Some Great stories on the Lockheed C-130 Hercules and History of the Gunship.

 

 

This quarter there have been some great stories of the C-130 and a history of the gunship on the internet.  The first is a condensed history of the C-130; the second is a Marine’s story of flying the C-130 over Iraq which is one of the funniest story written about the aircraft and the third one is a history of the gunship to include the AC-130.  The stories  are part of our Air Commando history and the joy and terror our aircrews had in flying the Hercules.  Enjoy these wonderful stories of our war birds which many of us grew up with to see a repeat of the Douglas C-47.  

 

Condensed History of the C-130

Designed for the Long Haul: Production of the C-130 Hercules Spans Half The History of Powered Flight (Posted: Thursday, December 16, 2004) Richmond (Va.) Times-Dispatch, BY PETER BACQUE, TIMES-DISPATCH STAFF WRITER, Thursday, December 16, 2004.

 

Even when that's the way to bet, the race is not always to the swift nor love to the lovely.  This year, the aircraft that is arguably the greatest plane to fly in American military service celebrates 50 years of continuous production, a remarkable testimony to its hardy usefulness.

The plane is not the mighty B-52, not the redoubtable F-4 Phantom, not the artist's-dream P-51 Mustang, none of them: This foremost of U.S. military aircraft is the Dumboesque C-130 Hercules.

"I am convinced that the C-130 is one of the greatest aircraft ever built," said Air Force Gen. John W. Handy, chief of the U.S. Transportation Command.

Lockheed Martin Corp. has been building the rugged plane without interruption to the assembly line since early 1954, longer than any military aircraft. Its production has spanned essentially half the history of powered flight.

With its distinctive pudgy shape tugged along by four mighty - and mighty noisy - turboprop engines, the Hercules is a transport plane that no news reporter can resist calling "lumbering," though it can zip along at almost 400 mph.

And the plane has landed nimbly - without the aid of an arresting tailhook to stop it - on one of the Navy's aircraft carriers. It landed on only one carrier, the USS Forrestal, during tests of the feasibility of landing and launching such a large plane on carriers.

The C-130 has landed or airdropped cargo at every flashpoint from the Congo to Vietnam to Kosovo to Afghanistan and Iraq. It has dropped bombs and then turned around and hauled relief supplies to every Godforsaken outpost and calamity on the globe.

During the Vietnam War, a Coast Guard C-130 pilot even outmaneuvered a North Vietnamese MiG-21, luring it into apparently crashing in a canyon as the Hercules evaded the little fighter's cannon fire. The kill was not confirmed, but the C-130 flew out of the valley and the MiG didn't, according to Coast Guard aviation sources.

First flown Aug. 23, 1954, in Burbank, Calif., the C-130 entered operational service in 1956 with the U.S. Air Force. Since then, more than 2,270 Hercules have been delivered to 60 countries, and 67 countries - counting those that bought pre-owned C-130s - fly the beefy plane.

Because of its ubiquity, the "Herk" is the standard by which military equipment is measured. As one official told Army magazine, "if it doesn't fit into a C-130, it doesn't go."

An array of technical, economic and historical factors vaulted the Hercules to its pre-eminence.

From its high wing to low-hanging belly to its upswept tail, form follows function in the Herk's design.

"The C-130 is only the second airplane designed from the ground up as a military cargo airplane," said Bill Mikolowsky, Lockheed Martin's senior manager for air mobility at the Hercules plant in Marietta, Ga. "They got it about just right."

After generations of underpowered cargo craft, the C-130's turbine engines - a first for American production transports - endowed the plane with plenty of power. Those turboprop power plants gave the aircraft the ability to carry more, go faster and get into and out of tiny rough-country strips.

"That made the airplane an instant success," Mikolowsky said.  The C-130 is as tough as the Greek hero it's named for.  "It's a very robust aircraft," said John McDonald, the C-130 chief engineer with the Air Force's Warner Robins Air Logistics Center in Georgia.

Compared with temperamental jets, he said, Herks are happy on dirt runways, where their high-set wings and propellers keep the engines from sucking up buckets of rocks.  Its cargo compartment is high, wide and long, and you can drive right into it from the rear-opening ramp.  "You can do roll-on, roll-off stuff all the time," McDonald said.

"Aerodynamically, the C-130, though not pretty - except to those of us who love its rugged good looks - represents a reasonably clean figuration," which contributes to its performance, Mikolowsky said.

Buying and flying the Herk won't break the bank. The Air Force says a C-130 costs $48.5 million, which, while not Georgia peanuts, is inexpensive for a military transport.  "Compared to most aircraft, the cost per flying hour is very, very low," McDonald said. And "if you're going to modify an aircraft, the C-130 is a lot cheaper" to redesign for those odd little special missions.

