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C h a p t e r 2 Project Combat Hornet Initiating the AC-119G/K Gunship Programs F or more 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 maintenance and supply depot for the U.S. Air Force. With the conversion of these kinds of aircraft into gunships during the 1960s and 1970s, the depot, then designated Warner Robins Air Materiel Area, also exercised management and logistics responsibilities for the three cargo transport–type aircraft that were modified for combat in Vietnam. The focal point of the Gunship I program, known as Project Big Shoot, was the AC-47D. The second program began even as the AC-47s were being slowly deployed due to a lack of readily available airframes. Project Loggy Stinger involved the creation of a prototype, designated the AC-130A, that was a modification of the C-130 Hercules. The Gunship III program, or Project Combat Hornet, began because the AC-130 program was behind schedule and became, in fact, an interim solution to AC-47 deficiencies. It was actually divided into two modification programs, one reconfiguring the C-119 into a G model and the second into a K model gunship with jet assist added on the airframe.1 Project Combat Hornet 33 Even though the AC-47 performed well, especially in its close airsupport role, it had its critics. As the prototype completed its successful initial trials, the commander of Pacific Air Forces begged the Air Staff not to approve the program but rather initiate the modification of sixteen Convair C-131/T-29 Samaritans because they carried twice the load at greater speeds than did the AC-47. The request fell on deaf ears, however, and the full-scale development program for the AC-47 moved forward. However, by 1967, it had become clear to many that, in spite of the AC-47’s impressive record, a larger airframe was needed to carry out aerial interdiction raids. Of course, tests were already being conducted with the modified C-130, but the expense of converting C-130s and Tactical Air Command’s reluctance to give up many of its primary tactical transport planes left open for debate just which airframe should replace the AC-47.2 A Brief History of the C-119 In order to understand the AC-119 program, one needs to know more about the basic airframe. Fairchild-Hiller, Inc. designed and produced the C-119 as a substantial upgrade and modification of its C-82 Packet. The C-82 prototype made its maiden voyage on 10 September 1944, and the first production model flew in May 1945. Full-scale deliveries began six months later, with production ending on 30 September 1948 as the last of the 223 aircraft (all but 4 of which were A models) rolled off the production line. Design engineers learned lessons from the C-82 and made significant improvements that they incorporated into their next cargo variant, the C-119 Flying Boxcar. The C-119’s first flight took place on 1 November 1947, and ten versions of the plane (the most significant of which were the G, H, J, and K models) were produced. By the time the last one rolled off the assembly line in October 1955, eleven hundred had been produced. Various versions were sold to the U.S. Air Force, Navy, and Marines, as well as nine foreign countries (Canada, South Vietnam, Belgium, Brazil, Ethiopia, the Republic of China, Italy, and India). The C-119 aircraft were particularly distinctive due to their twin tail booms, which came forward along the side of the fuselage and attached to the wings where the engines continued in front of the wing. The twin-engine “beauty” soon became TAC’s primary in-theater troop transport, its main paratroop drop aircraft, and its number one aerial 34 Shadow and stinger resupply aircraft. During the Korean War, the C-119 performed yeoman service, paradropping heavy equipment to U.S. forces in the icy climates of the antinuclear early warning system known as the DEW (distant early warning) line. At the end of the Korean War, Lockheed began developing the C-130 as a replacement for the C-119. As increasing numbers of C-130s rolled off the assembly line, the C-119s slowly migrated to the...


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