"Any Time, Any Place"
Spectre has an impressive combat history. During
Vietnam, gunships destroyed more than 10,000 trucks and were credited with
many life-saving close air support missions. AC-130s suppressed enemy air
defense systems and attacked ground forces during Operation Urgent Fury in
Grenada. This enabled the successful assault of Point Salines airfield via
airdrop and airland of friendly forces. The gunships had a primary role during
Operation Just Cause in Panama by destroying Panamanian Defense Force
Headquarters and numerous command and control facilities by surgical
employment of ordnance in an urban environment. As the only close air support
platform in the theater, Spectres were credited with saving the lives of many
friendly personnel. During Operation Desert Storm, Spectres provided air base
defense and close air support for ground forces. AC-130s were also used during
Operations Continue Hope and United Shield in Somalia, providing close air
support for United Nations ground forces. The gunships have most recently
played a pivotal role during operations in support of the NATO mission in
Bosnia-Herzegovina, providing air interdiction against key targets in the
Spectre was overhead in Grenada October 25, 1983 paving
the way for the assault by multi-national forces which liberated the island.
Spectre was praised for "saving the day" by providing last-second
surveillance and intelligence to the air assault forces, silencing
anti-aircraft artillery emplacements, knocking out enemy armored personnel
carriers, defending political dignitaries surrounded by enemy troops and
relieving troops in combat.
The island of Grenada the morning of the
Full ammunition load (40mm & 105mm)
The mission was to secure the safety of
American citizens and American interests in the Panama Canal Treaty, to
establish law and order, to restore democracy, and to bring Panama's dictator
Manuel Noriega to justice.
The gunship participated in the
reestablishment of democracy in the Republic of Panama during Operation Just
Cause. By destroying the headquarters for the Panamanian Defense Force, and
providing fire support for the Army Ranger assault on Rio Hato, the 16th SOS
received both the MacKay Trophy and the Military Airlift Command Aircrew of
the Year Award for 1989.
The 16th SOS arrived in Saudi Arabia September 12, 1990 to
participate in Operations "Desert Shield" the protection of Saudi Arabia.
Friends: "Never forget who cares about you".
During the war, AC-130H gunships flew armed reconnaissance and
destroyed ground targets. The unit flew 50 combat missions in Desert Storm.
A heavy price was paid when a AC-130 was lost and 14 brave airmen were killed
January 31, 1991, while supporting coalition forces engaged in the Battle of
Khafji, Saudi Arabia. The biggest
single lost for the Air Force during the war to liberation Kuwait. Call sign
On 01 January 1991, the US Ambassador to Somalia requested military
assistance to evacuate the Embassy. Americans and other foreign nationals had
sought shelter in the Embassy compound that day as the reign of Somali dictator
Siad Barre disintegrated into a confused battle for control of Mogadishu. The
next day, Operation EASTERN EXIT was initiated. Conducted between 2 -11 January
1991, participating units included USS Guam, USS Trenton, 4th Marine
Expeditionary Bde, Air Force AC-130 (intelligence gathering and fire support,
and 9-man Navy SEAL team), and other elements. Responding to the deteriorating
situation, Operation Eastern Exit involved the evacuation of 281 noncombatants
from the US Embassy in Mogadishu, Somalia.
During 1993 and 1994, the 16th SOS deployed to Africa in
support of the United Nations relief operations in Somalia, Continue Hope.
During this deployment, a gunship was destroyed, due to an in-borne detonation
of the 105mm gun while airborne. Eight of the 14 aircrew members lost their
lives. Call sign "Jockey 14".
29 August, 1995
Spectre was actively patrolling the hostile skies over
Bosnia-Herzegovina providing protective air cover and close air support to UN
protection forces (UNPROFOR).
Operation DELIBERATE FORCE Aug. 19, 1995, the largest
NATO air operation in history. On the first night, "GHOST-31",
aircraft 69-6568 struck an artillery/mortar position southeast of Sarajevo
marking the first time this aircraft had ever fired in combat. The 16th SOS
flew multiple CSAR sorties from Sept. 6-8, 1995 in support of the rescue
attempt of the French Mirage aircrew, callsign "EBRO-33", downed by
a surface-to-air missile near Pale. Operation DELIBERATE FORCE lasted until
Sept. 15, 1995, in this operation the 16th SOS expended 268 rounds of 105MM
and 125 rounds of 40MM against early warning (EW) radar sites, command and
control (C2) buildings, mortar/artillery positions, and ammunition storage
After the fall of the eastern Bosnian "safe areas," in
July 1995, the international community agreed to steps to extend NATO air power.
NATO extended its threat of air strikes against Bosnian Serbs if they attacked
any of the remaining "safe areas" in Bosnia. "Safe areas"
include Gorazde, Tuzla, Bihac and Sarajevo. Serb forces wasted no time testing
the world's will and launched attacks against the "safe areas" of Zepa,
Bihac and Sarajevo. To complicate things even further, Croatian forces entered
the fighting in early August.
NATO launched a sustained air strike campaign, Operation
Deliberate Force, beginning on August 30, 1995, against Bosnian Serb
military targets in response to a Bosnian Serb mortar attack on civilians in
Sarajevo. Air strikes were conducted on eleven days during the period 29 August
through 14 September 1995. Of the total of 3515 sorties flown, 2470 were
penetrating sorties, which included attacks on 48 target complexes [consisting
of 338 individual targets within target complexes].
In the view of the US Defense Department, Operation DELIBERATE
FORCE proved that airpower can have a decisive role when serving achievable,
clear policy objectives. Airpower's efforts in helping to lift the siege of
Sarejevo saved lives and helped pave the way for a negotiated settlement.
Deliberate Force was the crucial step in bringing the warring parties to the
negotiating table at Dayton, leading to the peace agreement.
Spectre "568' finally shakes a very old ghost
After a long mission over Sarajevo,
our crew celebrates in the hooch bar.
It was a long time coming, but the l6th Special Operations Squadron's
AC-130H tail No. 568 finally exercised a ghost that has been haunting it for more than 20
Spectre "568", brought into service as a gunship in the early '70s, had the unenviable
distinction of being the last H-model gunship to never have fired a shot in anger, That
changed Aug. 29, 1995 when NATO kicked off its largest air campaign ever.
The venerable gunship was the first AC-130 to fire slots during Deliberate
Force. Its crew, call sign Ghost 31, took out several artillery sites in areas surrounding Sarajevo.
It's not like Air Force Special Operations Command gunships haven't had a lot of
opportunities to be in combat in the last 15 years. Spectre gunships have played a role in
every major operation since the invasion of Grenada in 1983. It was just a quirk of fate 568
was always in the wrong place at the wrong time, according to Maj. Keith Maresca, mission
commander for the gunships here.
Funny thing is, it almost missed its opportunity during Deliberate Force, according to
Maresca. "The day before NATO started bombing we were getting ready for an aircraft and crew
swap-out," said Maresca "568 was con-figured to go home when we got word of the bombing campaign.
Three hours before take-off we got a call to hold the planes."
This wasn't the first time the gunships were notified to hit targets in
Bosnia-Hercegovina. The call had been issued many times before, just to be canceled at the last minute. "We didn't
think the mission would really be a 'go' based on past experience," said Maresca, "but that
afternoon it became clear we would launch. The maintenance guys did a super job, in record time,
to reconfigure 568 for the mission. "Their work allowed us to make 568 the
said Maresca. "They are the reason 568 is finally a combat veteran."