There's strength in numbers.  With so many Herks flying around the world, a solid industrial base grew up to support the plane, making it attractive for armed forces to operate.  "You can buy more," McDonald said, "so you use them for more things."  Good publicity goes a long way.

Two dramatic, widely reported events demonstrated how useful the Hercules could be to military customers, Mikolowsky said.

In the 1968 siege of Khe Sanh during the Vietnam War, a massive airlift shouldered primarily by the Hercules supplied cut-off U.S. Marines for 70 days.

Then in 1976, the Israelis flew four C-130s 2,000 miles to rescue 105 hostages held by terrorists in Entebbe, Uganda, demonstrating how the plane could be turned into a weapon of power projection.

International sales took off.  "If you're going to have a serious air force, you've got to have Herks to go with your fighters," Mikolowsky said.  Pilots love it.

"It's a damn good airplane," said Bob Hill, Lockheed Martin's chief production and delivery pilot in Marietta, Ga.

Hill is 71, and he has flown approaching 10,000 hours in the Herk.

"I'm not retired," he said, "cause there's no way in the world I can get hold of an airplane like this."

 

USMC Pilot Love of the C-130

This is from a colorful writer from the 1st Marine Air Wing based at MCAS Miramar, (The guy ought to write for a living..... This is my nominee for 'Best of the Month.)

There I was at six thousand feet over central Iraq, two hundred eighty knots and we're dropping faster than Paris Hilton's panties. It's a typical September evening in the Persian Gulf; hotter than a rectal thermometer and I'm sweating like a priest at a Cub Scout meeting. But that's neither here nor there. The night is moonless over Baghdad tonight, and blacker than a Steven King novel. But it's 2004, folks, and I'm sporting the latest in night-combat technology - namely, hand-me-down night vision goggles (NVGs) thrown out by the fighter boys.


Additionally, my 1962 Lockheed C-130E Hercules is equipped with an obsolete, yet, semi-effective missile warning system (MWS). The MWS conveniently makes a nice soothing tone in your headset just before the missile explodes into your airplane. Who says you can't polish a turd?


At any rate, the NVGs are illuminating Baghdad International Airport like the Las Vegas Strip during a Mike Tyson fight. These NVGs are the cat's ass. But I've digressed.


The preferred method of approach tonight is the random shallow. This tactical maneuver allows the pilot to ingress the landing zone in an unpredictable manner, thus exploiting the supposedly secured perimeter of the airfield in an attempt to avoid enemy surface-to-air-missiles and small arms fire. Personally, I wouldn't bet my pink ass on that theory but the approach is fun as hell and that's the real reason we fly it.


We get a visual on the runway at three miles out, drop down to one thousand feet above the ground, still maintaining two hundred eighty knots. Now the fun starts. It's pilot appreciation time as I descend the mighty Herk to six hundred feet and smoothly, yet very deliberately, yank into a sixty degree left bank, turning the aircraft ninety degrees offset from runway heading. As soon as we roll out of the turn, I reverse turn to the right a full two hundred seventy degrees in order to roll out aligned with the runway. Some aeronautical genius coined this maneuver the "Ninety/Two-Seventy." Chopping the power during the turn, I pull back on the yoke just to the point my nether regions start to sag, bleeding off energy in order to configure the pig for landing.


"Flaps Fifty!, Landing Gear Down!, Before Landing Checklist!" I look over at the copilot and he's shaking like a cat shitting on a sheet of ice. Looking further back at the navigator, and even through the NVGs, I can clearly see the wet spot spreading around his crotch. Finally, I glance at my steely-eyed flight engineer. His eyebrows rise in unison as a grin forms on his face. I can tell he's thinking the same thing I am.... "Where do we find such fine young men?"


"Flaps One Hundred!" I bark at the shaking cat. Now it's all aimpoint and airspeed. Aviation 101, with the exception there are no lights, I'm on NVGs, it's Baghdad, and now tracers are starting to crisscross the black sky. Naturally, and not at all surprisingly, I grease the Goodyear's on brick-one of runway 33 left, bring the throttles to ground idle and then force the props to full reverse pitch. Tonight, the sound of freedom is my four Hamilton Standard propellers chewing through the thick, putrid, Baghdad air. The huge, one hundred thirty thousand pound, lumbering whisper pig comes to a lurching stop in less than two thousand feet. Let's see a Viper do that!


