F-105 GUN

The General Electric T171 cannon fitted in the nose of the F-105 revived a late 19th century design which added an electric motor to a “Gatling” rotary, multi-barrel gun. It entered production as the M61A1 in 1957, and its compactness, light weight and firing rate of up to 6,000 rounds per minute made it ideal for the F-104 Starfighter, F-105 Thunderchief and later fighters. In the F-105D, F and G, its 1,028 rounds of linkless 20 mm ammunition (allowing about ten seconds of firing) were stored in a drum that also collected empty shell cases. The hydraulically-powered gun weighed 275lbs – little more than half the weight of a full ammunition load.


Up to four Texas Instruments AGM-45 Shrikes could be carried by the F-105, although the usual load was two.

The ten-foot long, 390lb AGM-45A/B – the world’s first dedicated anti-radiation missile – was produced in 21 sub-variants, distinguished mainly by minor changes in their guidance sections and seeker heads. Its 147lb warhead and 18-mile effective range were limiting factors. Nevertheless, more than 18,500 were produced between 1963 and 1982. The appreciably larger General Dynamics AGM-78 Standard ARM was manufactured for the US Navy and USAF from 1967 through to 1978, the 15ft-long weapon boasting a 215lb warhead. A shortage of AGM-78s and the F-105’s high fuel consumption when carrying the bulky weapon resulted in typical ordnance loads of a single Standard and two Shrikes per jet, with a 450-gallon fuel tank “balancing” the AGM-78 on the opposite wing pylon. Although more effective than the Shrike, the Standard’s overall success rate was still only around the 20 per cent mark.

image29Between April 1 and September 30, 1972, F-105Gs launched 230 AGM-78s, although there was a failure rate of more than 25 per cent in the first two months that led to a temporary “grounding” of the missile. Rocket motors were also sometimes cracked in transit, causing premature detonation – motors were x-rayed on delivery thereafter. The smaller AGM-45 proved to be quite difficult to discard in an emergency, as it lacked an explosive jettison system for either the missile or its pylon. (USAF)

displays and controls for the AN/APR-35, AN/APR-36 and AN/ALR-31, while the introduction of the AGM-78 missile required the installation of another control panel and 14-channel tape recorder. Key components were the IR-133 display that provided indications of “Fan Song” activity.

The AN/APR-25/26 sensors “read” the SA-2’s signals, enabling the pilot to home onto “Fan Song” emissions. The system’s cockpit display included a yellow “launch” light to show that an SA-2 was headed towards the F-105. Within the correct range and with the aircraft pointed at the threat emitter, an AGM-45 Shrike could pick up

image30Подпись: 29The standard bomb-load for F-105D/Fs throughout much of the war was six or eight 750lb M117 bombs, although CBU or “slick” Mk 82 bombs were often more effective against SAM sites. This 469th TFS/ 388th TFW flight is bombing “straight and level” above clouds early in 1967 – one of the most likely ways to attract a SAM that allowed insufficient time for the F-105s to avoid it. 62-4325 crashed near Korat when the flight control system failed during a test flight on March 14, 1967. (Lt Col Jack Spillers via Norman Taylor)

the radar signal, lock onto it with its own seeker and home onto the target when launched. With the definitive F-105G and its QRC-380 and AN/ALQ-105 jamming systems, a further panel was added. Both cockpits had similar control columns, but ordnance delivery was usually the responsibility of the front seat occupant, leaving the rear seat “Bear” to monitor the various ECM displays and keep the pilot informed on threats from radars, missiles or MiGs.


F-105G Thunderchief Wild Weasel Specification


Pratt & Whitney J75-P-19W rated at 24,500lb st (afterburner only)

34ft 9in.

67 ft 0in.

20ft 5in.

385 sq ft



1,390mph at 36,000ft

391 miles in combat configuration

43,900ft at combat weight

28 minutes to 30,000ft at combat weight, maximum military power (this compares with a time of 11.6 minutes for a bombed-up F-105B!)

