16th Special Operations Squadron [16th SOS]
The 16th SOS Spectre became operational October 30, 1968 at Ubon Royal Thai Air Force Base as part of the 8th Tactical Fighter Wing. Equipped first with the AC-130A model gunship and later with the more advanced AC-130E/H models, Spectre aircrews proudly flew the latest in the family of gunships which included the famous AC-47 Spooky, AC-119G Shadow and the AC-119K Stinger.
The Spectre was the most deadly night-flying weapons system in Southeast Asia. It destroyed or damaged an average of 10,000 trucks per year over the Ho Chi Minh Trail. Additional roles included defense of hamlets and fire bases, troops in contact with the enemy, convoy escort and battlefield illumination. The Spectre achieved 1,327 consecutive on-time combat mission launches. The Spectre moved to Korat Royal Thai Air Force Base, Thailand, July 19, 1974 as part of the 388th Tactical Fighter Wing, and concluded its involvement in Southeast Asia from that location. Having participated in every major campaign, The Spectre now supported the evacuations of Saigon, Phnom Penh and figured prominently in the rescue of the Mayaguez. Spectre's distinguished record in Southeast Asia was not achieved without cost; 52 aircrew members were killed in action. The Spectre moved to its present home as part of the 16th Special Operations Wing December 12, 1975. Modified for in-flight refueling, the gunships now have virtually unlimited range, demonstrated in November 1979, with a record endurance flight of 29.7 hours from Hurlburt to Andersen Air Force Base, Guam.
The Spectre was overhead in Grenada October 25, 1983 paving the way for the assault by multi-national forces which liberated the island. Spectre was praised for "saving the day" by providing last-second surveillance and intelligence to the air assault forces, silencing anti-aircraft artillery emplacements, knocking out enemy armored personnel carriers, defending political dignitaries surrounded by enemy troops and relieving troops in combat. From late December 1989 to early January 1990, the gunship participated in the reestablishment of democracy in the Republic of Panama during Operation Just Cause. By destroying the headquarters for the Panamanian Defense Force, and providing fire support for the Army Ranger assault on Rio Hato, the 16th SOS received both the MacKay Trophy and the Military Airlift Command Aircrew of the Year Award for 1989. The 16th SOS arrived in Saudi Arabia September 12, 1990 to participate in Operations Desert Shield/Storm, the protection of Saudi Arabia and liberation of Kuwait. The unit flew 50 combat missions in Desert Storm and lost one aircraft and 14 brave airmen January 31, 1991, while supporting coalition forces engaged in the Battle of Khafji, Saudi Arabia. During 1993 and 1994, the 16th SOS deployed to Africa in support of the United Nations relief operations in Somalia, Continue Hope. During this deployment, a gunship was destroyed, due to an in-borne detonation of the 105mm gun while airborne. Eight of the 14 aircrew members lost their lives.
The 16th SOS deployed to Italy in support of Operation DENY FLIGHT in January 1994 and remained until its termination Aug. 28, 1995. Spectre was actively patrolling the hostile skies over Bosnia-Herzegovina providing protective air cover and close air support to UN protection forces (UNPROFOR). While maintaining the Operation DENY FLIGHT mission, the 16th SOS was deployed to other parts of the world for 184 days. From Sept. 18 - Oct. 19, 1994, they deployed to Cuba in support of Operation UPHOLD DEMOCRACY providing air support to coalition forces in the ouster of Gen Raoul Cedras and restoration of the legitimate, democratic government of Jean-Bertrand Aristide in Haiti. From Jan. 30 - March 2, 1995, the 16th SOS returned to Africa in support of Operation UNITED SHIELD, the withdrawal of UN forces from Mogadishu, Somalia. On the final night of this operation, the gunships provided real time intelligence to ground commanders via armed recce and surveillance during the US Marine amphibious withdrawal from Mogadishu. From June 12-24, 1995 deployed to Germany for Exercise MOUNTAIN SHIELD I. This mission rehearsal was conducted with NATO ground forces for implementation with supporting operations within Bosnia.
