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AC-130W Static Display Unveiled

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Vernon R. Walter III
  • 27th Special Operations Wing

 The 27th Special Operations Wing unveiled the Excalibur II, an AC-130W Stinger II static display, to honor its dedication as a wartime aircraft March 21, 2024, at Cannon Air Force Base, New Mexico.

In July 2007, the commander of U. S. Special Operations Command declared the need to bolster the gunship fleet. Using rapid acquisition principles and combat-proven technology, USSOCOM fielded the precision strike package on the MC-130W Dragon Spear. Less than 18 months after the initial test flight, the newly modified aircraft deployed in support of Operation NEW DAWN.

The Excalibur II, or Tail No. 88-1308, was one of the first original test aircraft in 2010 and the first AC-130W to fire 30 mm rounds. Over its career, the aircraft accrued 1,204 combat hours.

In May 2012, the MC-130W Dragon Spear was renamed the AC-130W Stinger II. The AC-130W supported many operations, including Operation NEW DAWN, Operation ENDURING FREEDOM, Operation INHERENT RESOLVE, Operation FREEDOM’S SENTINEL and Operation ALLIES REFUGE.

In just over 10 years of service the Stinger II flew a combined 2,170 combat sorties, totaling over 15,000 hours. In this time, they expended nearly 300,000 rounds of 30 mm and 105 mm ammunition and over 2,000 precision guided munitions in support of close air support, direct fire and air interdiction missions.

During Operation INHERENT RESOLVE, the AC-130W worked alongside conventional and special operations forces to drive the Islamic State out of Iraq and Syria. The efforts of the men and women of the 16th Special Operations Squadron contributed to ISIS’ surrender of the key cities of Raqqa, Syria, and Mosul, Iraq.

During the ceremony, U.S. Air Force Col. Kaveri Crum, 1st Special Operations Wing Deputy Commander, highlighted the historical impacts of the aircraft.

“Thirteen-o-eight is the last of the whiskeys,” said Crum. “Her eleven friends have long left her to carry on the legacy, but today this aircraft gets a well-deserved retirement and a fitting resting place.”

Excalibur II had multiple significant events decorating its career. It was the first gunship to employ the M2 Laser Designator and to employ the Small Diameter Bomb (SDB) and Griffin Missile from the Block 10 configuration. It was the first to flight test the Helmet Mounted Display and the first to use Tactical Systems Operator equipment on the AC-130W platform.

“From her ramp, we launched the first PGMs (Precision Guided Munitions), from her wings we launched the first SDBs, and from her sides we fired the first 30 mm,” said Crum. “Every shot was another drumbeat pushing us further.”

In the summer of 2021, the AC-130W shifted theaters from Iraq to Afghanistan one last time. After over 20 years of conducting operations against the Taliban and other violent extremist organizations, the AC-130W was tasked with protecting American and coalition forces as they vetted thousands of fleeing Afghan civilians through Kabul’s Hamid Karzai International Airport. The Stinger IIs and their crews flew nightly overwatch missions, logging as many flight hours as they were legally allowed to defend the retrograding personnel.

In August 2021, the AC-130W flew its final combat mission as the last American forces departed Kabul.

“This beautiful machine represents something much greater than a combination of nuts and bolts,” said Crum. “It represents intangibles, like people, courage and service.”

The Excalibur II now lives on as a display at Cannon as part of the Steadfast Line to honor the AC-130W enterprise and the Air Commandos that served with it.