tail, wingtip-to-wingtip physical qualities of the Fairchild AC-119G Shadow Gunship / Close-Air Support (CAS) Aircraft.
86.4 ft
26.33 m
O/A Length
109.3 ft
(33.31 m)
O/A Width
26.6 ft
(8.12 m)
O/A Height
40,124 lb
(18,200 kg)
Empty Weight
61,950 lb
(28,100 kg)
Design Balance
The three qualities reflected below are altitude, speed, and range. The more full the box, the more balanced the design.
Available supported armament and special-mission equipment featured in the design of the Fairchild AC-119 (Shadow / Stinger) Gunship / Close-Air Support (CAS) Aircraft .
NOTE: All Armament installed along port side of the fuselage.

AC-119G "Shadow":
4 x 7.62mm GAU-2/A six-barreled "Gatling-style" miniguns.
60 x Mk 24 flares.

AC-119K "Stinger":
4 x 7.62mm GAU-2/A six-barreled "Gatling-style" miniguns.
2 x 20mm "Vulcan" six-barreled "Gatling-style" automatic cannons.
60 x Mk 24 flares.
Notable series variants as part of the Fairchild AC-119 (Shadow / Stinger) family line.
C-119 - Base Transport Model
AC-119G "Shadow" - Gunship Conversion Model Designation; modified gunship based on the C-119G transport model; fitted with 4 x 7.62mm miniguns.
AC-119K "Stinger" - Gunship Model Variant; fitted with 4 x 7.62mm miniguns and 2 x 20mm automatic cannons.
Global customers who have evaluated and/or operated the Fairchild AC-119 (Shadow / Stinger). Nations are displayed by flag, each linked to their respective national aircraft listing.

Total Production: 52 Units

Contractor(s): Fairchild Corporation - USA
National flag of the United States National flag of Vietnam

[ South Vietnam; United States ]
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Image of the Fairchild AC-119 (Shadow / Stinger)
Image from the United States Department of Defense DVIDS imagery database.

Going Further...
The Fairchild AC-119 (Shadow / Stinger) Gunship / Close-Air Support (CAS) Aircraft appears in the following collections:
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