Two AC-130U Spooky gunships with the 4th Special Operations Squadron return from their final scheduled combat deployment at Hurlburt Field, Fla., on June 8, 2019. Air Force photo by A1C Blake Wiles.
The Air Force’s venerable Spooky has finished its last ride in the Middle East.
On July 8, two AC-130U Spooky gunships landed at Hurlburt Field, Fla., following their final scheduled combat deployment, according to an Air Force Special Operations Command video. While the aircraft are still available for a contingency deployment if needed, they are no longer in the rotation and will be replaced downrange by AC-130J Ghostriders.
The final AC-130U Spooky gunship returned from the airframe’s last scheduled combat deployment at Hurlburt Field, Fla., on July 8, 2019. Video: A1C Edward Coddington
The AC-130U is the third in a line of gunships based on the Lockheed Martin C-130 platform, following the original AC-130A and the AC-130H Spectres that retired in 2015. The Air Force owns 17 of the U variant, which were first deployed in 1995, according to the service.
The aircraft has the signature 40 mm and 105 mm cannons along with a 25 mm Gatling gun used for close air support. While the Air Force did not specify where the aircraft was deployed, the AC-130U has been active in both Afghanistan and Syria.
The Air Force began receiving the AC-130J in 2017, with deliveries expected to last until 2021 for a total of 32 aircraft. The upgraded planes, with modern engines and avionics, also carry 30 mm and 105 mm cannons, but does not have the Gatling gun. Ghostriders can carry standoff munitions such as the GBU-39 Small Diameter Bomb and AGM-176 Griffin missiles. The Air Force is also planning to test high-energy lasers on the airframe.