We exit the runway to a welcoming committee of government issued Army grunts. It's time to download their beans and bullets and letters from their sweethearts, look for war booty, and of course, urinate on Saddam's home. Walking down the crew entry steps with my lowest-bidder, Beretta 92F, 9 millimeter strapped smartly to my side, look around and thank God, not Allah, I'm an American and I'm on the winning team. Then I thank God I'm not in the Army. Knowing once again I've cheated death, I ask myself, "What in the hell am I doing in this mess?" Is it Duty, Honor, and Country? You bet your ass. Or could it possibly be for the glory, the swag, and not to mention, chicks dig the Air Medal. There's probably some truth there too. But now is not the time to derive the complexities of the superior, cerebral properties of the human portion of the aviator-man-machine model. It is however, time to get out of this shit-hole. "Hey copilot, clean yourself up! And how's 'bout the 'Before Starting Engines Checklist.'"

God, I love this job!

 

 

History of Fixed Wing Gunships

There were many pre-Vietnam gunship-like aircraft -- not only in the USA -- and even more helicopter during and after this war. I will concentrate here on USAF and USMC fixed-wing gunships, starting with the early '60s.

Project Tailchaser: Convair (A)C-131B

First test flights with armed C-131B, serial 53-7820, at Eglin AFB, 08/1964, with General Electric 7.62 mm SUU-11A/A Gatling Minigun.

Project Gunship (I): Douglas C-47, FC-47D, AC-47D

Tests were continued with a similar armed C-47D 44-8462 _Terry_&_Pirates_ at Eglin AFB in 1964. The first real FC-47D was 43-48579 _"Puff"_ (often called Puff the Magic Dragon), ferried back from Nha Trang to Bien Hoa, and fitted with 3 GE Miniguns, a Mark 20 Mod 4 sight (from A-1E Skyraider), VHF/UHF/FM radios, TACAN, IFF, 45 flares (200,000 candlepower) and 24,000 rounds of ammunition. Converted in 10/1964, and used by the 4th Air Commando Squadron. In Spring 1965 a second C-47D was converted in the same way. Four other were later armed with ten .30 calibre machine guns, Type M-2 Browning air-cooled. One of them was 43-48491 _'Git-Em'_Bullet_, another was _Grunt_2_ and one may have had the serial '36440' (?).

Three were operational with the 4th ACSq. and one was used for crew training at the Forbes AFB. All 6 original FC-47D were later redesignated AC-47D. Air International at Miami, FL, converted 20 more C-47 to AC-47D, which were used from Fall 1965 by the 4th ACSq. The early six were returned to Clark AFB, refitted and camouflaged. The 4th ACSq. became part of the 14th SOW, which was known as 'Antique Wing'. AC-47s were flown by the 3rd SOSq. (tailcode EL) and 4th SOSq (tailcode EN), both part of the 14th SOW, and by the 432nd TFW at Udorn RTAB (tailcode OS).

Their call sign in Vietnam was _SPOOKY_.

Known serials are: 43-48072, 43-48491 _'Git-Em'_Bullett_, 43-48579 _"Puff"_, 43-48701, 43-48801, 43-49274, 43-49852, 44-76534, 44-76985, 45-927.

Partially known serials are: 'OS 43-010', '43-263', 'EN 770' _Spooky_, 'EN 354', 'EN 859', and '717' _Delta_Queen_, and 10 other serials are missing. Also the first armed C-47D was 44-8462 _Terry_&_Pirates_.

One reported serial '36440' may be wrong (couldn't find any, it is not one of the following 42-36440, 43-36440, 44-36440, 43-x6440).

18 AC-47D were given in 1969 to the VNAF, and at least 11 went to the Royal Laotian AF.

Other C-47, working close together with AC-47Ds were four types of EC-47s: EC-47D, which were C-47D, converted to ECM / ELINT aircraft, EC-47N, which were C-47A converted as ECM / ELINT aircraft, with R-1830-90D or -92 engines, EC-47P which were C-47D, converted to ECM / ELINT aircraft, with R-1830-90D or -92 engines, and EC-47Q which were C-47A and C-47D, converted to ECM / ELINT aircraft re-engined with R-2000-4 engines. These aircraft were also used as sensor relay aircraft, and to monitor and home on to VC radio traffic. After pinpointing a target, they called the _Spooky_ gunships. USAF units using EC-47s during the Vietnam conflict were the 14th SOW "Antique Wing", with the 5th SOSq. (tailcode EO) and the 9th SOSq. (tailcode ER), the 432nd TEWS (tailcode AN) and the 360th TEWS (tailcode maybe AJ ?).

Partially known serials were: EC-47N 'AN 42-645', EC-47 'AJ 331'.

Nose arts seen were: EC-47N _Beep!_Beep!_

Some EC-47s were later given to the VNAF.

