Mission - ABCCC provides worldwide responsiveness in the employment of its airborne battlefield command and control capability by managing tactical air operation in limited or general war, contingencies, special mission and exercise.
The AC-130A carries 7.62mm and 20mm weapons; the AC-130H fired 20mm, 40mm and 105mm guns; and the newest gunship, the AC-130U, is equipped with 25mm, 40mm and 105mm weapons.
The C-130 gunship was a new weapon system in an old airframe. Therefore, there were a number of firsts that one model or another chalked up for the gunship. Spectre was operationally tested at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., from June to September 1967. It initially deployed to Nha Trang, Republic of Vietnam Sept. 20, 1967, and flew its first combat mission Sept. 27. Its first truck busting mission was flown Nov. 8, 1967, and all A-model gunships were assigned to Detachment 2, 14th Commando Wing. In 1968, Det. 2 was assigned to the 8th Tactical Fighter Wing and became the 16th Special Operations Squadron. At that time the C-130A was renamed the AC-130A.
A gunship was called to Katum, Vietnam, to support a special forces base under strong attack. The ground commander asked the gunship to fire on the enemy at the very edge of the camp. The gunship demonstrated the accuracy of its weapons and thus was born the close-air support capability ground forces have relied upon ever since. The 16th SOS moved to Thailand Oct. 30, 1968. The squadron continued to fly the A-model until it received the AC-130E, which was later, redesignated the AC-130H.
Spectre suffered it first battle damage from anti-aircraft artillery Sept. 26, 1968. The sturdy C-130 returned to base. In December 1968, F-4 Phantoms first escorted the gunship in an effort to protect it from ground fire. However, the first gunship was lost with two crewmembers May 24, 1969. One was killed when the gunship was hit and the other perished when the plane crashed at home base. A gunship accomplished an unusual feat, May 8, 1969, when it shot down an enemy helicopter. Thus was born the nickname the "fabulous four engine fighter" to the chagrin of fighter pilots who where having few opportunities for air-to-air kills. Firepower increased when the first 105mm cannon arrived for installation on the gunship Feb. 17, 1972. The artillery piece was first used in combat March 1, 1972.
Khmer Rough insurgents threatened the capital of Cambodia, Phnom Penh April 12, 1975. Gunships participated in the evacuation of American people from the capital as it fell to the communists. Later in the same month, April 30, Spectres also patrolled over Saigon during the American evacuation. Cambodia captured the USS Mayaguez on May 15, in international waters and AC-130As played a key role in the recovery of the ship and crew. In July, the Air Force activated its only reserve gunship squadron at Duke Field, Fla., and equipped it with AC-130A Spectres.
Because of the hostage situation in Teheran, Iran, four H-model gunships of the 16th SOS flew nonstop from Hurlburt Field to Anderson Air Force Base, Guam in 1979, and later were part of the support force during the hostage rescue attempt in 1980. However, weather and mechanical problems with helicopters forced the mission abort of this heroic effort. In October 1983, the gunships of the 16th SOS played a very significant part in the rescue of American medical students on the island of Grenada. Without the firepower of the AC-130Hs, the invasion of Grenada would have cost more American lives.
The invasion of Panama, in December 1989, was another major success in which both the H-models and A-models played key roles. The fighting was opened by a gunship attack on the military headquarters of the dictator of Panama and the outcome was never in doubt. All objectives were quickly accomplished and democracy was restored to Panama. Also, both the AC-130A and AC-130H gunships were part of the international force assembled in the Persian Gulf region to drive Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait, which he had invaded in early August 1990. In the following January, the allies launched the actual war known as Desert Storm following the Desert Shield build-up. Victory was accomplished in a few weeks and Kuwait was set free of the foreign invader.