The Douglas AC-47 Spooky was the first in a series of gunships developed by the United States Air Force during the Vietnam War. It was felt that more firepower than could be provided by light and medium attack aircraft was needed in some situations when ground forces called for close air support.
The AC-47 was a United States Air Force C-47 Skytrain that had been modified by mounting three 7.62 mm General Electric miniguns to fire through two rear window openings and the side cargo door, all on the left (pilot's) side of the aircraft. Other armament configurations could also be found on similar C-47 based aircraft around the world. The guns were actuated by a control on the pilot's yoke, where he could control the guns either individually or together, though gunners were also among the crew to assist with gun failures and similar issues. Its primary function was for close air support for ground troops, both U.S. and South Vietnamese. Once called into action, it could loiter, orbiting the designated target, sometimes for hours, providing suppressing fire. A three-second burst from all guns, according to Air Force reports, would put one round in every square foot of a football field sized target. As it carried over 24,000 rounds of ammunition, it was highly unpopular with those on the receiving end of its fire and extremely popular with the troops it flew in support of, who gave it the nickname of Puff the Magic Dragon. In addition to the miniguns, it also carried flares, which it could drop at will to light up the battleground.
Due to the age of its base airframe, the aircraft was very vulnerable to ground fire. Consequently, further gunship designs, the AC-119 gunship and the AC-130 gunship were developed, based around newer cargo airframes.