So, I'm working a T-34 tonight with a student and instructor on board. They're on vectors towards South Whiting for the PAR approach.
Just east of the final are three small restricted areas that belong to Eglin. They usually "loan" them to us, but they'll take them away when they need them for specific operations. Typically they'll have C-130 Hercules transport planes para-dropping troops for survival training or doing low altitude runs. Fairly innocuous things.
Well... apparently they do other things over there too.
The instructor in the T-34 calls me up when they're about four miles from the boundary.
Instructor: "Approach, Blackbird 123, are the restricted areas hot tonight?"
Me: "Affirmative, the areas are hot."
Instructor: "Uh, well, I've got stuff falling around me."
Me: "BB123, roger, um, what kind of stuff?"
Instructor: "Well, it looks like tracer rounds. It's off my nose, about a 120 heading."
I know Eglin had a few C-130s out on the range tonight. We got point-outs on two of them, but both of those were headed out. I did see one target right on a 120 heading from him level at 8000.
Me: "Well, Eglin had a few C-130s in the area. I'm seeing about two or three right now. Maybe they were just dropping flares."
Instructor: "Ummm, roger."
Anyways, I give them their turn to final and hand them off to Whiting's PAR controllers. I think about it for a moment. Red tracers? What the hell would produce... oh wait a minute. The light comes on. I call up Eglin North.
Me: "Eglin North, Pensacola Whiting, those C-130s you have out in the restricted areas... they wouldn't happen to be AC-130s, would they?"
Eglin: "They sure are!"
Well, no wonder the T-34 pilots were "spooked". This is what they were seeing from about 4 miles away.
That lovely laser-like display is produced by the AC-130 Spooky and its complement of 25mm, 40mm, and 105mm weapons. A serious piece of anti-surface gear, Eglin's got a flock of them based out of Hurlburt AFB just east of here.
When we take point outs or actually work them, there's no distinction made between a regular cargo C-130 or the AC-130. They're all just C-130s on the flight plans. But there's a huge world of difference between a standard Herky bird and the gunship pictured below.
Here's one of the 25mm "miniguns" that produces those tracers. And yes, the pretty girl really is an AC-130 gunner.
Here it is firing its 105mm howitzer. Yes, that's a freaking howitzer mounted on an airplane.
For movie fans, if you've seen Transformers, you've seen the AC-130 in (fictional) action, taking on Scorponok in the desert. When that one soldier says "Bring the rain", that's what he's referring to. Badass scene, though of course Michael Bay throws his Hollywood B.S. into it. It's got a lot of cool USAF hardware - A-10 Warthogs, AC-130 Spooky, E-3 AWACS, and the Predator Drone. Check it out below.
I tell you, you learn something new everyday. I'd heard that Eglin uses those areas for live fire exercises, but this is the first time I'd actually seen it myself.
I will say, we've got some fairly unique airspace around here. I can't think of too many places where the aircraft you're working have a good chance of being hosed out of the sky by a stream of 20mm and 40mm rounds!
4 days ago