One M61A1 20mm cannon

Two AGM-78 Standard anti-radiation missiles




Wingspan Length Height Wing area Weight Empty Loaded


Max speed Range

Service ceiling Time-to-climb





Designated the V-750 (sometimes V-75) Dvina in the Soviet Union, the missile is better known in the West as the S-75 or by its NATO name, SA-2 “Guideline” Mod 0. Evolved from the 1944 German Wasserfall missile concept, the weapon was designed to protect the strategic and population centers of Russia, but it soon became the primary and longest-serving air defense missile offered to the Soviet Union’s allies too. Several variants were developed, including the short-lived experimental V-753 that was to be fired from an eight-round magazine aboard Sverdlov Class cruisers. Developed quickly in the mid-1950s, the missile was designed to intercept targets at medium to high altitude. Its performance against aircraft below 3,000ft was poor.

The two-stage SA-2 had a Kartukov PRD-18 booster section with 14 tubes of NMF-2 solid chemical propellant (more in later versions) and large fins to impart




stable flight on launch. This burned for four to five seconds and then fell away, leaving the Isayev S2.711 sustainer motor to maintain flight at Mach 3. The latter burned hypergolic liquid propellant comprising TG-02 (50 per cent isomeric xylidine, 48.5 per cent triethylamine and 1.5 per cent diethylamine), with AK-20 fuming nitric acid as the oxidizer. This specification was derived from the Wasserfall.

A turbo-pump was required to supply the motor with OT-155 Isonite (isopropyl nitrate) liquid fuel sufficient for a 22-second engine burn. The later Item 20D Volkhov development of the S-75 used a different fuel comprising 56 per cent kerosene and 40 per cent Trikresol, with a TG-02 “starter fuel” supply to ignite the mixture. This was much safer to handle and store than the volatile mix used in the Dvina or Desna (“Guideline Mod 1”) models. For the North Vietnamese, a shortage of technicians qualified to perform these tasks meant that fewer than 40 missiles could be assembled and filled with fuel, oxidizer and compressed air daily.


Подпись: The rocket exhaust deflector at the rear of the SM-63-1 launcher reduced ground erosion when a SAM's booster motor was ignited. Stabilizing outrigger “arms” on the main unit folded for transportation. When SA-2s first appeared in North Vietnam in 1965, Assistant Secretary of Defense John T. McNaughton told Gens William Westmoreland and Joseph Moore, who were in charge of the US war effort and wanted to attack the sites, “You don't think the North Vietnamese are going to use them? Putting them there is just a political ploy by the Russians to appease Hanoi”. (via Dr Istvan Toperczer) Подпись: 31

The majority of the system’s low-cost electronic elements were housed in its ground – based support vehicles. Within the missile’s 35.1ft body was the 5E11 Schmel or 5E29 radio proximity fuze, using either “strip” antennas on the external skin or a dielectric radome. Theoretically, the missile was accurate to within about 210ft, and the proximity fuze would be armed and programmed within that range via two waveforms within the command uplink channel. Alternatively, there was a simple impact fuze and a command fuze that could be used to detonate the warhead from the ground. The warhead itself was comparatively large to increase the chance of a kill from a “near miss” position. In its V-88 version the warhead weighed 420lbs and contained 8,000 metal fragments that would be ejected at a rate of 7,000ft per minute over a lethal diameter that could vary between 200ft at lower altitude and 800ft above 35,000ft.


Подпись:A hit by only a handful of these on an F-105’s hydraulic or fuel systems could cripple the aircraft.

The guidance system relied on three components — a command link receiver, an autopilot and a radar beacon at the rear of the missile to provide a tracking signal to the “Fan Song” guidance radar. The command link receiver operated with four pulse – modulated waveforms. Two of them supplied climb or dive and left/right turn commands to the missile’s powered steering fins after the booster was ejected. The other two provided programming and arming signals to the radio proximity fuze.

