Air Force Special Operations Command
Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC), with headquarters at Hurlburt Field, Fla., was established May 22, 1990. AFSOC is a major command and the Air Force component of U.S. Special Operations Command, a unified command.
AFSOC is America's specialized air power. It is a step ahead in a changing world, delivering special operations combat power anytime, anywhere.
The command is committed to continual improvement to provide Air Force special operations forces for worldwide deployment and assignment to regional unified commands to conduct: unconventional warfare, direct action, special reconnaissance, counter-proliferation, foreign internal defense, information and psychological operations, personnel recovery and counter-terrorism operations.
Personnel and Resources
AFSOC has approximately 12,500 active, reserve and national guard personnel, 20 percent of whom are stationed overseas. The command's three active duty flying units epitomize the composite wing/group concept. They are composed of over 100 fixed and rotary-wing aircraft.
The 16th Special Operations Wing, at Hurlburt Field, is the oldest and most seasoned unit in AFSOC. It includes the 6th Special Operations Squadron, which is the wing's combat aviation advisory unit, the 4th SOS, which flies the AC-130U gunship; the 8th SOS, which flies the MC-130E Combat Talon I, the 15th SOS, which flies the MC-130H Combat Talon II, the 16th SOS, which flies the AC-130H Spectre gunship,
the 20th SOS, which flies the MH-53J Pave Low III helicopter, and the 55th SOS, which flies the MH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter.
One squadron, the 9th SOS, is located on nearby Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. and flies the MC-130P Combat Shadow.
The 352nd Special Operations Group, at RAF Mildenhall, England, is the designated Air Force component for Special Operations Command Europe. Its squadrons are the 7th SOS, which flies the MC-130H, the 21st SOS, equipped with the MH-53J, the 67th SOS, with the MC-130P, and the 321st Special Tactics Squadron.
The 353rd Special Operations Group, at Kadena Air Base, Japan, is the Air Force component for Special Operations Command Pacific. The squadrons are the 1st SOS, which flies the MC-130E Combat Talon II, the 17th SOS, with the MC-130P Combat Shadow, the 31st SOS at Osan Air Base, Korea, which flies the MH-53J Pave Low helicopter. and the 320th STS.
The 720th Special Tactics Group, with headquarters at Hurlburt Field has special operations combat controllers and pararescuemen who work jointly in special tactics teams. Its squadrons include the 21st STS and 24th STS at Pope AFB, N.C, the 22nd STS at McChord AFB, Wash, and the 23rd STS and the 10th Combat Weather Squadron at Hurlburt Field.
Their missions include: air traffic control for establishing air assault landing zones, close air support for strike aircraft and gunship missions, establishing casualty collection stations, providing trauma care for injured personnel and tactical meteorological forecasting for Army Special Operations Command (USASOC).
The U.S. Air Force Special Operations School at Hurlburt Field, provides special operations-related education to Department of Defense personnel, government agencies and allied nations. Subjects covered in its 17 courses range from regional affairs and cross-cultural communications to antiterrorism awareness, revolutionary warfare and psychological operations.
The 18th Flight Test Squadron, with headquarters at Hurlburt Field, provides expertise to improve the capabilities of special operations forces worldwide. The center conducts operational and maintenance suitability tests and evaluations for equipment, concepts, tactics and procedures for employment of special operations forces. Many of these tests are joint command and joint service projects.
Air Reserve Components
AFSOC gains some air reserve component units when the organizations are mobilized. One is the 919th Special Operations Wing (AFRC) at Duke Field, Fla. Its 711th SOS flies the MC-130E Combat Talon, while its 5th SOS flies the MC-130P Combat Shadow.
Air National Guard units include the 193rd Special Operations Wing, Harrisburg International Airport, Pa. the 123rd Special Tactics Flight, Standiford Field, Ky. the 107th Air Weather Flight, Selfridge ANGB, Mich. the 146th AWF, Pittsburgh, Pa. and the 181st AWF, Dallas, Texas.
The AC-130 gunship's primary missions are close air support, air interdiction and armed reconnaissance. Other missions include perimeter and point defense, escort, landing, drop and extraction zone support, forward air control, limited command and control, and combat search and rescue.