Project Gunship II: Lockheed AC-130A

The prototype for the best known gunships at all, was a C-130A 54-1626 named by the crew _Vulcan_Express_, equipped with four 7.62 mm General Electric XMU-470 Minigun Modules, four 20 mm General Electric M61 Vulcan Gatling cannons, a Night Observation Device (NOD) or Starlite Scope, a 'bread board' computer, and a 20 kW searchlight at Wright-Patterson AFB, and redesignated JC-130A. It was later known as _Super_Spooky_ and served also with the 4950th Test Wing.

This aircraft, a short nose Hercules, was tested at Eglin AFB from 06/1967 to 09/1967, and was then deployed to Nha Trang AB at 09/20/1967. It flew its first operational mission seven days later.

The aircraft was a great succsess, and LTV E-Systems at Greenville, TX, got a contract to modify seven early model JC-130A to similar AC-130A, but equipped with better Texas Instruments AN/AAD-4 FLIR, Singer-General Precision fire control computer and a Texas Instruments Moving Target Indicator (MTI), and other equipment to reach current C-130A production standard.

Four were finally deployed to Vietnam in late 1968, and the other went to the 16th SOSq. (tailcode FT) at Ubon RTAB in 05/1969. These seven aircraft were painted black overall and also known as _Plain_Janes_, to distinguish them from the single _Surprise_Package_ AC-130A and the _Pave_Pronto_ AC-130As. The 4413th CCTS, 4410th CCTW (tailcode IH) was later redesignated the 415th SOTSq., 1st SOW at Hurlburt Field, FL (tailcode AH) and was charged with the training of all AC-130 crews.

Apparently, some of the _Plain_Jane_ aircraft were later updated to the _Pave_Pronto_ standard, including 54-1630 and 56-0490.

_Gunship_II_ JC-130A-LM serial was: 54-1626 _Vulcan_Express_ / _Super_Spooky_, (first painted white over grey, and later in three-tone camouflage).

_Plain_Jane_ AC-130A-LM serials were: 53-3129, 54-1625, 1627, 1628, 1629 (the first AC-130 casualty -- two crew member killed 05/24/1969 when she crashed at Ubon after being hit over Laos), 1630 _Azarel_-_Angel_of_Death_ (3 mission markings during _Desert_Storm_).

_Plain_Jane_ AC-130A-7-LM serial was: 56-0490 _Thor_.

Other nose arts were: _Mors_de_Caelis_ (Death from Above).

Project Surprise Package: Lockheed AC-130A

A single AC-130A was equipped by the Gunship System Program Office at Wright- Patterson AFB with two 40 mm Bofors cannons in place of the aft pair of 20 mm Vulcans, General Electric ASQ-145 Low Level Light TV (LLLTV) and a Konrad AVQ-18 laser designator/rangefinder, and a new AYK-9 digital fire control computer. The aircraft was an even greater success!

_Surprise_Package_ AC-130A serial was: unknown, see _Project_Pave_Pronto_.

Project Pave Pronto: Lockheed AC-130A

LTV E-Systems was awarded another contract, covering nine more AC-130As, all based on the _Surprise_Package_ design. The only additional equipment carried was an AN/ASD-5 _Black_Crow_ Direction Finder Set to find the emissions of the ignition system of Russian truck engines. These aircraft were first painted in the typical Vietnam three-tone camouflage scheme, but later the underside and the sides were painted black. AC-130As often carried ALQ-87 ECM pods or SUU-42A/A Ejector Pods (starboard for flares, port for chaff) under the wings.

During _Operation_Desert_Storm_, six AFRES AC-130A of the 711th SOSq., 919th SOG, from Duke Field, FL, were deployed (probably under _Operation_ Proven_Force_ to Turkey: 54-1623, 1630, 55-0011, 0014, 0029, and 56-0509.

_Pave_Pronto_ AC-130A-LM serials were: 54-1623 _Ghost_Rider_, 55-0011, 0014 _Jaws_of_Death_ (20 mission markings during _Desert_Storm_), 0029 (the first loss, crashed at Ubon RTAB after AAA hit on 05/29/1969), 0040, 0043, 0044.

_Pave_Pronto_ AC-130A-20-LM serial was: 55-0046.

_Pave_Pronto_ AC-130A-6-LM serial was: 56-0469.

_Pave_Pronto_ AC-130A-7-LM serial was: 56-0509.

One of the serials belongs to the original _Surprise_Package_ aircraft.

Three AC-130A were lost during the Vietnam conflict, one to AAA, on to a shoulder launched SA-7 _Grail_ over South Vietnam, and one over Laos to an SA-2 _Guideline_. With F-4 Phantom driver, the AC-130 Hercules gunships was known as the _Fabulous_Four_Engined_Fighter_.

