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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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uses of air power background
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
uses of air power background3
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
uses of air power 1964 to 1968
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
uses of air power during vietnamization
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
uses of air power interdiction
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
uses of air power close air support
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
close air support cont
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
uses of air power tactical airlift
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
uses of air power reconnaissance
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
uses of air power search and rescue
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
uses of air power air to air refueling
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
campaigns rolling thunder
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
rolling thunder
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
rolling thunder restrictions
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
rolling thunder16
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
rolling thunder17
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
linebacker i
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
linebacker i19
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
linebacker i20
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
linebacker ii
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”
linebacker ii22
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
linebacker ii23
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
  • Uses of Airpower
    • Interdiction Close Air Support
    • Airlift Air Refueling
    • Reconnaissance Search and Rescue
  • Rolling Thunder
  • Linebacker I
  • Linebacker II