Air Weapons: November 6, 2002


One of the new weapons to develop out of the Afghanistan campaign was AC-130 gunships working with Predator UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles.) The Predator carries a video camera that transmits what it sees in real time via a satellite link. Four AC-130s were equipped to receive the Predator video in real time. Thus equipped, the AC-130s were able to quickly show up and destroy targets that the Predators had spotted. This proved to be particularly useful in the Afghanistan fighting, where the Taliban and al Qaeda would move around in civilian vehicles, or cross country on foot or on horseback. Small groups of commandos could not watch keep an eye on a large chunk of terrain. Satellites or recon aircraft can also transmit live video, but cannot hang around as long as the Predator can (12 hours or more.) One AC-130 can work with several Predators acting as scouts, making it very dangerous for the enemy to try and sneak around day, or night. Based on the success of the AC-130/Predator combination, SOCOM (Special Operations Command) is equipping all of it's 13 AC-130s to handle live video feeds, and is buying four more AC-130s as well.




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