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AC-130A pylon turn
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The AC-130 gunship first arrived in South Vietnam on 21 September 1967 under the Gunship II program and began combat operations over Laos and South Vietnam that year. In June 1968, AC-130s were deployed to Tan Son Nhut AB near Saigon for support against the Tet Offensive.By 30 October 1968 enough AC-130 Gunship IIs arrived to form a squadron Thailand. It was at this time that the C-130A gunship was designated the AC-130A.On 18 August 1968, an AC-130 gunship flying an armed reconnaissance mission in Vietnam's III Corps was diverted to support a Special Forces base at Katum. The ground commander quickly assessed the accurate fire and capabilities of this weapon system and called for fire on his own perimeter when the Viet Cong attempted to bridge the wire on the west side of his position.By December 1968 most AC-130s were flown under escort (to protect the gunship against heavy and concentrated AAA fire) from the 497th Tactical Fighter Squadron, normally three Phantoms per Gunship. In late 1969, under the code name of "Surprise Package", 56-0490 arrived with solid-state laser-illuminated low-light-level-TV AC-130s destroyed more than 10,000 trucks and participated in many crucial close air support missions in Vietnam. Six Spectres and 52 aircrew members were lost to enemy fire. On 24 May 1969, Spectre lost its first gunship.

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