AC-130 Spectre/AC-119 Shadow Comparison Essay

Essay by UltimaWeaponA+, August 2004

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It's no secret that the United States has the greatest military in the world and much of that success is due to America's Air Force. We've all seen pictures of bombers and fighter planes dropping their payload onto enemy targets, but you might be surprised to know that some of the most sophisticated, accurate, and deadly aircraft in the United States arsenal comes from hallowed out cargo planes. Dubbed 'gunships', these aircraft provide the military with the ability to accurately lay down massive amounts of ordinance onto targets and also provide cover for advancing troops and armored divisions. This essay will give a brief overview and history of two gunships, the older AC-119 'Shadow' and the AC-130 'Spectre'.


The idea for a gunship originally came about in 1926. The basic concept was that an aircraft flying in a level turn around a point on the ground (as if tethered to a pylon, hence called a 'pylon turn') can deliver fairly accurate firepower from guns firing perpendicular to the line of flight.

This was demonstrated later in 1927 but the Air Force did not pick up on the idea until the 1960's. In 1964 a C-131 was armed with a 7.62mm gattling gun and achieved better than expected accuracy in firing tests over the Gulf of Mexico. From that point on things moved ahead rapidly and on November 2, 1964, the Air Force Chief Of Staff Curtis Lemay ordered the gunship to be tested in Vietnam.

Legend of the Gunship

Legend says that the concept of the gunship evolved from the way that mail is delivered in the Australian outback. There, remote settlers received their mail via small aircraft. Rather than landing and taking off dozens of times in a day, these light aircraft buzz the home to...