Other interesting C-130As were the so called _Blind_Bat_ night FAC aircraft, which initially tested all the FLIR, LLLTV and _Black_Crow_ systems, later used on AC-130A gunships. Serials for C-130A _Blind_Bat_ flareships: unknown.

Project Pave Spectre (I): Lockheed AC-130E

Because of the airframe limitations of old C-130A Hercules, a new program evolved, using low-time C-130E as basis for the gunship conversion. Eleven C-130E were converted with the same equipment and the same armament as the _Pave_Pronto_ AC-130A, becoming the _Pave_Spectre_ AC-130Es. The first aircraft arrived in Ubon on 10/25/1971, and they were operational with the 16th SOSq. their whole operational life. In 1973, some aircraft began arriving at Ubon in a new overall Flat Black paint scheme in place of the old gloss Black and camouflage scheme. One AC-130E, 69-6571, was lost in combat, before the _Pave_Spectre_II_ program started, probably shot down over Laos by an SA-2 _Guideline_.

_Pave_Spectre_ AC-130E-LM serials were: 69-6567 to 6577.

Project Pave Aegis: Lockheed AC-130E

Under the _Pave_Aegis_ program, all AC-130Es were supposed to be equipped with an 105 mm howitzer, replacing one 40 mm L-60 Bofors, but many where updated directly to _Pave_Spectre_II_, including the _Pave_Aegis_ modifications.

Project Pave Spectre II: Lockheed AC-130H

Beginning in 1973, all but one AC-130E were re-engined with new Allison T56-A-15 turboprops, equipped with the latest radio and avionics gear, and redesignated AC-130H _Pave_Spectre_II_. During _Operation_Desert_Storm_, five AC-130H of the 16th SOSq., 1st SOW, Hurlburt Field, FL, were deployed to Saudi Arabia: 69-6567 (which was lost on 01/31/1991 probably to a hand-held SAM, using the callsign _SPIRIT_03_ - all 14 crew killed), 69-6569, 69-6570, 69-6572, and 69-6576.

The last one mentioned (69-6576), was lost on 03/14/1994 over the Indian Ocean, due to fire caused by a 105 mm round exploding in the barrel during a test firing. The aircraft was at this time part of _Operation_Restore_Hope_ in Somalia, and was on a 8.5 hour reconnaissance flight, using the callsign _JOCKEY_14_. Of the crew of 14, only 6 survived.

_Pave_Spectre_II_ AC-130H-LM serials were: 69-6567 to 6570, and 6572 to 6577.

Starting in 1973, all AC-130A, and AC-130H were painted overall gunship Grey, and were sometimes referred to as _Grey_Ghosts_.

The call sign for most AC-130 during Vietnam was _SPECTRE_.

Project (Pave Spectre III ?): Lockheed AC-130U

In 1986, another Hercules gunship program was initiated, and the resulting aircraft was designated AC-130U. Thirteen aircraft, including 1 as attrition for an AC-130H), were procured from Lockheed, (originally as C-130H) and modified by Rockwell International with improved guns, AN/AAQ-117 FLIR, new ALLTV, better ECM systems, GPS, sat-coms and AN/APG-180 strike radar. They were tested by the 418th TESTS at Edwards AFB, CA. The AC-130Us are also known as _U_boats_. Besides the FSD aircraft, which is permanently assigned to Edwards, all should be operational by now with the 4th SOS _Ghostriders_, 16th SOG, 16th SOW, at Hurlburt Field, FL.

Serials of AC-130U: 87-0128 (FSD aircraft), 89-0509 to 0514, 90-0164 to 0167, 92-0253, and maybe others. Several have the well known _Spectre_ (or _Ghostrider_) nose art markings, and 90-0166 was named _Hellraiser_.

Most gunships were built and used during Vietnam, but AC-130 Hercules served also:

Project Gunship III: Fairchild AC-119G, AC-119K

(This project, or one of their deployments, might be also known as _Project_ _Combat_Hornet_, but none of my sources, listed below, mention this, so I am not definitly sure.)

Fairchild-Hiller (later Fairchild-Republic) converted 26 C-119G to AC-119G at St. Augustine, FL. Armed with four 7.62 mm SUU-11A/1A minigun pods. Later aircraft got General Electric MXU-470 minigun modules. They were also fitted with an AVQ-8 20kW Xenon light, Night Observation Sight, LAU-74A flare launcher, armor, APU, fire control computers, APR-25 and APR-26 radar warning receiver / ECM-gear. They were used by the 71st SOSq. from 05/1968, until they became part of the 14th SOW as the 17th SOSq.

Their call sign in Vietnam was _SHADOW_.