These heavily armed aircraft incorporate side-firing weapons integrated with sophisticated sensor, navigation and fire control systems to provide surgical firepower or area saturation during extended periods, at night and in adverse weather. The AC-130 has been used effectively for over thirty years to take out ground defenses and targets. One drawback to using the AC-130 is that it is typically only used in night assaults because of its poor maneuverability and limited orientations relative to the target during attack.
During Vietnam, gunships destroyed more than 10,000 trucks and were credited with many life-saving close air support missions. AC-130s suppressed enemy air defense systems and attacked ground forces during Operation Urgent Fury in Grenada. This enabled the successful assault of Point Salines airfield via airdrop and airland of friendly forces.
The gunships had a primary role during Operation Just Cause in Panama by destroying Panamanian Defense Force Headquarters and numerous command and control facilities by surgical employment of ordnance in an urban environment. As the only close air support platform in the theater, Spectres were credited with saving the lives of many friendly personnel. Both the H-models and A-models played key roles.
The fighting was opened by a gunship attack on the military headquarters of the dictator of Panama and the outcome was never in doubt. All objectives were quickly accomplished and democracy was restored to Panama.
During Operation Desert Storm, Spectres provided air base defense and close air support for ground forces. Both the AC-130A and AC-130H gunships were part of the international force assembled in the Persian Gulf region to drive out of Kuwait which Saddam Hussein had invaded in early August 1990.
In the following January, the allies launched the actual war known as Desert Storm following the Desert Shield build-up. Victory was accomplished in a few weeks and Kuwait was set free of the foreign invader. Iraq shot down one AC-130H gunship. It resulted in the loss of all 14 crewmembers, the largest single air power loss of the war. Post war restriction on Iraq required the presence of gunships to enforce them.
AC-130s were also used during Operations Continue Hope and United Shield in Somalia, providing close air support for United Nations ground forces. The gunships played a pivotal role during operations in support of the NATO mission in Bosnia-Herzegovina, providing air interdiction against key targets in the Sarajevo area.
The Naval Surface Warfare Center, Dahlgren Division (NSWCDD), on behalf of Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) requested information in 2005 that may lead to the acquisition and qualification of a family of 120mm mortar ammunition for enhancing the AC-130 Gunship Lethality and Survivability. Sources Sought N00178-05-Q-1925 was posted 18 August 2005 to Federal Business Opportunities (FBO). NSWCDD and AFSOC are seeking information on any (guided or conventional) 120mm mortar round that is currently fielded, currently a Program of Record (POR), or technology mature enough to enter into an ACTD or similar demonstration.
The 120mm mortar concept shall offer benefits to the AC-130 fleet through: Employment flexibility through use of munitions currently available; Greater lethality through more fragmentation weight and greater blast damage; Precision strike capability; Increased standoff range and attack altitude while maintaining responsiveness; Reduction in collateral damage; and Reduction in danger close distance when supporting troops in contact.
For the 105-mm gun, 100 rounds weighs 4200 lbs. The recoil load is about 10,900 lbs, with a gun Recoiling Weight of 1,465 lbs. The muzzle pressure is 3,560 psi. It is a legacy system being phased out of the US Army inventory. There is little guided technology ongoing. For the 120-mm mortar, 100 Rounds weighs 3200 lbs. This weapon has a recoil Load of ~5,600 lbs with a gun weight of 1,315 lbs. The muzzle pressure is 1,620 psi. This is the leading FCS fire support weapon and the Stryker Brigade Combat Team fire support weapon. There is a lot of Guided Munition development work ongoing.
