`The U.S. Air Force has begun moving heavily armed AC-130 airplanes – the lethal “flying gunships” of the Vietnam War – to a base in Iraq as commanders search for new tools to counter the Iraqi resistance, The Associated Press has learned. [..]
The left-side ports of the AC-130s, 98-foot-long planes that can slowly circle over a target for long periods, bristle with a potent arsenal – 40 mm cannon that can fire 120 rounds per minute, and big 105 mm cannon, normally a field artillery weapon. The plane’s latest version, the AC-130U, known as “Spooky,” also carries Gatling gun-type 20 mm cannon.
The gunships were designed primarily for battlefield use to place saturated fire on massed troops. In Vietnam, for example, they were deployed against North Vietnamese supply convoys along the Ho Chi Minh Trail, where the Air Force claimed to have destroyed 10,000 trucks over several years.
The use of AC-130s in places like Fallujah, urban settings where insurgents may be among crowded populations of noncombatants, has been criticized by human rights groups.’