Known serials were: 52-5892 _Charlie_Chasers_, 5898, 5905, 5907, 5925, 5927, 5938, 5942, 53-3136, 3145, 3170, 3178, 3189, 3192, 3205, 7833, 7848, 7851, 7852, 8114, 8115, 8123, 8131, 8155 and two others.

Other nose art was: _City_of_Columbus_ /_Indiana_/_Shadow_, _Midnite_Special_.

Fairchild also converted 26 C-119G to AC-119K. The prototype was 53-3187. They were first brought to C-119K standard (including J85-GE-17 jet engines in underwing pods) then brought to AC-119G standard and then two M61A1 20 mm Gatling guns, AN/APN-147 Doppler terrain following radar, AN/AAD-4 FLIR, AN/APQ-133 side-looking beacon tracking radar, and AN/APQ-136 search radar was added specifically for the truck-hunting role. After testing, the first was delivered 11/03/1969 to the 18th SOSq. at Nha Trang and were part of the 14th SOW. The 1st SOW (tailcode AH) flew also AC-119K.

Their call sign in Vietnam was _STINGER_ (after the two M61A1 Vulcans).

The serials were: 52-5864, 5889, 5910, 5911, 5926, 5935, 5940, 5945, 9982, 53-3154 _Good_Grief_The_Pea-nut_Special_, 3156, 3187, 3197, 3211, 7826, 7830, 7831, 7839, 7850, 7854, 7877, 7879, 7883, 8121, 8145, and 8148.

Other nose art was: _The_Super_Sow_, _The_Polish_Cannon_, _Fly_United_, and _Montezuma's_Revenge_ (sp).

Some AC-119G and a few AC-119K were turned over to the VNAF in 1971.

Project Black Spot: NC-123K, AC-123K

Fairchild-Hiller modified 183 C-123B to C-123K with two additional J85-GE-17 jet engines in underwing pods. Two of them were then modified for a test program by LTV E-Systems in 03/1966 to NC-123K. The nose was extended by 57.75 inches to house an X-band Forward Looking Radar (same as in F-104J). Just aft of the new radome was a turret with FLIR, LLLTV and laser range- finder / illuminator. Also a low-level Doppler navigation radar and weapons release computer were installed. The aircraft were equipped with 12 chute dispenser in a container in the aft cargo compartment. (The aircraft was supposed to carry two of these stacked over each other, but the heavy load reduced the range nearly to 'Zero'). Each chute could carry three CBUs. Depending on the type of CBU loaded, 2,600 to 6,300 one pound bomblets were carried. The first aircraft, 54-691, was delivered to Eglin AFB in 08/1967 and the second, 54-698, incorporating an AN/ASD-5 _Black_Crow_ direction finder set (engine ignition sensor), was delivered in 02/1968.

The _Black_Spot_ aircraft were often referred to either as AC-123K or as NC-123K. They became operational in 1968 and flew 28 operational missions between 08/19/1968 and 10/23/1968 in the South Korean Sea, trying to stop infiltration from North into South Korea by sea. But no bad guys were caught. From 11/14/1968 to 05/11/1969 the aircraft were used in Vietnam to fly night missions over the Ho Chi Minh Trail. During this time, they flew 186 missions, destroyed 415 trucks and damaged 273 more. They also attacked boats in the Mekong Delta. They were later assigned to the 16th SOSq. at Udon RTAB. On 05/11/1969 ECM and RAHW gear was installed, and the first aircraft, 54-691, got also a _Black_Crow_ system. They continued their mission from late 1969 till 06/1970 from Udon, often with night fighter escorts, because of heavy anti-aircraft fire.

Both aircraft were later refitted to standard C-123K at Monthan-Davis AFB, AZ (the storage code 'CP024' was assigned to 54-698). Both aircraft retained their unique wrap-around camouflage and served as normal transports. Serials were: 54-691 and 54-698.

Other interesting special operations (test) Provider were:

Project Pave Gat: Martin Marietta RB-57G

One _Tropic_Moon_3_ RB-57G 'Night Intruder' (ex B-57B) was equipped with a three-barrel 20 mm cannon under the belly. The system was not deployed to SEA for operational tests. The serial was: 53-3906.

The Lockheed SP-2H AP-2H, OP-2E

In 1967 four SP-2H were field modified with multiple Miniguns mounted at various angles in the bomb bay, which created a spray effect when fired. BuAeros: unknown.

The only other known thing is that one was overall black, one was green, and the two others were overall grey.

