Jump to content
Sign in to follow this  
MaverickMike

Air power in 'Nam

Recommended Posts

I was thinking recently about a 'what if' scenario and was wondering if anyone would like to express their opinion.

 

What if US involvement in the vietnam war continued into 1978 (for whatever reason)? How much of an impact do you think the F-15A and the A-10A would have had on the war? Would the soviets have introduced their own most modern aircraft into the scenario? Could it have exploded into World War III?

 

Just something I have been thinking about and thought it would pose an interesting discussion for those people interested in these aircraft or the vietnam war in general

 

Mike

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

A lot of hypotheticals there. In the real world, the Tomcat flew sorties during Frequent Wind, but no MiGs came up to play. Had the war been continued on a larger scale, both it and the F-15 would have provided more capable frames to both the Navy and the Air Force within visual range, but considering that the USN F-4 crews had shown what that airframe could do with good ACM training, I do wonder if the kill ratio would be significantly different.

 

For that matter, the long range, powerful radars of the F-14 and F-15 would have helped find opponents, but considering the ROE, they would probably not have had any easier time launching missiles at range against opposing aircraft. I don't feel the A-10 would have had that great an impact either; namely because the A-1, F-105, A-4 and even F-4 were providing CAS.

 

Would they have helped? Tactically they could have, but given all of the airframes already involved, I don't think that those frames would have made a huge turning point in the war. History generally tells me that the equipment is less important than the tactics, training, leadership and luck of any force.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

What Ceasar said.

 

Also, the Soviets were not really known to hand over their latest and most modern equipment to their 'allies' anyway. And I doubt that the Soviets ever considered to become involved in Vietnam directly.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

if the war had lasted into 1978 or so, the F-14A would have probably not made many forays over the beach, as it would have been used for the role it was designed for, as a fleet defender. The F-15A would have been used as an escort, and the F-4G would have taken over the WW role from the F-105G. I strongly doubt that the A-10 would have been used there.

 

What would have made a real difference, would have been the AIM-9L. Had an all-aspect IRM been available to US forces by '76-'77 (in RL, the 9L was undergoing testing as early as 1978), in all likelihood, the VPAF would have been all but eliminated had they continued to sortie.

 

Keep in mind, that unlike most other Soviet clients, North Vietnam wasn't swimming in oil money, so I doubt they would have fielded the MiG-23 in any numbers. (The MiG-23s that were based out of Cam Rahn Bay during the 1980s were Soviet-owned birds that were reportedly "leased" to the VPAF.)

 

The big question in that scenario, would have been when (not if), the NVA would have recieved the SA-3, the SA-6, and the SA-8.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

In terms of the technological advances offered by the newer aircraft, I do think they would have been very successful in BVR air to air combat. However by 1968 the war in Vietnam had already been "lost" due to the way politics controlled the war (we all know this story of course). So technology would probably have not been a "war winner" like it was to a certain degree in Desert Storm. I do agree though that the F-15, F-14, A-10 etc would have wreaked havoc on supply lines, oil, and transportation, and in addition to achieving air superiority would have halted the North Vietnamese advance dramatically. I do think the A-10 with its precision guided munitions, and fantastic CAS ability would have made a difference in the ground war in the south, but the determination and high morale of the NVA, and VC as well as their incredible ability to use stoneage style tactics effectively against modern technology(1966-1975 era) would still probably have lead them to victory even in 1978.

 

But it is a very interesting thing to consider, I'll admit I've thought about this before many times.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

 

The big question in that scenario, would have been when (not if), the NVA would have recieved the SA-3, the SA-6, and the SA-8.

I thought they already had SA-3.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Yeah you're right, the NVA recieved their first examples in 1973 I believe.

 

After the January '73 accords. Nixon and Kissenger had reportedly threatened to treat the Israelis to a "US arms shopping holiday" if the Soviets armed the NVA with the SA-3 (during the war).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

After the January '73 accords. Nixon and Kissenger had reportedly threatened to treat the Israelis to a "US arms shopping holiday" if the Soviets armed the NVA with the SA-3 (during the war).

 

That makes sense, i allways wondered why didn´t NVA get those SAMs or an air defence at the middle eastern (soviet) style.

