Accumulating and developing the experience of conducting local wars, the command of the US Air Force by the early 60s drew serious attention to the low efficiency of traditional tactics aviation, especially when operating on ground targets in small armed clashes and conducting counterguerrilla operations. Investigations of such combat missions also revealed the complete inconsistency of jet attack aircraft, which were in service, primarily fighter-bombers. For "special operations" required a special aircraft. However, there was no time for its development - the rapid escalation of American participation in the Vietnam conflict required emergency measures.
One of such measures was the concept of “ganship”, developed in 1964 on the basis of initiative research by Bell Aerosystems Company Flexman and Macdonald. Developing ideas that originated back in 20, they proposed an airplane, the tactics of which were very similar to the tactics of the battle of sailing ships of the past, and the similar firing points arrangement in a row along the sides gave the name to the program - Gunship (gun ship).
In August 1964g. At the Eglin AF base (Florida), under the leadership of Captain Terry, a C-131 transport aircraft was equipped. In the cargo doorway, on the left side, a machine-gun container was installed, usually located on the underwing pylons of attack aircraft and helicopters. It housed a 7,62-mm six-barreled machine gun M134 / GAU-2B / AMinigun with a rate of fire of 3000-6000 shot / min and ammunition in 1500 cartridges. A simple collimator scope was mounted in the cockpit, with which the pilot could fire at a target away from the flight path.
Aiming was carried out through the side window of the cabin. So unusual accommodation weapons allowed to effectively use the aircraft for the destruction of area and point targets, and for such specific tasks of the "counterguerrilla war" as patrolling roads, guarding and defending bases and strong points. The pilot put the aircraft into a turn in such a way that he concentrated the fire on the point of the earth around which he circled. As a result, a powerful and prolonged squall of machine-gun fire on a ground target was achieved. Having received official support, Captain Terry with a group of specialists in October 1964 sent to South Vietnam at Bien Hoa airbase, where, together with 1 personnel, Air Commando Squadron will re-equip the well-known C-47 Dakota transport aircraft (in the USSR it was released as Lee -2) for testing in battle. Previously, this machine was used as a mail and transport in Nha Trang. On the port side were installed 3 container SUU-11A / A: two - in the windows, the third - in the doorway doorway. The collimator mark Mark 20 Mod.4 from the A-1 Skyraider attack aircraft was mounted in the cab and installed additional radio communications.
In one of the first combat sorties, AC-47D with its fire disrupted an attempt of night storming by the Viet Cong stronghold of government troops in the Mekong Delta. The rain of tracer bullets against the night sky made an unforgettable impression on both warring parties. In complete delight, the commander of 1-th ACS exclaimed: "Puff, The Magic Dragon!" ("Spew the flame, magic dragon!"). Soon on board the first AC-47D appeared a dragon image and the signature “Puff”. Poetic Vietnamese were strikingly unanimous with the Americans: in the captured Viet Cong documents this aircraft was also called the “Dragon”.
Such a successful debut finally convinced the Americans of the viability and effectiveness of such aircraft. In the spring of 1965, another Dakota was retooled in the “ganship”, and Air International (Miami) received an order for urgent modifications of the C-20 47 to the AC-47D variant. four more former post-cargo planes from Da Nang were re-equipped at Clark Air Base (Philippines). Sub-divisions of the "ganships" carried one of the heaviest losses among American aircraft in Vietnam. This is not surprising: most of the flights of AC-47D were carried out in the dark without any special equipment, which is dangerous in itself in the difficult conditions of the Vietnamese climate and terrain. The majority of the “gunships” were older than their young pilots, who also had a very small raid on airplanes with piston engines. The short range of the weapons made the crews work from heights of no more than 1000 m, which made the aircraft vulnerable to anti-aircraft fire.
AC-47D was commonly used in conjunction with other aircraft: the A-1E and O-2 reconnaissance aircraft, and the C-123 Moonshine lighting aircraft. When patrolling rivers and canals in the Mekong Delta, a multi-purpose OV-10A Bronco often appeared near the “hugs”. Spooky himself often fired B-57 fighters or bombers.
