Saturday, March 04, 2006

U.S. Unleashing 'Spooky' To Haunt Iraqi Insurgents

By Charles J. Hanley, Associated Press
Houston Chronicle
March 4, 2006

AN AIR BASE IN IRAQ - The U.S. Air Force has begun moving heavily armed AC-130 airplanes — the lethal "flying gunships" of the Vietnam War — to a base in Iraq as commanders search for new tools to counter the Iraqi resistance, the Associated Press has learned.

An AP reporter saw the first of the turboprop-driven aircraft — nicknamed "Spooky" — after it landed at the airfield this week. Four are expected.

The Iraq-based special forces command controlling the AC-130s, the Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force, said it would have no comment on the deployment. But the plan's general outline was confirmed by other Air Force officers, speaking anonymously because of the sensitivity of the subject.

Military officials warned that disclosing the location of the aircraft's new base would violate rules on media access.

The gunships, whose base is Hurlburt Field in Florida, have operated over Iraq before.

In November 2004, air-to-ground fire from AC-130s supported the U.S. attackn that tookthe city of Fallujah. from insurgents. Basing the planes inside Iraq will cut hours off their flight time to suspected targets.

The use of AC-130s against urban targets has been criticized by human rights groups.

"It's got tons of guns, and it's got all kinds of stuff on it that can be applied to the problems you have," said Brig. Gen. Frank Gorenc.

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