Military Aviation

Last Armed AC-130U Spooky Gunship Retired to 309 AMARG

AC-130U gunship, tail number 513 was the last Spooky with its guns still installed and one of the very last to retire altogether.

On Aug. 19, 2019 the last armed AC-130U “Spooky” gunship, tail number 513, retired to the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group (AMARG) at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base (AFB), Ariz.

Brig. Gen. Brenda Cartier, an AC-130U Fire Control Officer and the Director of Operations for Air Force Special Operations Command, poses with an AC-130U “Spooky” Gunship at the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., Aug. 19, 2019. Cartier flew the AC-130U for the last time from Hurlburt Field, Fla., to Davis-Monthan Air Force Base. (Air Force photograph by Airman 1st Class Jacob T. Stephens)

This Spooky was the last AC-130U with its guns still installed and one of the very last to retire altogether.

The AC-130 has a rich history that includes support of military operations in Vietnam, Panama and Iraq as well as performing in many combat missions since it was fielded in the late 1960’s. The primary function of this aircraft was close air support, air interdiction and armed reconnaissance.

An AC-130U “Spooky” Gunship retires to the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Airz., Aug. 19, 2019. The AC-130U’s armament includes a 25mm Gatling gun, as well as 40mm and 105mm cannons. (Air Force photograph by Airman 1st Class Jacob T. Stephens)

“This aircraft has provided tons of close air support,” said Brig. Gen. Brenda Cartier, Director of Operations for Air Force Special Operations Command, in the U.S. Air Force news release. “There’s no telling how many lives of friendly ground forces it has saved over its time in service.”

Brig. Gen. Cartier flew the AC-130U to its final resting spot at Davis-Monthan AFB from Hurlburt Field, Fla.

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“It’s very bittersweet,” Cartier said. “I came onboard with the ‘Spooky’ gunships in 1997 so I’ve been with them most of my career.”

The AC-130U Spooky II and its crews have been deployed constantly for nearly two decades. The AC-130U will now be replaced by the AC-130J “Ghostrider.” AFSOC is slated to have completely converted to the fourth-series gunships in 2021. 

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“The Air Force is moving to the next variant of the AC-130, the J-model, which is a very capable aircraft with new technology and a lot more weaponry,” Cartier said.

America is building a more lethal and ready Air Force through development of our warfighting capabilities.

Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

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