February 4, 2014 (by A1C Eboni Reece) - After more than 40 years of providing close air support, air interdiction and force protection for special operations forces, the preparation for the eventual retirement and phase out of the AC-130H Spectre, recognized as "world's deadliest conventional weapon" by the Military Channel and Fox News, has begun.
SSgt. Seth Rosbrugh & A1C Thomas Orton-McIntyre, 27 SOMXS armament technicians, remove a 105 mm blast diffuser from the AC-130H Spectre. [USAF photo by A1C Eboni Reece]
With only eight AC-130H Spectre gunships in existence, it is safe to say that over the last several decades, while playing such a significant role in every major conflict since the Vietnam War era, they have endured more than their fair share of wear and tear. The men and women of the 16th Aircraft Maintenance Unit have had the sole responsibility of inspecting, repairing and maintaining these gunships throughout their tenure at Cannon Air Force Base, N.M., and even since they served in Vietnam. Having spent nearly each day with these Spectre gunships to ensure its operability, it is fitting that those same Air Commandos would be the ones to prepare these aircraft to be laid to rest.
Along with various other agencies within the 27th Special Operations Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, the 202 members of the 16 AMU have been working diligently to demilitarize each aircraft, which including all modifications, is worth more than $200 million. While juggling real-world mission requirements, these maintainers dedicated additional hours each day to ensure the necessary tasks were completed.
"Two of the eight aircraft will be static displays, one at Hurlburt Field, Fla., and the other will be kept at Cannon," explained Master Sgt. Stephen White, 27 SOAMXS lead production superintendent. "The remaining six will be transported to Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., and kept in the aircraft boneyard. The members of the 16 AMU have to prepare each aircraft through demilitarization before they are taken to either location."
Although each aircraft will be brought to its final resting place over the next two years, the memories and legacy will live on in those whom have deployed with, navigated and taken care of the Air Force Special Operations Command community's workhorse. The Air Commandos are eternally grateful to the maintainers who turn wrenches, troubleshoot hydraulics systems, and ensure the gunships stay in the air each day to make more than "40 years of zoomin' and boomin'" with the AC-130H Spectre gunship possible.