No, the Taliban Didn’t Just Shoot Down an American Gunship
Propaganda video is full of holes—AC-130 isn’t
The Taliban posted a video to Youtube on April 29 depicting what it claims is its fighters shooting down a side-firing U.S. Air Force AC-130 gunship in Logar province, eastern Afghanistan.
Liar, liar, it’s not the AC-130 that’s on fire.
Watch the video, and you’ll see insurgents blasting away with a heavy machine gun mounted on a pickup truck. You see tracers streaking toward some kind of C-130-model aircraft. But the tracers seem to be arcing behind or in front of the aircraft. None appear to strike the plane.
The aircraft disappears over a hill. It doesn’t look like it’s on fire or suffering any kind of distress at all. The video then shows a damaged C-130 on the ground, with part of its right wing and tail sheared off.
Sadly for the Taliban propagandists, there are lots of little clues disproving their shoot-down claim.
Look closely at the 1:52 mark in the video and you can see six blades on the supposedly crashed AC-130. Only the C-130J model has six blades per engine—and the Air Force doesn’t yet deploy armed gunship versions of the C-130J. Not until 2017.
In fact, the image at 1:52 in the video is an official U.S. Air Force photo depicting a C-130J transport that accidentally skidded off the runway at Forward Operating Base Shank in Logar in May 2013. Yes, the plane was a write-off. Remote, rugged Shank practically eats NATO aircraft.
No, the Taliban can’t take credit.
Anyway, the lumbering AC-130s almost never fly during the day. The last time one did so in combat—over Kuwait in 1991—it got shot down. For real. All 14 crew members died.
And even if an AC-130 were flying over eastern Afghanistan in daytime, it’s not at all clear the Taliban’s 14.5-millimeter machine gun is adequate to bring down a gunship. Current AC-130 models are armored against gun calibers up to 37 millimeters, although a lucky hit could take out an engine.
The NATO International Security Assistance Force has also weighed in on the Taliban’s claim. ISAF officials told The Long War Journal that they were unaware of an AC-130—or any other aircraft—going down in Afghanistan … for any reason.
Look, insurgents regularly take responsibility for any incident involving coalition aircraft. On April 26, the Taliban claimed to have shot down a British Lynx helicopter, but the British military said technical difficulties were more likely to blame.