The photo is a long exposure of a gun ship, most likely an AC-130 Spooky, raining down a whole lot of damage and pain. Due to the rather precise nature of its targeting system, the AC-130 can fly in a counter clockwise “pivot turn”circles concentrating fire on a small area.051128-F-1234P-0481 AC-47_tracers_over_Saigon_1968_colour Dual_Tracers larry-burrows-crew-of-us-ac-47-plane-firing-7-62-mm-ge-miniguns-during-night-mission-in-vietnam-1 majorminor4a68ac4e0c427



  • M.M.D.C.

    Destruction can be beautiful, at least it is from where I’m sitting.

    • Nicholas C

      Yep, when you aren’t the one being pissed down upon it looks cool.

      • M.M.D.C.

        As is often said, I would rather be pissed off than pissed on.

  • GPyle

    Why on Earth is this tagged “NFA/suppressors/Class III?” I’m not sure an AC-130 qualifies…

    • Nicholas C

      Because machine guns are NFA.

    • William Elliott

      Destructive devices and machineguns? I know the Bofors 40mm they used to have classified as an MG [there is actually at least one transferrable wheel mounted one out there]

    • Richard

      I’m fairly certain that buying a 105mm howitzer is just a wee bit harder than buying a hunting rifle

    • Porty1119

      Well, a 105 is technically a DD. I wish there was more surplussed artillery out there; while I have comparatively easy access to muzzleloading pieces, I’d love something like an 81mm mortar.

  • Lt M

    It’s called a ‘pylon turn’ – banking and flying in a circle so that a fixed point on the aircraft (in this case the armament on the port side) constantly points toward a fixed point on the ground (the unwitting chaps about to have a very, very bad day)
    Nothing like the sight and sound of a Spooky/Spectre swooping in and raining down the hate. Some of my fondest memories…

  • Billy bob

    1st photo looks like the flash trying to go back in time.

    • Nicholas C


  • Fruitbat44

    Good to have things like this on your side.

  • Rob

    Afghan tornado. Afghani is currency.

    • iksnilol

      Can also mean someone or something from Afghanistan.

      • Docduracoat

        I agree with Rob
        Something from Afghanistan is Afghan
        Afghan rug, afghan dog
        Currency used in Afghanistan is the Afghani

        • FarmerB

          Sorry, but you’re wrong. The -i suffix is a suffix of appurtenance – meaning belonging to. That’s why we have Israeli, Bengali and Nepali. Afghan is a demonym, not sure Afghani is.

  • Liam

    That second to last photo looks like a Vietnam era AC-47.

    • randomswede

      I think most of these pictures are vietnam era, either AC-47 or AC-115.
      This because the AC-47 had 3 x 7.62 miniguns at 2000 rpm or 10 x M2s, the AC-119 had 4 x 7.62 miniguns at 1500 rpm, the AC-130U Spooky II is the only AC-130 in use in Afghanistan that has a gatling gun and that’s a single 25mm GAU-12/U.

      Further I don’t think they are still using tracers as it’s no longer the pilot doing the aiming by adjusting the pylon turn.

    • It is a fairly early AC-47 conversion with the Miniguns fitted in SUU-11/A gun pods on fabricated mounts. Starting in January 1967, the makeshift SUU-11/A mountings began to be replaced with the dedicated MXU-470/A modules.

  • aka_mythos

    What other nations utilize similar sorts of gunships to our AC-130’s?

    • randomswede

      I know of none. It relies on complete air superiority and is not really useful for anything but COIN type missions.

      • Ron

        It is a very useful interdiction platform for all types of conflict. The problem is its flight profile makes its highly vulnerable to Air Defense

        • randomswede

          “Very useful” and “highly vulnerable” negates each other to my mind.

          • Ron

            Well as the guy on the ground calling in the fire, highly vulnerable is relative. The AC-130 certainly is at higher risk than a fast mover doing type 2 CAS but on the other hand its has under less risk than the my troops whose only protection is the armor they wear.

          • Gary Kirk

            A-10.. Nuff said

          • Ron

            Not really, the AC-130 is significantly more effective than any aircraft that used fixed forward firing guns.

          • Kivaari

            The 105mm and 40mm guns certainly have more punch.