Missiles were transported on purpose-built, two-wheeled “transloader” semi-trailers pulled by a ZIL-157 tractor unit. An SA-2 could be transferred from the transport rail on the trailer to its SM-63-1 launcher by five men without additional lifting equipment. The launch rail of the SM-63-1 was lowered to the horizontal position and the missile on its transport rail was swung out at 90 degrees to the trailer. When the two rails were positioned end-on to each other the 5,042lbs SA-2 was simply slid backwards from one to the other by basic manpower and the relevant electrical connections were made, all within 10—15 minutes.

The SM-63-1 launch rail could be elevated up to 80 degrees and rotated through 360 degrees on a turntable — both the launch rail and the turntable were powered by electric motors housed in the launcher’s base unit. The “transloader” could be fitted with four wheels for quick transfer to another site. In launch position the rail rested on a foldable cruciform base with a movable blast deflector that would be lowered just before firing to reduce ground erosion from the exhaust.









7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15



1. Radio proximity fuze transmit antenna

2. FR-15 Shmel radio proximity fuze

3. V-88 high-explosive fragmentation warhead

4. Radio proximity fuze receive antenna

5. AK-20F oxidizer melange tank

6. TG-02 propellant tank

13. OT-155 Isonate turbopump gas-generator propellant tank

14. Isayev S2.711V rocket engine

15. Adapter fairing

16. PRD-18 boost powerplant with 14 tubes of NMF-2 propellant

The launch process began with early warning of an incoming raid from high – powered, low-frequency radars such as the massive A-band P-14 “Tall King”. An SA-2 battalion’s own search radar was the P-12 Yenisei (“Spoon Rest”), although the P-15 (“Flat Face”) search and track set and PRV-11 (“Side Net”) height-finding radar were also available.

Development of the VHF P-12 was commenced in 1954 by the SKB Bureau and culminated in the P-12NP in the 1970s. It could be retuned quickly to four pre-set frequencies and detect targets at 100—150 miles using 12 Yagi antenna elements that displayed their information on two scopes — an “E-scope”, showing the target’s height, and a plan position indicator.

Resistance to jamming and interference was steadily improved throughout the 1960s. “Spoon Rest-A” used two adjacent ZIL trucks, with the antenna array mounted on one and the radar indicators in another. Later versions such as the P-12NP separated the antenna into a remote trailer that could be located at a safe distance of up to 1,600ft from the operating unit. ARMs then homed on the antenna rather than the radar cabin.

Having acquired a target, “Spoon Rest” passed its range, bearing and altitude data to the RSN-75 “Fan Song” radar vans via land lines. Four vehicles were required for most versions. The radar antennas were mounted on the “PV” van, which also housed the transmitters. The battery commander and up to five operators with their command consoles were housed in the “UV” van. An “AV” cabin contained other tracking and transmitter equipment, while electrical power was generated by diesel motors in the “RV” van.

“Fan Song” had two functions — target acquisition of up to six targets and missile guidance of up to three SA-2s against a single target. Its operators refined the battalion “Spoon Rest’s” data to establish the exact position and flightpath of the target aircraft,

as well as calculating an impact point ahead of the target or as close as possible to it. 33

Members of a missile regiment run to their operational positions past spare rounds that are ready on their trans­loaders for each launcher. Assembling and fueling an SA-2 took several hours’ work, personnel having to handle hazardous substances in urban warehouse depots that were eventually targeted in the latter stages of Linebacker II. Camouflaging the missiles (as seen here) caused them to absorb heat, which could in turn damage the weapons’ internal electronics.

image34"(Author’s collection)

After launching, they then tracked both the target and the missiles’ transponder beacons — three SA-2s could be launched at a single target at six-second intervals. In automatic mode the radar computer calculated course corrections once the missile had been “captured” in the “Fan Song’s” narrow guidance beam and its spent booster had dropped away. This capture had to happen within about six seconds of launching otherwise the missile went ballistic and self-detonated after 60 seconds.

