Thursday, July 23, 2009

Fairchild AC-119

The Fairchild AC-119G Shadow and AC-119K Stinger were twin-engine piston-powered gunships developed by the United States during the Vietnam War. They replaced the inadequate AC-47 Spooky and operated alongside the early versions of the AC-130 Spectre gunship.

By November 1968, the aircraft had deployed to Vietnam and joined the 14th Special Operations Wing at Nha Trang. The AC-119Gs were placed in the 71st Special Operations Squadron which was formed from the activated 71st Troop Carrier Squadron, of the Air Force Reserves located in Columbus, Indiana. When the 71st SOS reserves returned to the states, in 1969, the gunships were taken over by the newly formed 17th SOS.
The AC-119Ks were placed in the 18th Special Operations Squadron. With the addition of the two types, the 14th SOW for a time in 1968 was flying eight different aircraft from ten different bases in South Vietnam. The 14th SOW was deactivated in 1971. Limited numbers continued to be operated out of Hurlburt Field, Florida as late as the fall of 1972, but the AC-119 was shortly after, phased out of the US Air Force. The AC-119G and -K continued to serve in extremely small numbers with the Republic of Vietnam Air Force (VNAF) until the de facto reunification of the country in 1975. During the Vietnam War, only five AC-119 Gunship IIIs were lost to all causes. 

Friday, July 10, 2009

Lockheed AC-130

The Lockheed AC-130 gunship is a heavily-armed ground-attack aircraft. The basic airframe is manufactured by Lockheed, and Boeing is responsible for the conversion into a gunship and for aircraft support. It is a variant of the C-130 Hercules transport plane. The AC-130A Gunship II superseded the AC-47 Gunship I in Vietnam.

The gunship's sole user is the United States Air Force, which uses AC-130H Spectre and AC-130U Spooky variants. The AC-130 is powered by four turboprops and has an armament ranging from 20 mm Gatling guns to 105 mm howitzers. It has a standard crew of twelve or thirteen airmen, including five officers (two pilots, a navigator, an electronic warfare officer and a fire control officer) and enlisted personnel (flight engineer, electronics operators and aerial gunners).

The US Air Force uses the AC-130 gunships for close air support, air interdiction, and force protection. Close air support roles include supporting ground troops, escorting convoys, and flying urban operations. Air interdiction missions are conducted against planned targets and targets of opportunity. Force protection missions include defending air bases and other facilities. Stationed at Hurlburt Field in Northwest Florida, the gunship squadrons are part of the Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC), a component of United States Special Operations Command (SOCOM).

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

APG-63 and APG-70

The AN/APG-63 and AN/APG-70 are a family of all-weather multimode radar systems designed by Hughes Aircraft (now Raytheon) for the F-15 Eagle air superiority fighter. These X-band pulse-doppler radar systems are designed for both air-air and air-ground missions; they are able to look up at high-flying targets and down at low-flying targets without being confused by ground clutter.

The systems can detect and track aircraft and small high-speed targets at distances beyond visual range down to close range, and at altitudes down to treetop level. The radar feeds target information into the aircraft's central computer for effective weapons delivery. For close-in dogfights, the radar automatically acquires enemy aircraft and projects this information onto the cockpit head-up display.


The APG-63 was developed in the early 1970s and has been operational since 1973, and was installed on all F-15 A/Bs. In 1979, it received a major upgrade and became the first airborne radar to incorporate a software programmable signal processor (PSP), and the PSP allowed the system to be modified to accommodate new modes and weapons through software reprogramming rather than by hardware retrofit. The APG-63 with PSP is one of the most important feature that disguishes earlier F-15 A/Bs from the F-15 C/Ds it arms, and with the exception of the final 43 (which is armed with APG-70), all F-15 C/Ds are armed with APG-63 with PSP.


The APG-70 was a 1980s redesign of the APG-63 for greater reliability and easier maintenance. Additionally, gate array technology enabled the APG-70 to incorporate new modes with enhanced operational capabilities. To reduce production costs, many of the upgraded radar's modules are common with the APG-73 (F/A-18) radar, while the computers / processors are 85% in common with that of APG-71 (F-14) radar.