In 1966 Lockheed started to modify four SP-2H under the TRIM (Trails and Road Interdiction, Multisensor) program as gunships. The ASW radome and the MAD tail were removed, and in place of the MAD boom, a twin 20mm cannon was installed. The place of the ASW radar was occupied by an AN/APQ-92 search radar in an external pod / radome. LLLTV and FLIR were mounted in a chin fairing under the nose. A removable, large SLAR (Side-Looking Airborne Radar) was mounted in a pod, like on an OV-1D, on both sides of the aircraft, aft of the wing trailing edge on the fuselage. Also an Airborne Moving Target Indicator, DIANE (Digital Integrated Attack and Navigation Equipment), and an AN/ASD-5 _Black_Crow_ truck ignition sensor were employed, of which much was later used by A-6C TRIM Intruders.

Two forward firing 7.62 mm SUU-11A/1A Minigun pods, two Mk.82 500 lb. GP bombs, and two Mk.77 incendiary bombs were mounted on the wings, outside the engines. They also used special 'sound suppression muffler pipes' for the J34-WE-36 jet engines and flame dampener at the piston engines.

Between 09/01/1968 and 06/16/1969 the four aircraft flew over 200 missions with VAH-21 from Cam Rahn Bay against road and river traffic in the Mekong Delta area. Some missions were flown against the Ho Chi Minh Trail, and inside Laos and Cambodia. They returned back to ConUS in 1969 and were placed in storage at Davis-Monthan AFB, after being demodified. All but one (displayed at the Pima AFB Museum) were scrapped.

BuAerNos: 135620 ('SL 1'), 148353 ('SL 2'), 148337 ('SL 3') _Napalm_Nellie_, and another ('SL 4') _Iron_Butterfly_.

Lockheed also prepared twelve SP-2E for conversion to OP-2E, by updating them to SP-2H standard. They were then converted at China Lake into OP-2Es, by removing the MAD tail and installing a blunt bulkhead with AN/ALE-29 Chaff Dispenser in it. Under the tail were a rearward looking camera, and under the nose was mounted a large radome housing an AN/APQ-131 radar.

The mission of the OP-2E was to drop ADSID seismic sensors over the Ho Chi Minh Trail, which were carried on multiple ejector racks under the wings and other sensors were carried in the bomb bay. The aircraft were also equipped with SUU-11A/1A Minigun pods under the wings.

The aircraft were deployed with VO-67 at Nakhon Phanom AB, Thailand, and the sensor drop missions were part of _Project_Igloo_White_. Acoustic sensors like _Spikebouy_ and _Acoubouy_ were dropped too, and the signals were relayed by QU-22B or EC-121R aircraft to gunships. After the OP-2Es were retired and sent back to the US, where they were scrapped, F-4D Phantoms were used to drop the sensors under _Project_Igloo_White_.

BuAerNos: 131423 ('MR 10'), 131455 ('MR 6'), 131462, 131525, 131528 ('MR 1'), and 7 others.

Several AP-2E (ex P2V-5F) ECM / SIGINT Neptunes were used by the US Army 1st Radio Research Company, out of Cam Rahn Bay from 07/1967 to 04/1972, and also relayed sensor data.

BuAerNos: 131429, 131458, 131485, 131492, 131496, 131526, 131531, and others.

The North American YOV-10D NOGS

Two OV-10A were converted to YOV-10D NOGS (Night Observation GunShip) for the night FAC and interdiction role. The nose was extended about three feet to fit a Hughes FLIR and a laser target illuminator / rangefinder and the fuselage hardpoints were removed and a General Electric XM-197 three-barrel 20 mm Gatling gun was mounted in a ventral turret. The turret could turn around 360 degree, but the FLIR and the laser were fixed in the forward looking position. Both were test flown and accepted by the USMC in 1970. They were tested at China Lake and later (1971/72) by VMO-2 at Da Nang in Vietnam. Both aircraft used a three-tone camouflage, but were first flown in the standard green over grey camouflage of the USMC.

BuAerNos: 155395 (#2) and 155660 (#1).

The test results are not known, but at least 18 OV-10A were converted to OV-10D NOS (Night Observation System), but without the cannon, even though the turret might be an option.

BuAerNos: 155395, 155396, 155409, 155410, 155436, 155451, 155466, 155468, 155470, 155472, 155473, 155479, 155482, 155489, 155492, 155493, 155494, 155502 and maybe others.

Another OV-10A was tested with an Emerson Electric turret housing a GAU-2B minigun under the fuselage. (BuAerNo: ?)

The USAF tested 1973 fifteen OV-10A under the Pave Nail program as laser designator (Night FAC) aircraft, modified by LTV E-Systems with a Martin laser pod under the fuselage. One of the aircraft used by the 23rd TASS was 67-14623.

