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COURTESY PHOTO A preflight check of the 105mm howitzer cannon on a AC-130U gunship in July at Hurlburt Field, Florida. Training exercises this week at the Avon Park Air Force Range included the firing of the howitzer cannon from the gunship.

AVON PARK — The distant booms you may have heard recently in the evening hours where likely C4 explosives or high-explosive 105mm rounds fired from a U.S. Air Force gunship aircraft.

It is all part of the Avon Park Air Force Range’s important role as a military training site used by hundreds of pilots and ground forces each year.

“That can get loud!” said Ryan Callaghan, SSgt, USAF, Media Operations, Moody Air Force Base, Georgia.

The ground and airspace is used by units across the Department of Defense as well as by agencies such as NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration), U.S. Customs and the Department of Homeland Security – occasionally at the same time, he said.

On Monday and Tuesday, for example, there were Tactical Air Control Party specialists working with the AC-130s to direct live-fire from the aircraft to a target on the ground – at the same time, there were Explosive Ordnance Disposal teams conducting detonation training with C4 explosives, Callaghan explained.

The Explosive Ordnance Disposal teams departed the range on Tuesday, however the AC-130s concluded their training on Friday.

“The booms you heard were almost certainly either the C4 or the high-explosive 105mm rounds fired by the gunship,” Callaghan said. When you see the sheer size of the 105mm round, the extraordinary boom will make sense.

“Truly a unique space at Avon Park — there aren’t many places where we can conduct all this training,” he said.

The AC-130U Spooky Gunship’s primary missions are close air support, air interdiction and armed reconnaissance, according to military.com.

It is heavily armed aircraft incorporating side-firing weapons integrated with sophisticated sensor, navigation and fire control systems to provide surgical firepower or area saturation during extended loiter periods, at night and in adverse weather.

The sensor suite consists of a television sensor, infrared sensor and radar. These sensors allow the gunship to visually or electronically identify friendly ground forces and targets.

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