 

I guess that Ezlead and his companions would have got a lot of SEAD job, and finally the US would have dealt with it, but that would have been dreadful for a while.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

On the SA-3 front there where reliable reports from the Weasel Crews of a Black Sam which operated differently to the SA-2 which could have been the SA-3 and the missile didn't look like a SA-2 so could be speculation or the NVA could have been given a couple of units to test them out... will have to dig out my Iron Hand book...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I can't remember the exact source from which I initially learned that the NVA had SA-3 sites in 1972-73. However I found this link today which apparently shows an SA-3 site in North Vietnam, but I'm not sure of the whole story. I don't think the SA-3 was ever used in any medium to large scale though.

 

http://www.militaryi....php/photo/5107

Edited by warthog64

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I think this topic would make an interesting scenario in the TW sims. I would really like to take the warthog down the Ho Chi Minh trail kicking commie ass.

 

Back on topic though, I guess what it really boils down to is, does air power win wars?

 

Mike

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I don't think that the F-14 would have weighed much if the restrictive RoEs were not lifted. The A-10 could have been a fine asset to prevent the PAVN to gather a large armoured force and use it in the open, a larger force than the embryo seen during the Easter Offensive. But I think that the main improvements could have been new AIM-9 missiles, as Fubar said, and mostly, new AWACS aircraft like the E-3 Sentry, as many of the US air casualties seem to have been shot down in ambushes from the clouds by GCI-guided air Congs.

 

Anyway, I don't think that the war could have still lasted for such a long time. If the Soviets kept clever enough not to openly get involved, they would have left the US internal political situation go rotten by itself. You want hypothetical disaster scenarios? Imagine a 5th column made of refractory conscripts and deserters not wanting to die in Bambooland, much more dangerous and trained than the pleasant long-haired marijuana smokers. Provided no sign of withdrawal ever took place, imagine the election of the first self-claimed Socialist President in 1976, taking advantage of Hoover's death!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Back on topic though, I guess what it really boils down to is, does air power win wars?

 

Waaaay too broad of a question.

 

You have to remember that war is simply the use of force to achieve political objectives. So to win a war, you have to consider the political objectives of both sides.

 

Also, air power is very rarely used in a vacuum. Air power can be used for strategic objectives (infrastructure) or tactical objectives (tanks, troops, etc). How air power is used to achieve those objectives, and how relevant those objectives are to the overall situation will determine how effective air power is overall in the conflict.

 

For instance, it can be argued that for the Pacific part of WWII and for Desert Storm, air power was an essential part of the strategy that achieved the overall political objective in a relatively timely manner. However, Vietnam and Korea were examples of air power being less decisive, partially because the political objectives were significantly different.

 

In my opinion, the only way air power by itself could decisively win a war is if your objective is utter destruction...genocidally wiping a specific piece of territory clean of anyone who lives there through the use of air-deliverable weapons. Any other objective, then it becomes a matter of 'it depends'.

 

FC

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The SA-3 Goa, soviet name Newa, was delivered in small numbers in early 1973 and was used as airfield defence SAM.

 

You should not forget, that the F-15A was in the first time restricted to 6.3g flight limit. A slotted F-4E was able to hold against such a limited Eagle. German F-4F pilots still today tell their stories how they butchered the first Eagles in mock up combats. The MiG-21 was able to beat the F-4E and F in dogfight if it was in the hands of a skilled and physically capable pilot. A lot of vietnamese pilots were physicaly not able to withstand to much G force. That the US Phantoms could beat the MiG-21 at low altittutes was caused more by the pilot limits than the limits of the MiG-21.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

However, Vietnam and Korea were examples of air power being less decisive, partially because the political objectives were significantly different.

 

FC

 

The unquestionable success obtained during the large-scale offensive "Linebacker II" should have had a great political weigh during the negotiations in 1973. Unfortunately, the US politicians wasted it, being too hurry to close their cases and move out.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

During Linebacker II we flew 2 or 3 "Alpha " strikes a day,7 days a week. An "Alpha" strike was 1 or 2 carriers total aircraft involved in each strike. That means 60 to 100 aircraft involved in each strike.

