Vietnam War US Aircraft

Although most of the aircraft used by the United States in the Vietnam War were supersonic jet fighters, they were also used in the ground-attack role, such as the McDonnel F-101 Voodoo, the McDonnel Douglas F-4 Phantom II, the North Aviation F-100 Super Sabre, and the Republic F-105 Thunderchief. However there were other military aircraft that were extensively-used in ground-attack missions in Vietnam; the AC-47 Spooky and AC-130 Spectre. The B-52 Stratofortress was the only long-range, heavy bomber used as such in South East Asia.

– Entering service with the USAF in 1957, the F-101 Voodoo was deployed in Vietnam in 1961; it was a twin-engined interceptor that could fly at the maximum speed of Mach 1.73 (1,134mph) and was armed with four air-to-air AIM-4 Falcon missiles and two Air-Genie nuclear rockets, but in Vietnam it only carried conventional bombs, conducting ground-attack missions.

– Although the F-4 Phantom II was originally a US Navy carrier-based fighter-bomber, it was also adopted by the USAF; it was the most widely-used aircraft in Vietnam in the fighter, ground-attack, and reconnaissance roles; the Phantom II had a maximum speed of Mach 2.2 and was armed with one 20mm cannon, four air-to-air AIM-7 Sparrow missiles; six air-to-ground AIM-65 Maverick tactical missiles, and could carry up to five Mark 84 bombs.

– The F-100 Super Sabre was a single-engined supersonic fighter that had a maximum speed of Mach 1.13. Based on Don Muang airfield in Thailand, the Super Sabre first flew over Vietnam in April 1961, engaging Soviet-made, North Vietnamese MiG-17 fighters. The Super Sabre would be replaced by the F-105 Thunderchief, around 1965, in the ground-attack role.

– Being able to carry up to 14,000 lb (6,400kg) of ordnance, the Republic F-105 Thunderchief was the main ground-attack fighter-bomber used in Vietnam, participating in Operation Rolling Thunder from March 1965; it was also single-engine but could fly at Mach 2.1.

–  The A-1 Skyraider was a ground-attack, piston-engined aircraft which had been designed at the end of World War II, but it had seen combat action in Korea. In Vietnam, it would become a very reliable and versatile aircraft, which came handy in providing the much needed fire support to infantry during search and destroy missions.

– Nevertheless, there were two other aircraft used in the ground-attack role in this military conflict, but they were not jet fighters: the AC-47 Spooky and the AC-130 Spectre. They were military transport planes that had been adapted to attack enemy supply lines and provide fire support to US and South Vietnamese ground troops as they were armed with thirteen 7.62mm and 12.7mm machine guns, four 20mm Gatling guns, two 40mm Bofors cannons, and one 105mm howitzer (in the AC-130H variant).

– The Boeing B-52 Stratofortress was the only conventional, heavy bomber extensively used in the Vietnam War. It first flew in a combat mission in the skies of Vietnam in Operation Arc Light, on June 18, 1965. However, the peak of the B-52 participation in this armed conflict was in Operation Linebacker II, in December 1972. The B-52 is powered by 8 Pratt & Whitney TF-33-P-3/103 engines and can carry up to 70,000 lb (31,500kg) of bombs and/or missiles.

Below: F-4 Phantom II was the most extensively-used jet fighter aircraft in Vietnam


F-100 Super Sabre was deployed in Vietnam until 1968


F-105 Thunderchief had the greatest payload capacity among the jet fighter-bombers

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Thor is Carlos Benito Camacho, the manager and writer of this blog.