The Reason Russia Wants Its Own Scary “Spookovik” Gunship

Michael Peck

Key point: Moscow has seen what America's AC-130 gunships can do and they want to replicate the Air Force's success.

Call it the “Spookovik.”

Russia wants to make its own version of America’s legendary AC-130 “Spooky” gunship.

“An analogue of American AC-130 aircraft directly supporting ground forces on the AC-130 battlefield is being developed in Russia,” according to Russian news agency TASS. “An advance design has already been developed on the basis of the An-12 transport with 57-millimeter guns.”

“The OCD [experimental design work] is to develop a flying battery -- an aircraft directly supporting troops on the battlefield, similar to the American AC-130 gunships,” a Russian defense source told TASS during a recent defense trade show. “The An-12 military transport aircraft with two 57-mm guns will be used as a flying laboratory.”

While the U.S. Air Force has favored the 105-millimeter cannon as the big gun on the AC-130, Russia favors the smaller 57-millimeter for the Spookovik, as well as its newer armored troop carriers and self-propelled anti-aircraft artillery. However, the Russian gunship would be armed with smaller-caliber guns and automatic grenade launchers.

That’s more or less comparable to the Lockheed Martin AC-130, a gun-toting C-130 Hercules transport that combines a cargo plane’s lift capacity and long-range with artillery too heavy to be carried by a fighter. Its combat debut dates back to the late 1960s, when the legendary AC-130A appeared out of the dark skies to hose down the Viet Cong with 40- and 20-millimeter cannon, and 7.62-millimeter miniguns. The AC-130H Spectre and its 105-millimeter cannon appeared in 1972, followed by the current AC-130U Spooky, armed with a 105-millimeter, a 40-millimeter, and a 25-millimeter cannon—not much less than the gun armament of a U.S. Navy destroyer. The newest AC-130J Ghostrider has 105- and 30-millimeter cannon, plus smart weapons such as the Small Diameter Bomb and the Griffin mini-missile.

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