Подпись: 34 Подпись: Almaz SA-2/S-75M “Guideline” Specifications Dimensions Length 35.1ft Diameter (widest) 2.1ft Span (widest fins) 8.2ft Weight 5,040lbs Engine thrust (sustainer motor) 6,834lbs Booster rocket thrust up to 110,000lbs Performance Max speed Mach 3 Max/min lethal range 18 miles/5 miles Max/min lethal altitude 85,000ft/1,500ft

Detonation near a target via the proximity fuze was indicated by a light on the “Fan Song” consoles. The narrow radar beam (only 7.5 degrees wide and 1.5 degrees in the scanning direction even in the upgraded “Fan Song E”) also limited the extent of maneuvering commands via the radio uplink in case the missile strayed beyond the bounds of the “Fan Song’s” guidance emissions. This gave US pilots their best chance of evading a missile, if they saw it in time. However, the computer could rapidly generate and transmit new steering commands if the target turned to a new course. To counteract jamming or the threat of anti-radiation missiles, the SA-2 crew could resort to manual modes without using the “Fan Song’s” guidance. Although this increased the missile’s reaction time for maneuvering, it required considerable skill to be effective.



Подпись: 35

In 1964, with American involvement in Vietnam escalating into direct rather than covert military intervention, the USAF’s primary doctrine of strategic bombing remained much the same as it had been in 1945. President Lyndon B. Johnson’s request for plans to attack North Vietnam produced an air force list of 94 targets for strategic bombing attacks that would have quickly removed that country’s limited industrial, transportation and military structures had they all been attacked. It was assumed that this in turn would negate the North Vietnamese desire to take control of South Vietnam and neighboring countries.

Originally, the attacks were to have been delivered by the B-52s of SAC, which, under Gen Curtis E. LeMay, had sustained the concept of massive atomic retaliation as the USAF’s raison d’etre. The strike fighters ofTAC (led by Gen Otto Weyland) had also assumed a nuclear role since the mid-1950s.

Подпись: 36Подпись: Wild Weasels served with the 355th TFW at Takhli RTAFB, in Thailand, from mid-1966, although its F-105s moved to Korat RTAFB in September 1970. Here, they joined other Thunderchiefs that had flown from Korat with the 388th TFW since April 1967.
The politicians insisted on very limited, conventional warfare responses instead, so B-52s were held back from North Vietnam for seven years. The attack task instead fell to strike fighters such as the F-100 Super Sabre and F-105 Thunderchief, which were generally unsuited and unprepared for World War Il-style “iron bomb” raids. As Gen John Vogt (deputy commander for air operations, Military Assistance Command, Vietnam) commented in 1972, “The USAF did not have an all-weather bombing


capability. This was a nemesis in the Rolling Thunder campaign”. During the monsoon season, from November to March, “the enemy had almost a sanctuary”. Nevertheless, from February 24, 1965 to October 31, 1968, the USAF flew more than a million sorties and dropped 750,000 tons of bombs in its longest-ever bombing campaign, Operation Rolling Thunder.


Подпись: 37

Rather than intervening directly, as many feared they would, the Soviet Union and China agreed to North Vietnamese Premier Pham Van Dong’s 1964 requests for MiG fighters, SAMs and anti-aircraft artillery, together with the radar and technical expertise to operate them. In March 1965 the Pentagon anticipated the imminent delivery of SA-2s as a response to Rolling Thunder attacks and the possibility of B-52 strikes — the missile had of course been designed specifically to oppose the latter. By mid-1966 North Vietnam had a full, Soviet-style, integrated air defense system centered on Hanoi, which soon boasted the most heavily defended airspace in the history of aerial warfare.


