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War in Southeast Asia and the Uses of Air Power

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Vietnam: Part II
Uses of Air Power
Uses of Air Power
Background
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War was primarily a land war -- most air
power used in conjunction with ground
operations
North stayed above DMZ, so air superiority
over the South was never a concern
In-country operations centered around
interdiction, close air support, airlift, recce,
search and rescue and air refueling
Uses of Air Power
Background
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After Tonkin, US air units built up rapidly
US Air Force occupied 10 major air bases
• All were built and defended by the Air Force
• Huge logistical effort
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Also flew from 6 bases in Thailand
Navy flew from carriers in Gulf of Tonkin
B-52s flew from Guam and, at times, from
the US
Uses of Air Power
1964 to 1968
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Forestall suspected enemy offensives
Defend and supply isolated outposts
Interdict the Southern end of the Ho Chi
Minh Trail
• a series of roads and paths through the
dense jungle
• North Vietnam’s primary supply route into
South Vietnam
Uses of Air Power
During Vietnamization
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Train the South Vietnamese Air Force
(VNAF)
Support the South Vietnamese Army
Forestall suspected enemy attacks
against withdrawing American units
Uses of Air Power
Interdiction
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A major mission during SEA war
Aircraft used: F-4 Phantom, F-100 Super
Sabre, F-105 Thunderchief (Thud), AC-130
Gunships
Best known interdiction aircraft was the B-52-a nuclear bomber modified to carry
conventional bombs
• Arc Light--Name for B-52 interdiction missions
Uses of Air Power
Close Air Support
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Missions to support forces of the ground
Aircraft used: A-4 Skyhawk, F-4, F-100, A-37
Dragonfly, A-1 Skyraider and AC-47 Gunships
(Puff the Magic Dragon)
Gunships, cargo aircraft armed with rapid-fire
machine guns, were very effective
Forward Air Controllers (FACs) were used to
locate the enemy and mark targets for faster
flying jets
Close Air Support ( Cont)
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B-52 Arc Light aircraft were occasionally
used for close air support
B-52 were used extensively in close air
support at Khe Sanh
• Flew 2,548 sorties and dropped bombs
within 300 yards of of US Marine perimeter

B-52 credited with saving Khe Sanh and
repelling the Tet and Easter Offensives
Uses of Air Power
Tactical Airlift
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Vital to successful US operations because of
poor security on roads
Aircraft used: UH-1 Hueys, C-7 Caribous, C123 Providers and C-130 Hercules
Missions often flown while under attack
Supplies often air-dropped because of enemy
fire and poor landing facilities
A major factor in keeping Khe Sanh alive
Uses of Air Power
Reconnaissance
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Aircraft used: RF-4C, RB-57 Canberra
and RB-66 Destroyers
Aircraft were equipped with variety of
cameras and sensing devices
Missions consisted of locating lucrative
targets and assessing battle damage
A valuable part of repelling Tet and
protecting Khe Sanh
Uses of Air Power
Search and Rescue
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An extremely important part of the air support
mission throughout Southeast Asia
Buttressed aircrew morale -- fliers knew every
effort would be made to save them if shot
down
Aircraft used: HH-3 Jolly Green Giants and
HH-53 Super Jolly Greens
By’73, USAF had rescued 3,883 Americans
Uses of Air Power
Air to Air Refueling
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Indispensable -- extended the range of
combat aircraft and enabled many aircraft to
return safely
C-130s refueled helicopters, KC-135s
refueled fixed wing aircraft
SAC tankers flew 195,000 sorties, unloaded 9
billion pounds of fuel and took part in 814,000
individual refuelings
Campaigns:
“Rolling Thunder”
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Officially began 2 March 1965
Objectives
• Interdict the flow of supplies from the
North
• Force the North to stop supporting the
Vietcong and quit the war
• Raise South Vietnamese morale
Rolling Thunder
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Strategic bombing and interdiction campaign
• Strategic because it was aimed at the North’s will to
wage war
• Interdiction because the North had few large industries
and got most of their material from China and the
Soviet Union
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Employed mostly tactical aircraft -- F-105s, F-4s
and F-111s -- B-52s used in �66 in the Southern
part of North Vietnam
Rolling Thunder
Restrictions
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Johnson administration controlled
campaign tightly
Restriction imposed by civilians included:
• Hanoi, Haiphong, China border -- off limits
• MIG bases and non-firing SAM sites--off limits
• Dams, dikes, hydroelectric plants--off limits

White House selected targets, weapons
and flying routes -- with little military input
Rolling Thunder

Graduated increases in bombing intensity
worked to advantage of North Vietnamese
• Gave them time to recover from damage
• Allowed them to establish the world’s most intense
antiaircraft defense system
• Provided them the will to fight on and a sense they
could survive
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By 1965, it became clear that Rolling Thunder
didn’t work
Rolling Thunder
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Impacts
• South’s morale improved as the North suffered under
the bombing
• North used frequent halts and restrictions to repair
damage and resupply forces in South
• Criticism grew at home and internationally
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Johnson ended Rolling Thunder prior to 1968
elections
Campaign, America’s longest, was a failure
Linebacker I
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Easter Offensive (Mar �72) made it apparent
the North was not willing to negotiate
Objectives of Linebacker
• Initially a close air support effort to aid retreating
South Vietnamese forces
• Later, changed to an interdiction campaign against
North Vietnam
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A systematic campaign with little civilian
control -- unlike Rolling Thunder
Linebacker I
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Civilian casualties were a consideration but
didn’t determine how missions were flown
Haiphong harbor was mined for the first time
to restrict in-coming supplies
Strikes were flown over Hanoi and Haiphong
-- B-52 strikes on Haiphong began April �72
“Smart bombs’ were used extensively
Linebacker I
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Linebacker I was the most successful US
bombing campaign of the war
• Had more impact on the North Vietnam in 9 months
than Rolling Thunder did in 4 years
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Successful largely because Easter Offensive
was a conventional, mechanized attack
Peace Talks resumed in July 1972
Nixon restricted Linebacker I attacks to below
the 20th parallel
Linebacker II
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Peace Talks stalled again in Dec �72
Nixon ordered Linebacker II to run
concurrently with Linebacker I
Purpose of Linebacker II was to force the
North Vietnamese to negotiate and sign a
peace treaty
Ran from 18 Dec to 30 Dec 1972 -- referred
to as the “Christmas Campaign”
Linebacker II
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Very intense and logistically complex
Specific targets in Hanoi and Haiphong
B-52s used for the first time over Hanoi
By the end of Linebacker II, North
Vietnam was defenseless
• 1,200 SAMs were fired
• 80% of the North’s electrical systems and
25% of their POL facilities were destroyed
Linebacker II
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North Vietnam returned to the
bargaining table 30 Dec �72
All bombing ceased on 15 Jan �73
Peace treaty was signed on 27 Jan �73
Linebacker II was a success
• Some believe that if Rolling Thunder had
been conducted like Linebacker II, the war
would have ended in �65 -- unlikely
Summary
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Uses of Airpower
• Interdiction
• Airlift
• Reconnaissance
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Rolling Thunder
Linebacker I
Linebacker II
Close Air Support
Air Refueling
Search and Rescue
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