The Top-Secret Project Gunship II

The Top-Secret Project Gunship II

Lockheed Martin’s AC-130 gunship is one of the most lethal aircraft ever made, equipped with a wide array of technological innovations such as night vision, sophisticated sensors that can detect enemy formations and vehicles from miles away, and an offensive arsenal that ranges from rapid-firing machine guns to impressive explosive canons.

The revered AC-130 has been around for almost six decades. It was first introduced in the Vietnam War as a replacement for the Spooky AC-47 under the top-secret Project Gunship II, and created havoc in North Vietnam to support American and South Vietnamese ground troops from 1969 to 1975.

The aircraft soon earned its nickname ‘Puff The Magic Dragon’ after its unmistakable roar when firing its weapons and the flares it launched that lit up entire combat zones.

After several upgrades, it also served in the Cold and Gulf wars, and because of its role in the War on Terror, many people still believe it is one of American’s recent innovations. In reality, it is a legendary powerhouse.

– As images and footage of actual events are not always available, Dark Docs sometimes utilizes similar historical images and footage for dramatic effect. I do my best to keep it as visually accurate as possible. All content on Dark Docs is researched, produced, and presented in historical context for educational purposes. We are history enthusiasts and are not always experts in some areas, so please don’t hesitate to reach out to us with corrections, additional information, or new ideas. –


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  1. The best equipment+political micro-management minus resolve=a lot of people killed with nothing to show for it. We still haven’t learned…the definition of insanity.

  2. You should do an episode on just the c130 the longest serving aircraft in us military history with no plans to retire it it landed on an aircraft carrier. Used as a bomber and to put out forest fires to landing on glaciers and Antarctica with Skis troop transport to recovery of top secret film being dropped from space and tons more there is no aircraft like the c130 and there never will be again

  3. As a C-47 pilot in Vietnam, the one thing we feared, at night, as much as enemy ground fire and missiles, were the AC-130's. At night we would turn our lights out, to make us as invisible to the enemy, as possible. But, of course, we became invisible to the AC-130's. IF we wound up between the AC-130 and its target, the result would be OBVIOUS!

  4. I've seen this a few times before but don't mind reruns. This was first posted way more than 5 days ago… Imagine the terror the enemy felt when one of these babies showed up..

  5. It's funny how so many uneducated people seem to think both the AC130 and the AR-15 platform rifles are some kind of "modern" equipment when both are nearly 60 years old at this point.

  6. in Nam they used firebases, a small force 2-300 in the middle of nowere, when attacked they would always be outnumbered but never out gunned, they kept the enemy at bay, Jets could only make 2-3 pass at what 700+ mph, choppers could take there tine hitting designated spots, & once puff came its over! i would never forget jhon wayne movie Green berets, in the movie his firebase got overrunned. they gave the ene6the base then called in air support the gunship came & cked off dam near every living thing in the base, now there job was to get the boddies out and make count.ThT was 1st time i learned & seen gunship puff in action

  7. I get to see and hear ac130s training most nights where I live. My home is very close to a test range and I honestly enjoy it. Some complain but if I am not actively watching I barely notice the noise, I am just used to it. Even being just miles from one unloading is awe inspiring. God bless those men in the ac-130s and the job they do. Much respect.

  8. For awhile I thought they might not mention the 105mm cannon. I had a KC-135 co-pilot who flew on an AC-130 during the Mayaguez incident. As they were about to RTB, they spotted a Khmer Rouge soldier running down the beach. The pilot said shoot him, but the gun crews said they were out of ammo, except one 105 round. The pilot told them to use it, and one soldier on the beach disappeared permanently.

  9. Spent almost 4 years at Kandahar Air Field (2011-2015) and AC130s were airborn most of the time, providing us with cover and support. Somehow it was strange and weird if you do not see those guys circling around us 🙂 I am glad we had them.

  10. Great documentary of a wonderful aircraft. However, forgot to mention the AC-119 that was an interim platform between the AC-47 and AC-130. And as for their nicknames, Spooky was the AC-47s, Shadow was the AC-119s, and Specter the bigger AC-130s. Puff The Magic Dragon was the nickname of only the very first AC-47.

  11. I was stationed at Hurlburt Field, Florida and was in the 834th EMS working on AC-130H models, SPECTERS. “Somewhere in the night Specter is waiting”. Damn did I misspell Spectre

  12. dark docs, they didnt choose the b-47 for the speed, they chose it cause of it was slow, could loiter, and made a perfect gunship, it mounted 3 mimiguns, every 5 rounds it fired a tracer round would be shot, there are images of it lighting up the sky with red streaks in veitnam

  13. The AC-130 shotdown on March 29th 1972 was Spectre 13, and most likely was brought down by an SA-7 shoulder fired SAM (as there were no RHAW indicators, Spoonrest Alphas, or Fansong transmissions detected, making it the first US aircraft brought down by that weapon in the war. The crew of 14 were shotdown between Muoung Phine and Tchepone in Savannakehett Province Laos, along route 9. It was hit in the outboard starboard engine, which was not found at the crashsite when investigated, giving the crew all the necessary time to bail out. At least one pilot survival beeper was turned on before the crash. NVA intercepts that are still classified confirm 9 crewmen were captured. A hearsay report from an NVA gunner stationed in Savannakhett claimed the AC-130 was hit, flew to the south, and that 9 crewmen had escaped, but were being safe-guarded by Laotian civilians and were being pursued. None of the 14 came home a year and a month later when the "last American POW's" were released. Starting in the early 80's, 4 of the crewmen were being reported alive and held prisoner of war, with Howard D Stephenson having numerous live sighting and hearsay reports in the 1986-89 time frame first being held in Savannakhett, then in Khammouane Province directly north.

    You should do a video about the Baron 52 incident. Baron 52 was an EC-47 electronic eavesdropping aircraft shotdown Feb 5 1973 over Xekong Province, Laos a week after the Paris Peace Accords were signed. I can't remember if it was Joseph Matejov or Peter Cressman that wrote home questioning the legality of continuing to fly missions after the Accords. SAR efforts did a crashsite investigation several days later (I believe on the 9th), and found only the charred bodies of the 4 aviation crewmembers. The other 4 "back-enders" (Todd Melton, Joseph Matejov, Dale Brandenburg, Peter Cressman) were not in the aircraft, and the secretive equipment had been jettisoned as per SOP, and one pilot survival beacon had been detected post-crash. The NSA intercepted 4 separate NVA messages that stated 4 of the crewmembers had been captured, and communicated their transportation northward. Todd Melton reportedly escaped a NVNese prison camp with Walter Schmidt in 1979, but were recaptured.