Air Force Special Operations Command retired the final AC-130H Spectre gunship, tail number 69-6569, during a ceremony at Cannon AFB, N.M., this week, closing out 46 years of service, according to a May 26 release. Hundreds of spectators gathered along the flight line to watch “Excalibur’s” final flight. “Over the last 12 years, the 16th [Special Operations Squadron] has flown over 6,500 combat sorties, 26,000 combat hours, and has been responsible for over 4,600 enemies killed in action, along with 5,200 enemy captures,” said Capt. Aaron Magger, 16th SOS navigator, in the release. “As the AC-130H chapter of gunship evolution comes to a close, the AC-130H is the single deadliest aircraft and flying squadron in the war on terrorism.” AFSOC plans to procure 37 AC-130Js, the first of which is already in testing, to replace its legacy AC-130Hs, AC-130Us, and AC-130Ws. In addition to divesting its H-model fleet, the command also is phasing out three of its U-models in Fiscal 2015, leaving 26 legacy gunships until the Ghostrider comes online, said AFSOC Commander Lt. Gen. Bradley Heithold during AFA’s Air Warfare Symposium in February.
The Air Force overall reduced its size by 120 aircraft in fiscal year 2021, but kept about the same number of fighter, bomber and attack aircraft, according to data supplied by the service. The F-35 fleet saw the biggest increase while the B-1B bomber fleet saw the largest decline.