At the beginning of 1966. AC-47D began to attract for flights around the "Ho Chi Minh trails". since the possibilities of the "ganships" could not be better suited to combat the traffic on it. But the rapid loss of six AC-47D from anti-aircraft fire of large-caliber machine guns, 37- and 57-mm guns, which existed in this area in abundance, forced them to abandon their use over the "path". In 1967, the 7 US Air Force in Vietnam had two full squadrons armed with AC-47D. Before 1969, they were able to hold more than 6000 “strategic villages”, strong points and firing positions. But the Americans switched to more advanced versions of the "guandes", and the hopelessly outdated Spooky handed over to the allies. They hit the air forces of South Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand. The latest AU-47, ended their career in El Salvador, at the beginning of 90's.
The success of the AC-47D led to a sharp increase in interest in the "hugs" and the emergence of many projects of this class of aircraft. Fairchild has taken the C-119G Flying Boxcar twin-engine transport aircraft as a basis. It was made according to the two-beam scheme, had a somewhat larger size than the C-47, and was equipped with much more powerful piston engines for the 3500 hp. The latter allowed him to fly at a higher speed than the C-47 (up to 400 km / h) and take up to 13 tons of payload.
To upgrade the aircraft came from parts of the Air Force reserve. Although the armament of the AC-119G consisted of all the same four machine-gun containers SUU-11, firing through portholes of the left side, its equipment became much more perfect. It was equipped with a night vision surveillance system, a powerful 20 kW spotlight, a fire control computer, EW tools, which contributed to a more efficient use of the aircraft in the dark and reduced the likelihood of erroneous firing at its troops (rather than AC-47D quite often).
The crew was protected by ceramic armor. In general, according to American estimates, the new aircraft was approximately 25% more efficient than AC-47D. The first AC-119G arrived in May 1968 (through 100 days after signing the contract). Since November, the squadron led the fighting from the Nha Trang airbase.
The next series of X-NUMX airplanes AC-26K entered service in the autumn of 119. On them, in contrast to the AC-1969G, except for piston engines, on the pylons under the wing, they installed two turbofan engines using 119 kgf.
This refinement has facilitated operation in hot climates, especially from mountain airfields. Significantly changed the composition of equipment and weapons.
The new "gunship" received a navigation system, a viewing IR station, side-looking radar, search radar. To the four "Miniguns" that fired through portholes of the left side, were added two quick-firing six-barreled M-61 Vulcan guns with 20 mm caliber installed in special embrasures. And if AC-47 and AC-119G airplanes could effectively hit targets from a range of no more than 1000 m, thanks to the presence of guns, AC-119K could operate from a distance of 1400m and heights of 975m at 45 ° heel or 1280 m at 60 heel . This allowed him not to enter the zone of effective destruction by large-caliber machine guns and small arms.
3 November 1969. the first AC-119K entered service, and ten days later he made the first combat mission to support the infantry defending a stronghold near Da Nang. Since the guns M-61 informally called Stinger (sting), then the AC-119K received the same name, adopted by the crew as a radio call sign. The AC-119 variants were used differently. If AC-119G was used for night and day support of troops, defense bases, night target designation, armed reconnaissance and target illumination, the AC-119K was specially developed and used as a “truck hunter” on the “Ho Chi Minh trail”. Hitting the shells of its 20-mm guns disabled most types of used cars. Therefore, some crews of the AC-119K often abandoned ammunition for 7,62-mm machine guns in favor of an additional number of 20-mm projectiles.
By September 1970g. On the AC-119K account, their number was 2206 of destroyed trucks, and the best praise for the AC-119G pilots could be the words of one of the leading aircraft manufacturers: “To hell with F-4, give us a“ ganship ”!”. AC-119. also famous
by being the last aircraft shot down in Vietnam.