|AC-130H Spectre||AC-130U Spooky|
|Primary Function:||Close air support, air interdiction and armed reconnaissance|
|Contractor:||Lockheed Aircraft Corp.|
|Power Plant:||Four Allison turboprop engines T56-A-15|
|Thrust:||Each engine 4,910 horsepower|
|Length:||97 feet, 9 inches (29.8 meters)|
|Height:||38 feet, 6 inches (11.7 meters)|
|Maximum Takeoff Weight:||155,000 pounds (69,750 kilograms)|
|Wingspan:||132 feet, 7 inches (40.4 meters)|
|Range:|| 1,500 statute miles (1,300 nautical miles) |
Unlimited with air refueling
| 2,200 nautical miles |
Unlimited with air refueling
|Ceiling:||25,000 feet (7,576 meters)||30,000 ft.|
|Speed:||300 mph (Mach 0.40) (at sea level)|
|Armament:|| two M61 20mm Vulcan cannons |
with 3,000 rounds
one L60 40mm Bofors cannon
with 256 rounds
one M102 105mm howitzer
with 100 rounds
| One 25mm GAU-12 Gatling gun |
(1,800 rounds per minute)
one L60 40mm Bofors cannon
(100 shots per minute)
|Crew:||14 -- five officers (pilot, co-pilot, navigator, fire control officer, electronic warfare officer); nine enlisted (flight engineer, loadmaster, low-light TV operator, infrared detection set operator, five aerial gunners)||13 total. Five officers (pilot, copilot, navigator, fire control officer, electronic warfare officer); 8 enlisted (flight engineer, All Light Level TV operator, infrared- detection set operator, four airborne gunners, loadmaster)|
|Inventory:|| Active force, 8; |
|13 aircraft assigned to 16th Special Operation Wing's 4th Special Operations Squadron.|
M4 carbine with older style M203 40mm grenade launcher.
M4A1 carbine with RIS-mounted forward handgrip and the AN-PVS4 night vision sight
Colt M4 and M4A1 carbine / assault rifle (USA)
The Colt company developed various carbine versions of the basic AR-15 / M16 rifle since 1970s. These carbines were intended for all markets - military, law enforcement, civilian. US Military (and some other armies, most notably - Israeli Self-Defense Forces) had adopted the Colt CAR-15 Commando and XM-177 carbines during the 1970s and 1980s.
But early in 1990s the old idea of replacing the pistols in the hands of the troops with some more effective, shoulder fired weapon, rise again in the heads of the US Military. In fact, this idea can be dated back to the US M1 Carbine of 1941, but good ideas never die. So, in the 1994, US Army adopted the Colt Model 720 selective-fire carbine (basically, a shortened M16A2 rifle), as the US M4 Carbine.
This weapon was intended to replace in service some M9 pistols, as well as some aged M3A1 submachine guns and some M16A2 rifles. New weapon was much more handy and comfortable to carry, than the long M16A2 rifle, so the US Special Operations Command (SOCOM) put its eye on the M4 as a possible universal weapon for all Special Operations community.
For this purpose M4 was latter modified with the M16A3-style flat-top receiver with integral Picatinny-type accessory rail instead of the M16A2/M4-type integral carrying handle. The other change in the M4A1, when compared to M4, is that its trigger unit is modified to fire full-auto instead of the three shots bursts. Specially for the SOCOM M4A1s US Naval Surface Warfare Center developed a SOPMOD M4 kit, that consisted of the M4A1 carbine equipped with Rail Interface System (RIS) instead of the standard handguards.
The kit also includes a variety of the add-on goodies, such as various sights (ACOG 4X telescopic, ACOG Reflex red-dot, detachable back-up open sights), laser pointers (visible and infra-red), detachable sound suppressor (silencer), modified M203 40mm grenade launcher (with shortened barrel and improved sights). The kit also included a detachable front grip and tactical light.
From the first sight, the M4A1 SOPMOD is an ideal Special Operations weapon - handy, flexible, with good firepower. But the latest experience in the Afghanistan showed that the M4 has some flaws. First of all, the shorter barrel commands the lower bullet velocities, and this significantly decreased the effective range of the 5.56mm bullet. Second, the M4 barrel and the forend rapidly overheats.
Third, the shortened barrel resulted in the shortened gas system, which works under greater pressures, than in M16A2 rifle. This increases the rate of fire and produces more stress on the moving parts, decreasing the reliability. While adequate as a Personal Defense Weapon for the non-infantry troops (vehicle crews, clerks, staff officers etc), M4A1 is, by some accounts, less than ideal for the Special Operations troops, at least in its present state. The idea of the complete re-arming of the US Army with the M4 as a money-saving measure, also is somewhat dubious.
Caliber: 5.56mm NATO
Action: Gas operated, rotating bolt
Overall length: 838 mm (stock extended); 757 mm (stock fully collapsed)
Barrel length: 370 mm
Weight: 2.52 kg without magazine; 3.0 kg with magazine loaded with 30 rounds
Rate of fire: 700 - 950 rounds per minute
Maximum effective range: 360 m