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F-100 Super Sabre Units of the Vietnam War

by Peter Davies Rolando Ugolini David Menard

Osprey's examination of the F-100 Super Sabre Units' participation in the Vietnam War (1955-1975). While the F-105 Thunderchief and F-4 Phantom flew the majority of the fighter-bomber missions over North Vietnam, the Thunderchief's service predecessor, the F-100 Super Sabre stayed on to fight the air war in South Vietnam until June 1971. Although it was designed as an air defence fighter, and was later given nuclear capability as the mainstay of Tactical Air Command's deterrent posture, it was the F-100's toughness, adaptability and reliability that made it ideally suited to the incessant 'taxi-rank' close support and counter-insurgency missions in Vietnam. The jet's four 20 mm cannon and external loads of bombs, rockets and fire-bombs defeated many enemy incursions, with US troops in contact expressing a preference for the accuracy and skill of F-100 pilots to save them in situations where ordnance had to be dropped very close to their own lines. Many courageous deeds were performed, although 242 F-100s and 87aircrew were lost in action. Used at the start of Operation Rolling Thunder in March 1965 as an escort for F-105 strikes, the Super Sabre fought MiGs and one pilot made a credible claim for a MiG-17 destroyed, but the more capable F-4 Phantom II soon replaced it in this role. The air-to-ground war was fought by F-100C/D/F pilots from 21 TAC and Air National Guard squadrons at six bases in South Vietnam and Thailand. From September 1965, a number of two-seat F-100Fs were equipped to detect and pinpoint SA-2 missile sites, and they led F-105s in to destroy them in hazardous missions that founded the suppression of enemy air defences (SEAD) techniques developed for F-105F and F-4C 'Wild Weasel' aircraft later in the war. Other F-100Fs replaced fragile piston-engined forward air control (FAC) aircraft, providing more survivable high-speed airborne management of strike missions. Maj George Day, awarded the Medal of Honor in 1973, was the first leader of this 'Misty FAC' unit. The aircraft's strengths and eccentricities will be examined through analysis of its performance and the anecdotes of those who flew and serviced it.

F-111 & EF-111 Units in Combat

by Peter Davies Rolando Ugolini

The General Dynamics F-111 was one of the most technically innovative designs among military aircraft, introducing the variable-sweep wing, terrain-following radar, military-rated afterburning turbofan engines and a self-contained escape module among other features. Designed as a cost-saving, multi-role interceptor, naval fighter and strike bomber, its evolution prioritised the latter role and it became the USAF's most effective long-range strike aircraft during three decades of service. Rushed into combat in Vietnam before some of its structural issues were fully understood, the type suffered several early losses and gained an unfairly negative reputation that dogged it for the rest of its career, and restricted funding for more advanced versions of the design. However, in Operation Linebacker in 1972 the F-111 flew 4000 nocturnal under-the-radar missions, delivering, with unprecedented accuracy, many decisive blows that would have resulted in heavy losses for any other attack aircraft. Post-war, F-111E/F variants were concentrated in two USAFE wings in the UK, and one of these was chosen in April 1986 to deliver a punitive strike on Libya in response to a series of terrorist attacks on US targets in Beirut and Europe. The 48th Tactical Fighter Wing (TFW) flew a 14-hour mission direct from its Lakenheath base, hitting several military targets around Tripoli. Five years later both UK-based wings, including their sophisticated EF-111A defence suppression aircraft, led the attack on the first night of Operation Desert Storm, decimating Iraq's huge military capability. For the rest of the campaign the F-111s were crucial in destroying bridges, airfields and deep-seated command bunkers with pinpoint accuracy using laser-guided munitions.

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