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AC-130 Hercules 'Spectre'The AC-130 Spectre is a Gunship version of the ubiquitous Hercules transport aircraft. Unlike the transport version which is in service in many countries throughout the world the Spectre has only seen service in the USAF. Like many of the specialised versions of the Hercules the Spectre came out of the involvement of the US in the Vietnam War. The Douglas AC-47 gunship known as 'Puff the Magic Dragon' had served in Vietnam but was a very old aircraft by the time of the war and was starting to show its age. The concept of a Hercules gunship was applied to a test aircraft in 1965. This became the AC-130A which carried four 20mm cannon and four 7.62mm miniguns, in pairs fore and aft of the main landing gear. Low light equipment , a searchlight and IR sensor were also fitted In country trials followed, these were a great success and a further seven aircraft were converted during 1967-8. More upgrades followed including a much improved sensor package with FLIR, these upgrades produced the AC-130A 'Pave Pronto' gunships. The 'Black Crow' sensor system even allowed the Spectre to home in on the unshielded ignition systems of Soviet built vehicles. The 'Pave Spectre' program brought increased armour, fuel and ammunition as C-130E airframes with more engine power became available and the first AC-130E's were delivered in 1971. With the increase enemy anti aircraft guns a bigger weapon was needed on the gunship and the rear 40mm guns were replaced with a single 105mm howitzer the biggest gun carried by any aircraft. The AC-130E was a truly awesome gunship able to destroy whole supply convoys and more upgraded avionics and this massive gun created the AC-130H. Due to the dangerous nature of their mission six aircraft were lost during the Vietnam war. In more modern times the AC-130 has seen action in Grenada and Central America and two were on station to support the failed 'Operation Eagle Claw' the attempt to rescue American staff from the Iranian Embassy in the 1970's.
Maximum speed; 602km/h (374mph)
Range; 3792 km (2,356 miles)