Returning from Vietnam to the USA after the brilliant success of the AC-47D Gunship I. program, Captain Terry continued to work on improving the Gunship concept. Since the AC-47D had very limited capabilities, and the Air Force demanded an aircraft with more powerful weapons, high speed, increased flight range and much better equipment, we chose the four-engine transport C-130 Hercules as the base. On the basis of it, the most powerful of the “hutships” was created - the AC-130 Gunship II.
For tests converted one of the first C-130A.
The aircraft received an 4 machine-gun module MXU-470 and four 20-mm M-61 Vulcan cannon in special embrasures on the port side. It was equipped with a night vision surveillance system, side-view radar, fire control radar (the same as the F-104J Starfighter fighter), searchlights with an 20 kW power and on-board fire control computer.
From June to September, 1967 C-130А, which received the name Vulcan Express, was tested over the Eglin airbase. 20 September he arrived in Nha Trang and a week later, made the first sortie. It must be said that the command of the American troops in Vietnam rather lopsidedly looked at the principles of using “ganships”, seeing in them only aircraft supporting the troops and not noticing the increased capabilities of C-130А. But the crew thought otherwise. 9 November 1967. He managed to get permission for a “free hunt” over the “path” in Laos, and he did not miss his chance. With the help of a night vision system, a convoy of 16 truck moving southward was destroyed in 6 minutes.
The new aircraft, called the AC-130A, had the same weapons as the prototype, only the equipment changed: they received a new IR viewing station, a fire control computer and a target designation radar. The experience of the use of AC-130 aircraft resulted in the replacement of two 1969-mm M-20 cannons with semi-automatic Bofors M61A2 guns with 1 mm caliber in 40, which allowed hitting targets when flying with 45 ° from the 4200 to the range at a distance of 6000 from the height of 65 mm at a distance of 5400. and with a roll 7200 ° - from a height of XNUMX m at a distance of XNUMX m.
In addition, the aircraft installed: low-altitude TV-system, side-looking radar, laser range finder-pointer and some other systems. In this form, the aircraft became known as the AC-130A Surprise Package. He practically could not enter the enemy's air defense zone, armed not only with machine guns, but also with small-caliber anti-aircraft guns.
In 1971, the US Air Force received even more advanced AC-130E Pave Specter aircraft based on the C-130E (11 in total). Their weapons and equipment initially corresponded to the AC-130A Pave Pronto: two Minigans, two Volcanoes and two Beauforts. However, during this period, the North Vietnamese applied a large number of tanks (according to American estimates, more than 600 pcs.), and to combat them, the AC-130E had to be re-equipped urgently. Instead of a single 40-mm cannon, it was installed on it connected to an onboard computer, but manually loaded with a 105-mm infantry howitzer from the Second World War (shortened, lightened and on a special carriage).
The first such AC-130E arrived at the Ubon 17 air base in February of 1972. Its main gauge was very rarely used, since there were not so many targets for it. On the other hand, “Volcanoes” and “Bofors” worked effectively, especially on the “path”. So, on the night of February 25 1972, one of the AC-130 destroyed 5 trucks, and 6 damaged.
In March, 1973. the last of the “ganships” appeared - the AC-130Н Pave Specter, featuring more powerful engines and completely new on-board equipment. And with 1972, the Viet Cong began a massive use of Soviet portable Strela-2 air defense systems, making any flight at low altitude unsafe. One AC-130, receiving an 12 on May 1972, hitting a rocket, was able to return to base, but the other two were shot down. To reduce the likelihood of missiles coming with infrared homing heads, many AC-130s were equipped with refrigerators — ejectors that lowered the temperature of the exhaust gases. For jamming radar air defense systems on the AC-130 with 1969, began to install suspension containers EW ALQ-87 (on 4 pieces). But against the "Arrows" these events proved ineffective. The combat activity of the Ganship was significantly reduced, but they were used until the last hours of the war in Southeast Asia.
