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Powerful Gunships Prowl Iraq, and Limits Show

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Powerful Gunships Prowl Iraq, and Limits Show

Iraq

Powerful Gunships Prowl Iraq, and Limits Show

Powerful Gunships Prowl Iraq, and Limits Show

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/7608428/7608432" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

The AC-130 — known as "Spectre" or the newer "Spooky" — is the modern version of the old "Puff the Magic Dragon" gunship that was flown in Vietnam.

In essence, the turboprop-driven craft is a flying battleship, a converted C-130 cargo plane with numerous Gatling and mini-guns; some even have a howitzer on board.

This is the plane the U.S. military calls in to hit targets hard from above; it has been used in Iraq, Somalia and Afghanistan.

But the precision of the heavily armed AC-130's is limited — and many question its value in the city-based fight against insurgents and death squads that makes up the battle for Baghdad.