          • Ron

            It’s partially that but it has to do with the large dispersion of fixed firing guns when attacking ground targets. Because of the constant change in the point of origin as the aircraft conducts the gun run you get huge areas within the beaten zone that you don’t have impacts, and the case of the solid or low fragmentation HE used by 20 and 30mm aircraft cannons there is a large chance of not hitting targets inside the beaten zone. The AC-130 solves this by doings its standard pylon turn while engaging.

          • Kivaari

            We lost two in the GW1. Daytime use, over objections from the crew. 28 dead.

          • Ron

            Only 1 AC130, Spirit 03, was lost in Desert Storm. It happened during the Battle of Kafji when it was hit by a SA7 MANPAD

          • Kivaari

            Wasn’t one lost over land and one over water?

          • Ron

            I think you are thinking of the one that went down in 94 from a howitzer round exploding.

          • Kivaari

            That could be. I just remember losing two crews.

      • When i was with blackwater aviation/pres airways . We had a casa 212 gunship that they whas developed for proposing CAS and COIN for the US Govt. From what remember they had M2’s mounted on the right side. It tore up the structure after a while. Good concept, the airframe couldnt keep up. The Casa 212 Gunship program was shortly thereafter scrapped. As i recall I think they even had one with a 20mm. I believe there are still a few videos floating around. They had a few Air tractors/crop dusters that were configured also. And of course the embraer Super Tucano.”super Taco” as we called it. With 2.75″ rocket pods and 50 cals in pods. It was an awsome bird. Poor mans f16! The interior cockpit looked like an f16. I got a chance to climb into the super taco. Good times!

    • Until recently, the majority of foreign users have been countries gifted obsolete models by the US. Of these, Colombia still uses an AC-47 variant, but these now have turboprop engines and upgraded armament. I believe the most recent version of the AC-47T carries a .50 cal GAU-19 and a single-barrel 20x102mm cannon.

      In more recent years, Jordan has contracted with ATK to convert some of their CN-235 and C-295 with 30x113mm M230 cannon and other armament. Alenia has been pushing a C-27J gunship conversion mounting the 30x173mm Bushmaster II. ATK has also been developing palletized armament and senor packages to convert almost any modern cargo aircraft into pocket gunships.

  • RocketScientist

    As a cadet at the US Air Force Academy, my smack-year AOC (Air Office Commanding, a “real” AF officer assigned to oversee/mentor/supervise each cadet squadron) was a former fire-control officer on an AC-130. He had some impressive stories to tell and thermal/gunsight footage to show of operations all over the place. Said they always liked to open and close their attacks with the 105mm howitzer on board, as they were the only airborne platform with that kind of firepower at their disposal. It was like a calling card, so the folks on the ground knew who was coming for them. The less-disciplined forces would sometimes break and retreat/surrender after the opening salvo because they knew what came next.

    Also he said (this is anecdotal so who knows how truthful it is, though I have no reason to doubt him and he is a very honorable man) that on the personal information cards they would make deploying guys fill out, in the blank where they asked you to put your religion (so they could get you appropriate last rites/burial if possible) many of the spec ops guys would list “Spooky” or “Spectre” (the platform designation for the AC-130, and also its predecessor the AC-47). They provided such life-saving CAS to those guys that they were”worshiped” by them 🙂

    • iksnilol

      “less-disciplined” = wanting to survive.

      • RocketScientist

        Hehe. I get your point, but seriously, isn’t the definition of a “well-disciplined military unit” one that can overcome their perfectly natural instinct for self-preservation in order to attempt to achieve military objectives? That’s often a major distinguishing factor between a well-trained experienced professional military force, and a thrown together militia/insurgency/rabble (a lot of his missions were in the Balkans in the 90s, so kind of a mixed bag of both). Now, whether that “discipline” comes from bravery/heroism, or stupidity, or even simply just the social/peer pressure and fear of shaming yourself in front of your comrades, that’s a more interesting question. If you ever want to examine it in depth, both from someone else’s perspective and to explore your own feelings on the matter, I can strongly recommend reading The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane, if you have not already. Its considered a top-of-the-list classic in America and taught in most schools, but I’m pretty sure you’re one o’ them funny talkin’ furriner types from the land of the trolls, so maybe you haven’t been exposed to it). Hell of a read. Had a dramatic impact on how i viewed warfare.

