Tag Archives: U.S. Air Force

How the AC-130 destroyed at least 20 vehicles per night during Vietnam War

During the early days of Vietnam Conflict, the US developed a special kind of attack aircraft to stop the flow of enemy troops and supplies: the gunship.

The Gunship aircraft, born from the conversion of cargo aircraft into powerful aerial weapons armed with big guns, were based on the concept of the circling attack.

In other words, the guns were mounted on the left side of the gunship so that the plane could fly a bank circle, achieving a good accuracy in strafing the target by using high velocity guns with a caliber of at least .30.

The first two types of gunships developed by the US were the twin-engine piston powered Douglas C-47 Skytrain and Fairchild C-119 Flying Boxcar, but the final leap was made relying on the size, speed and heft of the Lockheed C-130 Hercules which became known in the gunships world as the AC-130 Spectre.

The first AC-130As were deployed in Vietnam in 1968. They were armed with two 20 mm and two 40 mm cannons and they flew their first missions teamed with F-4s, which had the task to attack and destroy with cluster bombs the enemy AAA (Anti Aircraft Artillery) that opened fire against the gunship.

During the first missions  the Spectre was also able to achieve an aerial victory when on May 8, 1969 an AC-130 shot down an enemy helicopter, as told by Wayne Mutza in his book Gunships The Story of Spooky, Shadow, Stinger and Spectre .

But the AC-130s were best and widely used from October 1969 to April 1970, the so called dry season, during which the NVA (North Vietnamese Army) trucks transported ammunition supplies by using the Ho Chi Minh Trail.

Spectres crews, that had the task to hunt trucks, were able to destroy and damage 25 of them in one mission: among these there were also AAA vehicles and, some times, the gunships came back to the base badly damaged. In the 1969-1970 dry season the NVA moved about 68,000 tons of provisions on the Trail, 47,000 tons of which were destroyed by the 12 deployed AC-130s with their 20 mm high density rounds and 40 mm Bofors cannons.

The 1970-1971 was even busier for the gunships since American and South Vietnamese soldiers began moving into Laos: in fact, while the numbers of AC-130s increased from 12 to 18, the western part of the Trail became filled with an always increasing number of vehicles coming from east, where interdiction sorties had concentrated. Therefore, during this period a gunship could destroy more than 25 trucks per night and the 1970-1971 dry season ended with 58,500 tons of material destroyed.

By the end of the 1971, after the NVA increased the number of the armored vehicles and the caliber of guns along the Trail, the U.S. deployed the first example of AC-130E.

As explained in detail by Wayne Mutza in his book, the new Spectre model was armed with a new more potent gun, the M102 105 mm Howitzer which replaced one of the Bofors cannons on the left side of the gunship.

The first Howitzer was installed in a gunship after it was repaired from some battle damages. Since it could fire from a distance of 12,000 meters, the Howitzer highly increased Spectre stand-off capabilities: the result was a higher kill ratio against trucks, since a vehicle hit by a 105 round had only a 10% chance to be still operable.

During its first Vietnam deployment this single howitzer-mounted AC-130E destroyed 75 trucks and damaged 92 ones with the 105, and destroyed 27 vehicles and damaged 24 ones with 40 mm fire in 32 missions.

4th Special Operations Squadron

Image credit: U.S. Air Force

 

In spite of flight ban F-35 could still attend UK airshows

Even if nothing has been decided yet, it looks like the F-35 could still be able to attend Farnborough International Airshow in the UK.

As the fleet remains grounded by a flight ban announced on Jul. 3 following the Jun. 23 engine fire experienced by an F-35A CTOL (Conventional Take Off and Landing) at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, it may be possible that some F-35B STOVL (Short Take Off Vertical Landing) aircraft can be allowed to attend the two most important season’s airshows in the UK.

As many as four F-35s (three from the U.S. Marine Corps and a British one) were scheduled to take part in Royal International Air Show (RIAT) and Farnborough Airshow (FIA) near London. But, whereas it seems at least unlikely the aircraft can make it to RAF Fairford for RIAT, there could be some chances the aircraft could eventually attend FIA 2014, a major showcase which attracts aerospace companies and potential customers from all around the world.