After Vietnam, the AU-130 aircraft were left without work for a long time, interrupting their idle year in October 1983 during the US invasion of Grenada. The crews of gunships suppressed several batteries of small-caliber anti-aircraft artillery of Grenada, and also provided fire cover for the landing of paratroopers. The next operation with their participation was “Just Cause” - the US invasion of Panama. In this operation, Rio Hato and Paitilla airbases, Torrijos / Tosamen airport and Balboa port, as well as a number of individual military targets, became targets of AC-130. The fighting did not last long — from December 20 1989 to January 7 1990.
The US military called this operation designed specifically for the huts. The almost complete absence of air defense and a very limited conflict area made the AU-130 the kings of the air. For aircraft crews, the war turned into training flights with shooting. In Panama, the crews of the AU-130 worked out their classic tactics: the 2 aircraft went into a turn in such a way that at a certain point in time they were at two opposite points of a circle, while their whole fire converged on the ground in a circle with a diameter of 15 meters, literally destroying everything that got in the way. During the fighting aircraft flew during the daytime.
During the "Storm in the Desert" 4 aircraft AC-130H from the 4 squadron made 50 sorties, the total flight time exceeded the 280 hours. The main goal of the gunships was the destruction of the Scud ballistic missile launchers and the radar early warning of airborne targets, but they did not cope with either. During the operation, it turned out that in desert conditions, in the heat and the air saturated with sand and dust, the infrared systems of the aircraft were absolutely useless. Moreover, one AC-130H while covering ground troops in the battle for Al-Khafi was shot down by an Iraqi air defense missile system, the entire crew of the aircraft was killed. This loss confirmed the well-known truth from the time of Vietnam - in areas saturated with air defense systems, such aircraft have nothing to do.
Aircraft of various modifications of the AU-130 continue to be in service with parts of the Office of Special Operations of the US Air Force. Moreover, as old ones are written off, new ones are ordered on the basis of the modern C-130 variant.
AC-130U “Spectrum” aircraft were developed by Rockwell International under a contract with the US Air Force in 1987. It differs from previous modifications by increased combat capabilities, due to more advanced electronic equipment and weapons. In total, by the beginning of the 1993 of the year, the X-NUMX of the AC-12U aircraft was delivered, which will be replaced in the regular AC-130H. Like the previous modifications, the AC-130U was created by retrofitting the C-130H Hercules military transport aircraft. The AC-130U armament includes a five-barreled 130-mm cannon (25 ammo ammunition, 3000 firing rate / min), 6000-mm cannon (40 shells) and 256-mm (105 shells). All guns are movable, so the pilot does not need to strictly maintain the trajectory of the aircraft to ensure the required accuracy of fire. It is noted that, despite the large mass of the 98-mm cannon itself (compared to the Vnulk 25-mm cannon) and its ammunition, it provides an increased initial velocity of projectiles, thereby increasing the range and accuracy of firing.
The structure of the electronic equipment of the aircraft includes:
- Multifunctional radar AN / APG-70 (a modified version of the radar fighter F-15), working in the modes of mapping areas, detection and tracking of mobile targets, working with the beacon and weather intelligence, as well as used to solve navigation problems. High resolution radar when viewing the earth's surface is achieved by using a synthesized antenna aperture located on the left side of the nose of the aircraft.
- Infrared station front view.
- A television system operating at low levels of coverage.
- Opto-electronic indicator of the pilot with the display of the situation on the background of the windshield.
- Means of electronic warfare, a warning system for an aircraft crew to launch missiles at it, ejectors of anti-radar reflectors and IR traps.
- Inertial navigation system.
- Satellite navigation system equipment NAVSTAR.
It is believed that such a set of aim-navigation and electronic equipment will significantly enhance the combat capabilities of the AC-130U, including when it performs combat missions in adverse weather conditions and at night.
The AC-130U aircraft is equipped with air-to-air refueling systems and built-in controls, as well as removable armor protection, which is installed in preparation for the implementation of particularly dangerous tasks. According to American experts, due to the use of promising high-strength composite materials based on boron and carbon fibers, as well as through the use of Kevlar, the mass of armor can be reduced by about 900 kg (compared to metal armor).
