It’s hard for me as a born and bred, high speed, low drag, strike fighter guy to admit this, but if I was a ground pounder? In a pinch? In a relatively permissive surface-to-air threat environment? I maybe wouldn’t want a Hornet on call. I’d maybe ask for an AC-130, if one was available.
I mean, a 2000 pound bomb leaves an impression, no doubt about it. A couple of them even more so. But one or two big thumps, bad guys die in clumps, but then the air goes home.
With an AC-130 overhead, you not only get loiter time, you also get ordnance. Not heavy ordnance, but 40mm cannons, 105mm cannons and a 25mm gun is not to be sneezed at. Taken together, these can result in bad guys getting dirtnapped in detail. In a hard spot, these big, lumbering birds can be angels on the shoulders of ground troops.
Angels on our shoulders.