Douglas AC-47 "Spooky"
Operational History

The AC-47D gunship should not be confused with a small number of C-47s were fitted with electronic equipment the 1950s. Prior to 1962, these aircraft were designated AC-47D. When the universal designation system was adopted in 1962, these became EC-47Ds. In August 1964 years of fixed wing gunship experimentation reached a new peak with the intiation Project Tailchaser. This test involved the conversion of a single Convair C-131B to be able to fire a single GAU-2/A Minigun at downward angle out of the left side of the aircraft. It was discovered that even using crude grease pencil crosshairs it was very easy for a pilot flying in a pylon turn to hit a stationary area target with relative accuracy. Testing was conducted at Eglin AFB by ADTC.

[Source: U.S. Air Force]

By October, a C-47D under Project Gunship was converted to a similar standard as the Project Tailchaser aircraft, but instead with a total of 3 Miniguns. These were initially mounted on locally fabricated mounts, which essentially strapped gun pods intended for fixed wing aircraft (SUU-11/A) onto a mount allowing them to be fired remotely out the port side. This aircraft was sent for use by the 4th Air Commando in the Republic of Vietnam for operational testing. By mid-1965, a total of 6 aircraft were operating with the 4th Air Commando, and by fall of 1965, there were 20 more. The original gunships had been designated FC-47D by the United States Air Force, but with protests from fighter pilots, this designation was changed to AC-47D during 1965. Eventually the 4th Air Commando was absorbed into the 14th Special Operations Wing (SOW), and AC-47Ds were assigned to the 3rd and 4th Special Operations Squadrons (SOS), as well as, later to the 432nd Tactical Fighter Wing (TFW) at Udon Royal Thai Airbase (RTAB). By war's end, the USAF lost 19 AC-47 Gunship I's, to all causes.

As the United States began Project Gunship II and Project Gunship III, many of the remaining AC-47Ds were transferred to the Vietnam Air Force (VNAF), the Royal Lao Air Force (RLAF), and to Cambodia, after Prince Sihanouk was deposed in a coup by General Lon Nol.

Retrofitted AC-47s are still in use in Colombia, where they are known by civilians as Avion fantasma (ghost planes). They are successfully operated by the local airforce in COIN operations in conjunction with AH-60 Arpia helicopters (an armed variant of the UH-60) and A-37 Dragonflys against local illegal armed groups. These are mostly likely the five BT-67s purchased by Colombia with 12.7mm machine guns (of unknown type) slaved to a Forward Looking Infrared (or FLIR) system. For more information see Colombia: Seguridad & Defensa. The BT-67 is a variant of the C-47/DC-3 made by the Basler Corporation of Oshkosh, WI. These "Turbo Dakotas" feature Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-67R turboprops, driving five-bladed Hartzell propellers, along with essentially overhauling the basic airframe.

Variants of the AC-47 based on various iterations of the airframe including the BT-67, have been used by Laos, Cambodia, South Africa, and Rhodesia, to name just a few, and with a variety of weapons configurations including gatling weapons of numerous types, various medium and heavy machine guns, and larger autocannon (South African "Dragon Daks" were known to fit 20 mm cannons).


Current Operators
Colombian Air Force, Air Force of El Salvador, Royal Thai Air Force

Former Operators
Royal Cambodian Air Force, Royal Lao Air Force, Rhodesian Air Force (operated locally built gunship modification of C-47 aircraft), South African Air Force, Vietnam Air Force, United States Air Force