        • Martin Grønsdal

          you only made iksnilolski angry now

          • iksnilol

            Why should I be mad? Cause he mentioned sides? Pffft, Balkans are the textbook definition of a clusterfornication.

          • nick

            Refugee family myself, Parents fled East Germany , when it was, shall we say, in the challenging decades to leave.
            My Opa and Oma (in WW 2, He was a FOO, Whwer., she, on AAA near Dresden), came too
            After fleeing the Russians and our own fellow citizens in the Stazi, we came to Canada
            Oma and Opa encouraged me and my 3 brothers to serve our country, to pay it back .
            and all of us did
            To paraphrase an American President, “I study war, so hopefully, my children will not have to”
            my two girls, although young, already have their rifles, built by me, in their hope chests, and “hawks and knives from their first nation / French mother.
            don’t know where all that came from, just reflecting guess !

        • iksnilol

          I kinda like living is my stance on “bravery”.

          My parents were refugees from the war in Bosnia so I kinda see what you mean.

          • RocketScientist

            Fair enough, I tend to agree with you re. survival now that I’m in my older more boring years. No idea which “side”, if any, you guys were on in that conflict (guessing the side of “what the f**k is going on lets get out of here”) and it certainly doesn’t matter. I’m just glad you and yours made it out safe. Hope y’all stay that way from here on out.

          • billyoblivion

            Got kids yet?

          • iksnilol

            Nope, don’t really intend on having them either. Though I guess I’d rather die than my kids getting killed.

        • “Well-disciplined” also includes recognizing when you’re facing an enemy which you have absolutely no chance of stopping or even slowing down, and fugging the buck out before you get eliminated; infantry with no MANPADS ain’t touchin’ a CAS monster like an AC-130, so it makes sense for them to clear the area and regroup elsewhere, so they might still have a chance to keep fighting someplace where they can make a difference. Corpses don’t help the war effort, so it’s best to try not to be one of those.

          • RocketScientist

            Ugh. Yes, I get that. No one is saying that’s not the case. Whether its the “smart” or “right call” to try to hold/take a position when under insurmountable opposition is not the issue under discussion. What IS under discussion is whether that shows a lack of military discipline or not. The whole system works because the grunts in the trenches and on the hill aren’t allowed to make those decisions for themselves. They follow (lawful) orders. Even if it’s clear to THEM, from THEIR point of view, that those orders are stupid, or will get them killed. If they are ordered to hold, they hold. If they are ordered to retreat, they retreat. The idea being their command is better informed, and has a better grasp on the entirety of the battlefield, overall mission objectives, etc. So what may seem suicide to you is actually a brilliant counter-attack… or maybe the sacrifice of your unit as a delaying tactic is needed to ensure the survival of a much larger group, or to achieve other critical objectives you aren’t aware of. Point being, dude getting his ass shot off isn’t allowed to decide for himself “Welp, THIS is too much. I’m outta here, peace guys!”

            Is every commander a brilliant tactician? Of course not. Will the soldiers sometimes be ordered to do something insanely stupid, with no benefit to anyone (like not retreating when being chewed up by CAS)? Of course. S**t happens, and humans are humans. But, by definition, if a unit is ordered to accomplish an objective (hold this position, assault this hill, make a controlled delaying retreat from point A to B, etc) and when taking too much fire they, against orders, break ranks and scramble in a disorganized fashion, that is literally the textbook example of loss of discipline.

  • micmac80

    These are old probably Vietnam era pics as new gunsips dont have much in terms of Miniguns while back in the day older gunships only had 7.62mm miniguns and later on 20mm ,nowdays its more standoff with large calibre weapons and guns are now trainable.

    Last two picts definetly old AC-47

  • Most of these photos can be found in the 1982 book “Gunships: A Pictorial History Of Spooky.”

  • iksnilol

    I’mma be honest, the first picture reminded me of an icecream cone. So I photoshopped it.

    I present the ice cream cone of death!

  • uisconfruzed

    I like these.

  • Sam Pensive

    That’s the air support I’d want if I was on the ground…pour it on …

  • Bob Waters

    “spooky” came along after my time in ‘Nam, but I can vouch for the fact that “Puff” put the fear of God into NVA and VC alike. It was awesome to wath “metal Rain” fall.