November 9, 2009: The U.S. Air Force is modifying the fire control software on its AC-130H gunships so the 105mm howitzer and 40mm autocannon can track and shoot at different targets at the same time. Currently, the two weapons can both be aimed at only one target at a time. The AC-130s are also being tested using missiles, like Hellfire.
U.S. Air Force operates 25 of these gunships (eight AC-130H "Spectre", and 17 AC-130U "Spooky"). The AC-130U has an additional 25mm autocannon, and always had the capability to track more than one target at a time. Because of their vulnerability to ground fire, the AC-130s only operate at night. The last time an AC-130 was lost was at Khafji, Saudi Arabia, during the 1991 Persian Gulf War. The aircraft was leaving the combat zone at sunrise, and was visible to Iraqi gunners in the area.
In the works are 17 new AC-130 gunships, using the new C-130J aircraft. The air force operates the AC-130s as part of SOCOM (Special Operations Command.)