AC-119G Gunship Mission

Jim Green


There was a request awhile back for input on what a gunship mission was like. I'm not as eloquent as some of the other members but will attempt to get the atmosphere on a moonless night in a dark AC-119G interior searching and shooting. I was a gunner flying out of Phan Rang. Except for a few missions into Cambodia most of ours were nightime support for Troops-in-Contact (TIC) or box searches. The TIC's were the most satisfying because we knew we were giving immediate fire support to people needing it. Sometimes it was only in the form of dropping flares to provide illumination, but it was help. The Box missions consisted of flying over preplanned areas and searching with the NOS (Night Observation Scope) for enemy activity. Sometimes we attempted to stir things up by reconning by firing into the areas hoping for reaction.


Usually we launched just at dusk after having briefed the mission and loading up. Our ammo loads were 30,000 rds of 7.62mm and 48 LUU-2 or MK-24 Flares and a few logs (MK-6 Flares). A crew consisted of pilot, co-pilot, flight engineer, nav/nos, 2 gunners, and an illuminator operator. Duration was normally about 4.5 hours, although there were a few times when we rearmed and refueled at other bases for a second sortie making for 8 hour plus nights. Doesn't sound like much if you've spent 12 hour shifts on the ramp or elsewhere like I did on two previous tours, but I found out that fighting the G forces, maintaining an upright position on a moving floor, outfitted in a survival vest and chest pack harness, with only dim red lighting and an APU heating and stinking up the cargo compartment can wear one down in a hurry. Only if engaged in a good gunfight did the adrenilin kick and ones attention became focused thereby making physical discomforts unrealized until later.

A gunners job was to keep the guns on line. We usually only fired two of the four at a time which allowed us to keep up with the reloading. Ammo was large cans holding 1500 rds. We stored them on the starboard side as the guns were mounted on the port side. If the air wasn't too turbulent we would carry them to the gun to be loaded, otherwise we would drag them. Nothing quite like carrying a 70 pound can and suddenly hit a 3 or 4 G bump which increased the load by 3 to 4 times.


If a stoppage occurred we had to determine what the cause was and clear it in minimum time. Use of a twelve inch screwdriver between the barrels was the method normally employed. Use of hands on hot barrels was usually only experienced once and never tried again. Nomex does melt! Although we tried to keep the pilot from firing extremely long bursts I observed barrels go from dull red to a bright red. Expended brass was caught in empty ammo cans which we moved out of the way as they filled.

The noise was terrific. Besides the four gunports there was the open personnel door (NOS was mounted there), the searchlight opening, and the open right rear personnel door where the flare launcher was mounted. Then the two engines hopfully were making noise, and the APU mounted next to the guns, any guns that might be putting out 3-6000 rpm each, and the intercom chatter. Loved every minute of it.


Best of all was listening to the guys on the ground saying they didn't need our assistance any longer.


Small arms, 12.7, and Strellas were our main threats. The other crew members kept eyes peeled for that stuff since we were busy with the guns most of the time, although we could see out the gunports a little.


Hope this sheds a little light on the "Fly By Night" operations.