Douglas AC-47 Spooky - Design and Development

Design and Development

The AC-47 was a United States Air Force C-47, (the military version of the DC-3) that had been modified by mounting three 7.62mm General Electric miniguns to fire through two rear window openings and the side cargo door, all on the left (pilot's) side of the aircraft. Other armament configurations could also be found on similar C-47 based aircraft around the world. The guns were actuated by a control on the pilot's yoke, where he could control the guns either individually or together, although gunners were also among the crew to assist with gun failures and similar issues. Its primary function was close air support for ground troops. It could orbit the target for hours providing suppressing fire. Coverage given by a Spooky was over an elliptical area approximately 52 yd (47.5 m) in diameter, placing a round every 2.4 yd (2.2 m) during a 3-second burst. The aircraft also carried flares, which it could drop to illuminate the battleground.

When the AC-47 was introduced there were no preceding designs to gauge how successful the concept would be. The USAF found itself in a precarious situation when requests for additional gunships began to come in. It simply did not have enough miniguns to fit additional aircraft after the first two conversions. The next four aircraft were equipped with 10 .30 caliber AN/M2 machine guns. It was quickly discovered, however, that these weapons, using World War II and Korean War ammunition stocks, jammed easily, produced large amounts of gases from firing, and, even in 10-gun groups, could only provide the density of fire of a single minigun. All four of these aircraft were retrofitted to the standard armament configuration when additional miniguns arrived.

The AC-47 initially used SUU-11/A gun pods that were installed on locally fabricated mounts for the gunship application. Emerson Electric eventually developed the MXU-470/A to replace the gun pods, which were also used on subsequent gunships.

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