Operation DENY FLIGHT became Operation DELIBERATE FORCE Aug. 19, 1995, the largest NATO air operation in history. On the first night, "GHOST-31", aircraft 69-6568 struck an artillery/mortar position southeast of Sarajevo marking the first time this aircraft had ever fired in combat. The 16th SOS flew multiple CSAR sorties from Sept. 6-8, 1995 in support of the rescue attempt of the French Mirage aircrew, callsign "EBRO-33", downed by a surface-to-air missile near Pale. Operation DELIBERATE FORCE lasted until Sept. 15, 1995, in this operation the 16th SOS expended 268 rounds of 105MM and 125 rounds of 40MM against early warning (EW) radar sites, command and control (C2) buildings, mortar/artillery positions, and ammunition storage areas. The squadron deployed to Germany in Sept 1995 to support of Exercise MOUNTAIN SHIELD II. This was a continuation of mission rehearsal training with NATO ground forces for integration of the gunship in multiple NATO operations within Bosnia.
Operation DECISIVE ENDEAVOR, part of the overall NATO Operation JOINT ENDEAVOR, began Dec. 21, 1995 when the Implementation Forces (IFOR) assumed responsibility for enforcing the military aspects of the Dayton Peace Accords and Spectre remains to date providing protective air power, close air support, armed recce, and surveillance in support of the peace efforts in Bosnia. The 16th SOS deployed from Italy to Senegal in support of Operation ASSURED RESPONSE from April 10-25, 1996. The gunships were requested to provide close air support to the Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) tasked to execute the evacuation of American citizens from the war torn city of Monrovia, Liberia. The 16th SOS redeployed to Brindisi, Italy, with two aircraft and aircrews from Dakar, Senegal to continue support of Operation DECISIVE ENDEAVOR from April 26 - Sept. 27 1996 until relieved by the 4th SOS providing support with the AC-130U. Deployed to Howard Air Force Base, Panama, with two aircraft and four aircrews from Sept. 14 - Oct. 9 1996 in support of CINCSOUTHCOM interests within the region.
The 16th SOS again deployed to Brindisi, Italy, with two aircraft and three aircrews to support Operation DELIBERATE/JOINT GUARD from April 22 - Oct. 14 1997 to support and aid in the activation of the Stabilization Force (SFOR) within Bosnia-Herzegovina. Forward deployed from Brindisi, Italy, to Southwest Asia from Oct. 15 - Nov. 17 1997 in support of joint exercise INHERENT FURY/IRIS GOLD with two aircraft and three aircrews. Deployed two aircraft and aircrews to Taegu Air Base, Republic of Korea, to augment the Air Expeditionary Force (AEF) from Jan. 31 to June 5, 1998 in support of Operation INDY. Performed 110 Maritime Counter-SOF, Air Base Ground Defense (ABGD), and Second ROK Army (SROKA) training missions with USN aircrews, USAF 320 Special Tactics Group, 6 SOS, and ROK personnel with a 100 percent launch rate. Ghost-31, Aircraft Commander: Capt. Kaufman, flew a 13.1 hour mission assisting in the search and rescue (SAR) for an F-16 pilot lost off the western Korean coast. They provided recconaisance and command/control for other SAR assets. Deployed two aircraft and aircrews to Brindisi, Italy, Aug. 12, 1998 in support of Operation Joint Forge, relieving the 4th SOS of operations in the Bosnian theater.
The 16th Special Operations Squadron is one of eight flying squadrons of the 16th Special Operations Wing at Hurlburt Field, Florida. The 16th SOS flies the AC-130H Spectre gunship, a modified Lockheed C-130E model and heavily armed aircraft designed for close air support, armed reconnaissance, interdiction, night search and rescue, and airborne command and control. The 16th SOS trains and maintains its combat-ready force to provide highly accurate firepower in support of both conventional and unconventional forces. The 16th SOS guidon is adorned with two Presidential Unit Citations, four Air Force Outstanding Unit Awards with devices for valor, 10 campaign streamers and the Republic of Vietnam Cross of Gallantry with Palm.