New Yorkers Majs John Revak and Stan Goldstein reckoned they were among the last Wild Weasel crews during the Rolling Thunder period to complete 100 missions. Seen here with CBU-armed F-105F Dragon III, their assigned aircraft in 1968 was actually

62- image394424 Crown 7 of the 44th TFS. Revak and Goldstein flew their 100th mission – an Iron Hand for a RESCAP operation over North Vietnam – in

63- Подпись: An SA-2 explosion hangs in the air behind a speeding F-105, which appears to have sustained damage from the proximity-fuzed missile. The introduction of QRC-160 ECM pods cut the losses to SA-2s and radar-directed AAA dramatically. Carrying pods limited F-105 four-ship flights to 15 degrees of bank and around 2,000ft spacing between element members, however. Although this protected Thunderchiefs against SA-2s, the rigid formations made them tempting targets for MiGs. “Fan Song” operators would hope to engage aircraft that had been separated from the pod formation, or during their individual dive attacks on the target. Fortunately for the USAF the North Vietnamese were not given the SA-2E version of the “Guideline”, which was far more resistant 38 to pod jamming. (USAF)

Подпись: And there was no shortage of personnel to man the missile sites and AAA batteries, as around 100,000 men reached military service age annually. At its peak during the 1972 Linebacker raids, the SA-2 element of the North Vietnamese integrated air defense system numbered 36 missile battalions and nine technical battalions split between nine Air Defense Missile Regiments. American pilots faced both 85mm and 100mm heavy AAA at altitudes up to 39,000ft, 37 mm and 57mm guns at medium altitude and almost “wall-to-wall” 23mm and small-arms fire below 5,000ft (where most losses to AAA occurred). More than half of the 2,300 heavier caliber AAA weapons were located within 30 miles of central Hanoi. Many were radar-directed and could be moved fast to guard almost any potential target.

8306 Bad SAM. Assigned to Majs Dornberger and Carver at the time, this aircraft later participated in the Son Tay rescue mission. (USAF)

Ironically, far more US tactical aircraft were shot down by AAA guns protecting SAM sites than by the missiles themselves, small-caliber AAA accounting for around 85 per cent of the US aircraft losses during Rolling Thunder. However, the threat of SAM hits at altitudes above 1,500ft forced aircraft to enter the lethal range of most AAA, while the need to evade an oncoming SAM usually forced a pilot to jettison his ordnance load, effectively aborting his mission.

Despite the Cuban experience, the USAF was comparatively ill-prepared in 1965 to tackle SAM and radar-directed AAA threats, and it did not expect to face them over North Vietnam. The basic technology was well understood, thanks in part to a copy of the SA-2 manual obtained through the spy Oleg Penkovsky in 1960 and via electronic intelligence of SA-2s in Cuba. Development work had begun on the QRC-160 jamming pod for tactical aircraft to carry externally, the EB/RB-66 detection/jamming aircraft and SAM launch-warning devices, the first of which were installed in Trojan Horse U-2s overflying Hanoi in 1965. However, many in Washington, DC and the Pentagon assumed that the threat of US air power would be enough to deter Vietnamese insurgency. Indeed, the appearance of SAM sites did not at first convince President Johnson’s civilian advisors, including Robert McNamara, that the Russians would actually allow them to be used against US aircraft. The Joint Chiefs of Staff, on the other hand, unanimously advocated immediate destruction of the first sites.

Подпись: 39

Подпись: An impressive pre-deployment line-up photograph of 2061st Missile Regiment SA-2s on their trans-loaders near Hanoi. This unit claimed the destruction of F-4E 68-0314 from the 308th TFS/31stTFW on June 27, 1972 as it flew a straight-and-level chaff bombing mission near Gia Lam airport in Hanoi. (via Dr Istvan Toperczer)

In fact, the SA-2 represented the most important advance in the establishment of a comprehensive North Vietnamese air defense system, a process that had begun in October 1963 with the merger of the VPAF with radar and AAA batteries under the overall command of Col Gen Phung The Tai. When US air attacks began, Soviet Premier Alexei Kosygin visited Hanoi, and thereafter Pham Van Dong proved adept at making the Russians and Chinese vie with each other in supplying modern air

Подпись:defense equipment, in particular SAMs and MiG-21s from the USSR and MiG-17 and MiG-19 copies made by Shenyang in China, totaling 65 fighters by August 1966.

