1st SOW has the MC130, which is their troop carrier aircraft, and which also has the capability to pluck a single individual out of an open field without landing, using a device called the Fulton Recovery System, aka the Skyhook.

This gizmo has been around for years. In fact James Bond used it at the end of Thunderball. For a number of years it was out of service in Special Forces, because Brigadier General Joe Stillwell, the younger, son of the famed WWII general, decided to test it personally. The pilot was understandably nervous about picking up a general. The skyhook is a leather suit with a long nylon rope attached to a balloon. The specially equipped C-130 making the pick-up has what is essentially a big set of tongs in front that catches the rope.

The rope has about a 25 per cent stretch factor, but it’s still a hell of a jolt to be sitting still, and be picked up by an aircraft going about 130 mph. So, General Stillwell’s pilot came in rrrreeeeaaaallll slow. The general went up in the air and slammed into the ground, then he went up again and slammed into the ground again, and again. Broke every bone in his body. He decided the FRS wasn’t really a good idea and grounded them.

But now they’re back in service, and the pilots know not to go too slow.

The AC130H Spectre gunship is a flying weapons platform loaded to the gills with machineguns, grenade launchers, bofers guns, and a 105mm cannon. To direct these it has every kind of target acquisition device known to man; television, night-vision, infra-red, thermal imaging, everything.

The original Spectre gunship was designed to bust trucks on the Ho Chi Minh trail. Henry Zeybel, a retired air force navigator who was the TV guy on a Spectre in Vietnam wrote the book “Gunship.” The targets were acquired by the crew, but the pilot fired all the guns. Zeybel described the best pilot he ever flew with this way. “He was firing the guns like he was keeping time to an album titled ‘Jimi Hendrix Goes Completely Fucking Nuts.’” Zeybel swears that once when they were getting heavy anti-aircraft, this guy rolled a Spectre. Anybody will tell you that’s impossible, with a four-engine cargo aircraft, but Zeybel swears it happened.

One thing those ships have now that they didn’t have then was women in the crew. In Afghanistan there was a young Spectre Weapons Service Officer, a Captain Allison, nicknamed “Ally, the Angel of Death.”

She would get on the radio to SF guys working with the Northern Alliance. Their general, Dostum, would then contact the Al-Queda formations they were fighting, and patch Ally through. A New Yorker, still seething over 9/11, she would purr, “I understand you guys don’t treat your women very well. You really should change that.” She would then rain 105mm howitzer shells and 40mm grenades down on them, in a feminist statement that made her point with great conviction.