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Vietnam: Part II Uses of Air Power. Uses of Air Power Background. 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

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Vietnam: Part IIUses of Air Power


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Uses of Air PowerBackground

  • 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


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Uses of Air PowerBackground

  • 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

  • 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


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Uses of Air Power1964 to 1968

  • 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


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Uses of Air PowerDuring Vietnamization

  • Train the South Vietnamese Air Force (VNAF)

  • Support the South Vietnamese Army

  • Forestall suspected enemy attacks against withdrawing American units


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Uses of Air PowerInterdiction

  • 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


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Uses of Air PowerClose Air Support

  • 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


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Close Air Support ( Cont)

  • 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


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Uses of Air PowerTactical Airlift

  • Vital to successful US operations because of poor security on roads

  • Aircraft used: UH-1 Hueys, C-7 Caribous,

    C-123 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


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Uses of Air PowerReconnaissance

  • 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


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Uses of Air PowerSearch and Rescue

  • 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


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Uses of Air PowerAir to Air Refueling

  • 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


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Campaigns:“Rolling Thunder”

  • 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


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Rolling Thunder

  • 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

  • Employed mostly tactical aircraft -- F-105s, F-4s and F-111s -- B-52s used in ‘66 in the Southern part of North Vietnam


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Rolling ThunderRestrictions

  • 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


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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

  • By 1965, it became clear that Rolling Thunder didn’t work


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Rolling Thunder

  • 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

  • Johnson ended Rolling Thunder prior to 1968 elections

  • Campaign, America’s longest, was a failure


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Linebacker I

  • 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

  • A systematic campaign with little civilian control -- unlike Rolling Thunder


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Linebacker I

  • 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


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Linebacker I

  • 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

  • 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


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Linebacker II

  • 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”


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Linebacker II

  • 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


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Linebacker II

  • 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


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Summary

  • Uses of Airpower

    • Interdiction Close Air Support

    • Airlift Air Refueling

    • Reconnaissance Search and Rescue

  • Rolling Thunder

  • Linebacker I

  • Linebacker II


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