The appearance of SAM sites prompted demands from the Joint Chiefs of Staff for decisive retaliation against them, including a B-52 night attack and the bombing of MiG airfields. Opinion was divided over whether the Soviet Union and China would respond in kind to this action. On one hand the State Department believed that Chinese fighters might even intercept US jets over Hanoi, while the CIA felt that there would be no risk of this kind of intervention. President Johnson delayed, fearing casualties to Russian and Chinese advisors at the sites, but accepted foreign policy advisor William Bundy’s proposal that they should be bombed “if they are used to inflict significant losses on us”.

The North Vietnamese relied heavily on Soviet personnel providing them with technical expertise for the operation of their missile batteries. Almost 17,000 of them worked at SAM sites and other defense installations from April 1965 onwards, and four were killed in action.

Подпись: 40

Initially, North Vietnamese SAM crews were trained in the Soviet Union, and subsequently at ten centers in Vietnam, but the first operational SA-2s were manned by PVO-Strany personnel from Russia commanded by Gen G. A. Belov and Col G. Lubinitsky. Col Tsyganov had the first operational regiment, the 236th, in place near Hanoi by July 1965, and three other regiments, manned largely by Russians, were in service by the end of 1966. Each regiment commanded four launch batteries, with six launchers per battery. When Lubinitsky’s site fired on an F-105 escort flight of four “Leopard” F-4C Phantom Ils from the 47 th TFS on July 24, 1965, one was destroyed. Capt Roscoe Fobair was killed and Capt Richard “Pop” Keirn, a former Eighth Air Force B-17 pilot and World War II PoW, entered captivity once again. SAM warnings from a nearby RB-66 had not been received by the crew in time to take evasive action. Two other aircraft were downed by the same site later that month.


This loss resolved the Johnson administration’s doubts about Soviet policy in deploying the missiles, and it also prompted urgent redress to protect American aircrews. With 16 squadrons of tactical fighters, five tactical reconnaissance units and 21 EB/RB-66 electronic warfare aircraft scheduled to deploy to Southeast Asia by the end of 1966, the potential losses to SAMs could easily be foreseen. This was particularly true of the two F-105D/F Thunderchief tactical fighter wings based at Takhli and Korat RTAFBs in Thailand, which were responsible for the majority of the Rolling Thunder bombing missions over North Vietnam.

A solution for their self-protection was soon available through Project Problem Child at Eglin AFB, where Lt Col Ingwald Haugen devised a four-ship “pod formation” for tactical aircraft. In October 1965 tests, each F-105 carried a pair of General Electric QRC-160-1 D/E band jamming pods tuned to defeat the “Fan Song’s” track-while-scan emissions. Their combined jamming power protected the formation from a missile lock-on apart from a brief period when it was directly over the site.

Sadly, Pacific Air Force policy-shapers regarded the pods as unreliable and a wasteful use of two of the F-105’s five weapons/fuel pylons, so a delivery of QRC-160-1s was soon returned to the USA. After very heavy losses of F-105s in the summer of 1966, further combat trials were ordered, and by October the pods became an essential, highly effective addition for all F-105 missions to North Vietnam. Thunderchief losses to radar-directed AAA and SAMs fell from 72 in the “pre-pod” six months to 23 in the six months following their introduction.

The second potential remedy proved far more difficult to implement. Following the July 24, 1965 Phantom II shoot-down, SAM site attacks were finally allowed, but such strikes in the first three days after the incident cost no fewer than six F-105s. It was in inauspicious beginning for a seven-year, cat-and-mouse war between the Thunderchief and the SA-2.


While the first North Vietnamese SAM troops were training in the USSR in 1965, Soviet PVO-Strany crews established and operated the country’s missile batteries. Having also formed ten training units around Hanoi, Soviet supervisors controlled the battalions for at least two years, causing some resentment among Vietnamese troops.

