The Air Force’s famous AC-130U “Spooky” gunship is on the verge of retirement with the heavily armed cargo plane returning on Monday from its last scheduled overseas mission.<
The Spooky is being replaced with a newer gunship, the AC-130J Ghostrider, which boasts greater precision firepower, as well as the new ability to carry laser-guided missiles and bombs.
The gunship concept dates to the Vietnam War, when World War II-era C-47 transports were fitted with side-firing Gatling guns to provide close air support for remote outposts, as well as rain bullets on enemy convoys navigating the Ho Chi Minh trail. The concept proved so popular the Air Force modified C-130 Hercules transports to take over the role. Various types of gunships have served since, including in the 1989 invasion of Panama, 1991 Gulf War, as well as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.