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Shadow and Stinger

Developing the AC-119G/K Gunships in the Vietnam War

By William Head

Publication Year: 2007

Nicknamed “the truck killer,” the AC-119K gunship and its counterpart, the AC-119G, were developed in the late 1960s in response to the needs of the U.S. military in Vietnam. This important book examines the evolution of these aircraft and their role within Vietnam, military policy, and geopolitical realities. Drawing on unpublished studies and a host of primary materials, William Head discusses the events that led to the birth of the AC-119, the planning and modification processes that followed, and its operational history. The G model, or “Shadow,” focused on air support and anti-personnel missions. “Stinger,” the K model, which could carry more cargo for longer distances, was suited for destruction of enemy vehicles. Though the AC-119 was only an interim asset, its descendants—the AC-130E, H, and U—have played an active role in the recent conflict in Iraq. A narrative of the crews and pilots who executed the missions and the engineers, designers, and the politicians responsible for the aircraft, Shadow and Stinger will be of interest to Vietnam veterans, historians, and scholars, as well as aviation enthusiasts.

Published by: Texas A&M University Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. v


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-xii

In the summer of 1999, as our office progressed with the reorganization of the Warner Robins Air Logistics Center (WR-ALC)/Robins Air Force Base (RAFB) Archives, I came across numerous documents and several unpublished studies focused on the U.S. involvement in the...

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Introduction: Necessity Is the Mother of Invention

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pp. 1-8

In the early 1960s, the United States was drawn ever deeper into the Southeast Asian conflict, also known as the Second Indochina War but more popularly referred to as the Vietnam War. Air force leadership soon realized that the frontline Cold War force of high-flying...

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1. Developing the Fixed-Wing Gunship

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pp. 9-31

The only way to understand the reason gunships played such an important role in the U.S. war in Indochina is to look into both the background of the air war and the history of the gunship. At the time it entered the Vietnam War, the U.S. Air Force...

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2. Project Combat Hornet

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pp. 32-50

For m ore than sixty years the Warner Robins Air Logistics Center located at Robins AFB, nestled in the pine woods just west of the Ocmulgee River, south of Macon and north of Perry, Georgia, has been the primary cargo and transport aircraft...

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3. Inching Forward through Hoops of Fire

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pp. 51-75

Even though on 8 June 1967, the secretary of the U.S. Air Force approved the Air Staff’s recommendation to replace the A C-47 aircraft with, at first, A C-119Gs and later both G models and K models, the WRAMA workforce experienced a number of...

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4. Finding the Funds and Modifying the Contracts

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pp. 76-96

It is necessary to understand several specific facets of the gunship program at Warner Robins in order to have a complete picture of the process. Examining the details of the program’s financial procedures and contract modifications in this chapter, as well...

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5. Logistics Support for the AC-119G/K Gunships

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pp. 97-113

To fully understand the nuances of the production program, we must examine the complete story of the various aspects of the project. Having recounted the financial and contractual aspects of the program in the preceding chapter, this chapter focuses on the events surrounding the logistics support provided for...

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6. The Smoke-Evacuation System and FLIRS

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pp. 114-127

This chapter continues the examination of the A C-119 reconfiguration program by discussing two key high-technology subsystems of the modified aircraft that were added to enhance combat performance, navigation, and targeting. These...

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7. Modification Program Revisions

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pp. 128-142

If we view the A C-119 reconfiguration project as a total package, the most significant revisions made during the production of the gunships were undoubtedly those related to aircraft performance and weight reduction. Although the modification requirements...

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8. Technical Modifications

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pp. 143-165

While the previous topical chapters have dealt with the most significant subsystem issues that arose during Combat Hornet, many other less visible, yet equally important, situations also cropped up. One of those affecting the AC-119K proved to be the delivery of all of the aerospace ground equipment items. Even as the general modification...

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9. Fulfilling the Contract and Deploying the Fleet

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pp. 166-184

On 23 April 1968, as the Tet Offensive was sputtering to a conclusion, Air Force Logistics Command officials formally assigned item management responsibility to WRAMA for the A C-119’s major component systems.1 Concurrently, Fairchild-Hiller’s management continued the development...

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10. U.S. Air Power in Vietnam

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pp. 185-212

To understand the his tory of the A C-119s, one must grasp the overall tenor of the air war at the time they arrived. To this end, this chapter examines the major U.S. air operations from late 1968 to late 1972, the years during which the A C-119s were...

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11. AC-119 Units and Combat Operations in Vietnam

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pp. 213-239

For two years before the A C-47 flew its final USAF mission in December 1969, USAF leaders were looking for a replacement. For all intents and purposes, by the spring of 1967, the choice had been narrowed to the C-119 and the C-130. Although the...

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Conclusion: “Country Roads, Take Me Home”

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pp. 240-254

Most readers are likely familiar with the popular song by the late John Denver, referenced in the title. It was one of the fighter pilots’ favorite songs during the Vietnam War. It was equally appropriate for the A C-119 crews. When...


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pp. 255-262


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pp. 263-296


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pp. 297-320


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pp. 321-340

E-ISBN-13: 9781603445078
E-ISBN-10: 1603445072
Print-ISBN-13: 9781585445776
Print-ISBN-10: 1585445770

Page Count: 352
Illustrations: 19 b&w photos.
Publication Year: 2007