To ensure good performance of crew members in a long flight in a soundproof compartment behind the cockpit there are places for rest.
As the early versions of the AC-130 are written off, new ones are ordered on the basis of the most modern C-130J version with an extended cargo compartment.
The command of special operations of the US Air Force plans to double the number of heavily armed AC-130J aircraft created on the basis of C-130J Super Hercules transporters. According to Jane's, the Air Force initially planned to convert the special MC-130J Commando II into AC-16J 130 special aircraft. Now, the number of AC-130J is planned to be increased to 37 units.
Another armed Hercules-based aircraft is the MC-130W Combat Spear. Four squadrons in service with MS-130 aircraft are used for deep raids into the depths of the enemy’s territory with the aim of delivering or receiving people and goods during special operations. Depending on the task being performed, 30-mm can be installed on it. Bushmaster cannon and Hellfire missiles.
According to Jane's, in total, the Air Force plans to buy the 131 new HC / MC-130 special aircraft: the 37 HC-130J Combat King II, the 57 MC-130J and 37 AC-130J. Currently, contracts have been signed for the construction of the 11 aircraft HC-130J and 20 MC-130J.
The story of the "counterguerrilla huan" would be incomplete without mentioning the smallest aircraft of this class: Fairchild AU-23A and Hello AU-24A. The first was a modification of the well-known single-engine transport aircraft Pilatus Turbo-Porter, commissioned by the Thai government (a total of 17 such machines were built).
The aircraft was armed with a single triple-barreled 20-mm cannon.
Under the wing were hung blocks Nurs, bombs and fuel tanks.
The main weapon of these light machines was a triple-barreled 20-mm cannon.
The second represented exactly the same alteration, carried out on the basis of the aircraft Hello U-10A.
15 such aircraft were transferred to the Cambodian government, intensively flew and participated in the battles.
In addition to the United States, work on armed aircraft of this type are conducted in other countries.
An Italian demo of the MC-27J was shown at the Farnborough air show. It is based on the C-27J Spartan military transporter.
Joint development of the Italian "Alenia Aermacchi" and the American "ATK". ATK is responsible for the design, creation and integration of an artillery unit. She already has experience in installing and integrating such weapons - the company had previously, according to the contract, upgraded two CN235 Italian aircraft for transfer to the Jordanian Air Force. The development is carried out under the program for creating low-cost multi-purpose aircraft carrying fast-mounted weapons made in containers. The main caliber of such weapons - 30mm. The ATK GAU-23 automatic cannon, which is a variation of the ATK Mk 44 Bushmaster, was demonstrated at the air show.
The armament complex is installed on the cargo pallet. This system is mounted in the cargo compartment. The fire is carried out of the cargo door on the left side. The total time of installation / withdrawal of the rapid-fire system does not exceed 4 hours. From the rest of the equipment it is known about the presence on board of a twenty-four-hour electro-optical search / sighting equipment, self-defense complex. In the short term, the installation of guided weapons on wing hangers.
In China, was built "Ganship", based on the Chinese version of the An-12.
Unfortunately, neither the caliber nor the characteristics of weapons were not disclosed.
Probably, the aircraft of this type, could be in demand and as part of the domestic Air Force. Especially considering the "anti-terrorist" operation in the Caucasus, which has not stopped for many years. Today, for the air strikes on militants, they mainly use Mi-8, Mi-24 helicopters and Su-25 attack aircraft, which use mostly unguided weapons.
But neither of them is capable of keeping watch in the air for a long time and is not equipped with modern search engines. Allowing, to operate effectively in a mountainous wooded area and in the dark. The most optimal, it seems to me a platform based on the An-72.
Especially since on the basis of this aircraft there is already a variant of An-72P, created for the border troops and carrying weapons.
The main weapon could be a low-pulse 100-mm gun 2А70 BMP-3, with an automatic loader and the ability to fire controlled ammunition. Small caliber, automatic 30-mm gun, with an adjustable rate of fire 2А72.