F-35B turn

Indeed, while investigation into the cause of the engine fire continues and the rest of the U.S. Air Force, Navy and Royal Air Force F-35s remain grounded, according to DefenseNews, the Marines may decide to allow their F-35B jets to cross the Pond, making happy aviation enthusiasts and…Lockheed Martin, facing the umpteenth issue with the troubled fifth generation aircraft.

“As part of that, there is the possibility NAVAIR would allow for return to flight before the Air Force or the UK did depending how they analyze and accept that data and manage risk,” Kyra Hawn, a spokeswoman for the F-35 joint program office, told to DefenseNews’s Aaron Mehta.

Therefore, even if U.S. Air Force and UK will not lift the flight ban in time for the airshows, the U.S. Marine Corps may decide it is ok for them to fly the jump jet aircraft overseas.

As said, nothing has been decided yet. Considering that RIAT opens this weekend, the participation to FIA appears at least a bit more likely. But, who’s going to accept the risk to allow the aircraft to fly in spite of a fleet-wide grounding and investigation underway?

Can you imagine the impact of an incident on the reputation of the much debated aircraft?

Image credit: Tony Lovelock

 

Cockpit video (with raw sound) of F-15E Strike Eagle flying through canyons

An F-15 Strike Eagle low level flying in between canyon walls.

Here is what it looks like to fly at high-speed, low altitude, through canyons in the back seat of an F-15E Strike Eagle.

Filmed from the cockpit, the video lets you appreciate an in-cockpit experience thanks to the original sound. Obviously, if you were actually flying the F-15E, you would not hear that background noise you can hear in the video: it would be almost completely cancelled inside your HGU-55P flight helmet.

In the age of stealth bombers, standoff weapons, drones, cyberwar, electronic warfare, etc. low-level high-speed flying is still one of the most important parts of both planes and helicopters combat pilot training: pulling some Gs during aggressive low level turns needed to avoid obstacles and take advantage of terrain masking is a good way to improve handling skills as well as increase survivability (for instance, preventing detection by enemy radar systems.)

H/T to Matt Fanning for the link to the video!

 

Video clip shows A-7K Corsair jet’s strafing passes on Michigan Range 24 years ago

A-7K strafe and extremely low fly by in the rain at the Grayling Air Gunnery Range.

Here’s an interesting clip from the Grayling Air Gunnery Range in Michigan on a rainy day on Jul. 14, 1990. Although it’s not the best quality (it was an old VHS video filmed by Chad Thomas from Jetwash Images, who converted and uploaded it to Youtube.com), it is a rather impressive as it shows low altitude strafing passes by an A-7K, almost 24 years ago.

The Corsair (dubbed “SLUFF”, Short Little Ugly Fat Fellow) belongs to the 121st Tactical Fighter Wing Ohio ANG (OH), 162d Tactical Fighter Squadron, Springfield Air National Guard Base, Springfield, one of the last to fly the A-7.

The unit received the A-7D in 1978, transitioned to the A-7K in 1982 and eventually moved to the F-16 in May 1993.

[Video] U.S. F-16s, Swedish Gripens refuel from KC-135 tankers during Baltic Operations

Tankers play a major role during real ops and large drills. Like BALTOPS 2014.

The following videos were filmed from different KC-135s belonging to the 100 ARW (Air Refueling Wing) from RAF Mildenhall, during BALTOPS 2014 exercise in Northern Europe.

One of the KC-135s equipped with flying boom, refueled some of the 18 F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter aircraft from the 52nd Fighter Wing, Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, deployed to Lask Air Base, Poland.

The other Stratotanker refueled Swedish Air Force JAS 39 Gripens by means of the hose released by the underwing pods. The so-called hose and drogue system is used for aircraft equipped with the IFR (In Flight Refueling) probe (U.S. Navy standard) whereas the rigid, telescoping tube with movable flight control surfaces (the “boom”) is used to refuel those aircraft equipped with the U.S. Air Force standard AAR (Air-to-Air Refueling) receptacle.

Noteworthy, the U.S. planes depicted in the footage carry (dummy) missiles, whilst Swedish Gripens are unarmed.

H/T to Lars-Gunnar Holmstrom for the heads-up