Project Credible Chase: Fairchild AU-23A and Helio AU-24A

The Fairchild AU-23A was a modified Pilatus PC-6 Turbo-Porter, with either a single General Electric XM-197 three-barrel 20 mm Gatling gun, or two General Electric 7.62 mm MXU-470 Minigun modules. In addition, several bombs, napalm or rocket pods could be carried on four underwing and one fuselage hardpoint. The aircraft was dubbed 'Peacemaker'. Fifteen of the 17 converted were sold to the Royal Thai Air Force for COIN missions.

Serials were: 72-1304 to 1318, c/n 2050 - 2064, and two others.

Of the other 21 aircraft, I have serials for (73-1699, and 74-2073 - 2092), 13 were later (not under the _Project_Credible_Chase_) delivered to the Thai Air Force, and 5 to the Thai Air Police.

The Pilatus Porter was also planned to be built in license by Fairchild under the OV-12A designation (20 for USN were cancelled), and 2 Pilatus built UV-20A Chiricahua (79-23253 and 23254) were used by the US Army in Berlin.

The Helio AU-24A was the gunship version of the H550A Stallion, with a PT6A-114 turboprop, equipped with a General Electric XM-197 three-barrel 20 mm Gatling gun was mounted in the left cargo door. It also had 5 underwing and fuselage hardpoints. Of the 17 built aircraft, fourteen or fifteen were sold to the Cambodian (Khmer) Air Force.

Serials were: 72-1319 to 1333.

The two prototypes were civil registered 'N9552A' and 'N9551A', of which the second was carrying _four_ AIM-7 Sparrow air-to-air missiles!

The Helio Stallion was also built as U-10 Super Courier (ex L-28). Over 120 were built: L-28A (2, later redesignated U-10A), U-10A (26), U-10B extended range and paratrooper doors (57), U-10D heavier (36), but no U-10C.

All _Project_Credible_Chase_ aircraft were tested at Eglin AFB, and had US serials and markings prior to delivery to the SEA countries. They were first natural silver and later overall Olive Drab. The RTAF later flew with a two-tone camouflage. The program was conducted around 1970/71.

Project Little Brother: O-2A gunships

Another gunship project, which was not realized, was the conversion of O-2A _Sleeptime FAC_ to _Little Brother_ gunships, with a cannon not unlike the _Project_Credible_Chase_ aircraft. As far as I know, none was converted.

On the other hand, some O-2A were used (as were OV-10s, AC-130s and others) for laser illumination of ground targets with AN/AVQ-12 _Pave_Spot_ laser designators, and not only to mark targets with smoke rockets.


Sources

  1. United States Military Aircraft since 1909
    by Gordon Swanborough, Peter M. Bowers
    Putnam, 1989
    ISBN 0-85177-816-X
  2. United States Navy Aircraft since 1911
    by Gordon Swanborough, Peter M. Bowers
    Putnam, 1990
    ISBN 0-85177-838-0
  3. U.S. Military Aircraft Designations and Serials since 1909
    compiled by John M. Andrade
    Midland Counties Publications, 1979
    ISBN-0-904597-21-0, Softcover
    ISBN 0-904597-22-9, Hardcover
  4. Lockheed Aircraft since 1913
    by Rene J. Francillon
    Putnam / Naval Institute Press, 1982 and 1987
    ISBN 0-87021-897-2
  5. Gunships - A Pictorial History of Spooky
    by Larry Davis
    Squadron Signals Publication - 6032, 1982
    ISBN 0-89747-123-7
  6. Air War over Southeast Asia - A Pictorial Record - Vol.1 1962-1966
    by Lou Drendel
    Squadron Signals Publication - 6034, 1982
    ISBN 0-89747-134-2
  7. C-123 Provider in action
    by Al Adcock
    Squadron Signals Publication - 1124, 1992
    ISBN 0-89747-276-4
  8. P2V Neptune in action
    by Jim Sullivan
    Squadron Signals Publication - 1068, 1985
    ISBN 0-89747-160-1
  9. C-130 Hercules - Special Purpose Aircraft - C&M Vol.7
    by Ray Leader
    Detail & Scale / TAB Books Inc., 1987
    ISBN 0-8306-8531-6 (Paperback)
  10. US Navy & Marine Corps - Air Power Directory
    World Air Power Journal
    Editors: David Donald and Jon
    Lake
    Aerospace Publishing London / Airtime Publishing, 1992
    ISBN 1-874023-26-3 (Aerospace)
    ISBN 1-880588-02-1 (Airtime)
  11. United States Air Force Yearbook 1994
    Article: Spectre Stalks the Night
    by Tim Ripley
    RAFBFE Publishing, 1994

(c) 1995 by Andreas Gehrs-Pahl