In the EA-6A we "jammed" all enemy radars and comm. for every strike. We would have "jammed" the SA-3 radars as well as the SA-2's.

The Air Force did almost the same thing out of South Vietnam and Thailand.

A-6B's(Navy) and F-4's(Air Force) did "Iron Hand".

We still couldn't go 'downtown'(Hanoi and Haiphong).

When Nixon finally got pissed at North Vietnamese he instituted Linebacker III. Full UNRESTRICTED bombing of the North. That meant F-4's,B-52's and "Alpha" strikes everywhere up North.

Contrary to popular belief most of our 'frags'(strike orders) came out of D.C. not local command.

Newer aircraft would not have made as big an impact on the war as precision guided munitions. We just started getting Walleyes and LGB's. They would have made an incredible impact on the prosecution of the war. Less aircraft involved with much more precision hits on targets.

If your looking to make an increase in the War,make China start getting more involved(non-nuclear)like in Korea.

That would make a good 'what-if' scenario for the newer airframes (Ours and Theirs).

Sorry to 'ramble on' about this ,but been there-done that.

Edited by ezlead

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks for your input Ezlead. Its good to hear from someone who was there.

 

As far as CAS goes, do you think the A-10 would have made an impact?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The A-10 would most definately have made a large impact.

Slower speed over the target,longer loiter time,manueverability,plus the awesome weapon load would have made it a great asset.

Put the newer precision guided munitions on it and look out.

 

Don't forget to put flares and chaff on your 'what-if' aircraft.

We had them! Most all aircraft were being fitted or retro fitted for them by late '72.

NVA also had some Soviet versions of Stinger by mid '72.

In July '72,My buddy came off target,saw the stinger launch and broke left.

He lost the entire left stabilator on his A-6 when it hit.

He nursed it back to Danang and landed safely.

Everybody started carrying flares of some sort after that.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

NVA also had some Soviet versions of Stinger by mid '72.

In July '72,My buddy came off target,saw the stinger launch and broke left.

He lost the entire left stabilator on his A-6 when it hit.

He nursed it back to Danang and landed safely.

Everybody started carrying flares of some sort after that.

 

Crikey - he got very lucky!

 

Was this different to the SA-7?, or was that the version of the stinger you refer to here?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I don't think the Stinger existed back then. The SA-7 might have been the first to be widely used, but I'm not sure if it was THE first.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Don't forget to put flares and chaff on your 'what-if' aircraft.

We had them! Most all aircraft were being fitted or retro fitted for them by late '72.

NVA also had some Soviet versions of Stinger by mid '72.

In July '72,My buddy came off target,saw the stinger launch and broke left.

He lost the entire left stabilator on his A-6 when it hit.

He nursed it back to Danang and landed safely.

Everybody started carrying flares of some sort after that.

 

Great posts ezlead, it's great to hear veterans such as yourself share their stories.

 

Also how common were SA-7 attacks in 1972? Were they used pretty much everywhere the NVA fought in both North and South Vietnam? I have heard from my father that MANPAD's are one of the toughest defences to counter over the battlefield.

 

Thanks

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I don't think the Stinger existed back then. The SA-7 might have been the first to be widely used, but I'm not sure if it was THE first.

 

I think the redeye was older.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Not real sure what they were,SA-7 sounds right.

They were widely scattered all over(North and South).

Usually about 2 or 3 shots at aircraft a day.

Not many when your talking about several hundred sorties a day.

You had to be ready for them,because you wouldn't know where they were.

If a FAC was on station,he would watch for them and give you a "break" call on the radio.

Otherwise ,the number 4 man in the formation would watch until lead was off target and then lead would watch. They would take turns if there was more than one pass.

Of course,the SA-7 shooter had to haul ass after he fired,because the next aircraft in would target him. :yikes:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thats interesting - thanks for sharing that info - gives real insight on how SA-7s were actually dealt with in Nam, which I havent seen before.

 

:drinks:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this  

×

Important Information

By using this site, you agree to our Terms of Use, Privacy Policy, and We have placed cookies on your device to help make this website better. You can adjust your cookie settings, otherwise we'll assume you're okay to continue..