Battalions honed their skills on Firebee drones and later, at very much higher altitudes and unsuccessfully, on the A-12 and SR-71 reconnaissance aircraft that identified around 150 SA-2 sites soon after they began over-flights in November 1967. U-2 missions over North Vietnam were discontinued when the SA-2 regiments became operational.

North Vietnamese Dvina trainees in the USSR found difficulty with both the language and the heavy emphasis on ideology and inflexible discipline. Instructors insisted on the “three missile salvo” tactic — the first to make the target aircraft maneuver and thereby lose energy, making it an easier target for the second or third SA-2. Soviet advisors continued to refine their techniques throughout the war. For example, new anti-Shrike tactics included activating two “Fan Songs” briefly so that the missile would pass between them, while for the AGM-78, several “Fan Songs” were turned on and then simultaneously switched off, confusing the missile.

For Linebacker II, the nine SA-2 regiments and others recalled from the south were concentrated in Hanoi’s 361st Air Defense Division and around Haiphong. Their effort was directed in 1972 by Soviet Col-Gen Anotoliy Khyupenen. Faced with the B-52’s formidable jamming power, operators were told to use multiple launches at single targets so that the bombers’ EWOs, jamming each threat individually, were overwhelmed. Crews were also trained to launch SA-2s manually, only engaging “Fan Song” guidance in the final 15 to 20 seconds of the missile’s flight.

Подпись: 42Khyupenen conceded that, “The missile crews were inadequately trained to fight when jammed and under aerial attack. Fearing anti-radar missile strikes, the launch


SA-2 batteries usually worked in coordination with MiGs and AAA, but there were some inadvertent MiG casualties. Brig Gen Robin Olds, flying MiGCAP for an F-105 strike on the Canal des Rapides Bridge in August 19 67, saw a SAM hit a MiG-21 over Phuc Yen airfield. The strip antennas for the missile’s FR-15 Shmel radio proximity fuze can be seen on the nose of this SA-2 in its North Vietnam revetment. (via Dr Istvan Toperczer)

crews tried to fire at the B-52s without turning on their radars at all, which prevented them from detecting targets under jamming and switching to manual guidance”. He reported that only three B-52s were hit by missiles that had been actively guided — the norm was manual guidance, with automatic tracking for the last few seconds. In his estimation 64 SA-2s detonated too far from their targets, some on the metallic chaff used to mask the bomber formations. Most successful firings used at least two missiles. Several B-52s were hit as they made their post-bombing turn away from the target. As they banked, the intensity of their jamming was reduced, allowing canny “Fan Song” operators a rapid lock-on.

Подпись: 43F-105Gs were vulnerable too. The last Weasel loss (63-8359) of the war, on November 16, 1972, was escorting B-52s near Thanh Hoa when a SAM site fired. Maj


Like fellow Wild Weasel Medal of Honor winner Merle Dethlefsen, Leo Thorsness was born a Mid-West “farm – boy” in the early 1930s and chose to fly fighters after receiving his pilot’s wings. Both men flew the F-100 Super Sabre before transitioning to the F-105 and being posted to Takhli RTAFB in 1966. As Col Jack Broughton, Vice Wing Commander of the 355th TFW told the author, “At Takhli I had a super-smart, aggressive good guy Weasel leader in Leo Thorsness. We were almost always short on Weasel aircraft and crews. I wanted one Weasel guy to manage the assets and call the shots”.

Thorsness arrived at Takhli in the second batch of Weasel crews soon after the first five F-105Fs had been lost in just 45 days in July-August 1966. He was determined to try new tactics, which included flying the Weasel missions at higher altitudes – around 18,000­20,000ft – in order to reduce the loss rate. With his regular “Bear”, ex-B-52 EWO Capt Harold E. Johnson, Thorsness also pioneered the idea of splitting the Weasel flight into two elements, with an F-105F and an F-105D in each pair, as a way of doubling the potential SAM-site attacks.

On April 19, 1967, Thorsness and Johnson, in F-105F 63-8301, were lead “Kingfish” Weasels for an attack on the Xuan Mai barracks near Hanoi. The second “Kingfish” element was jumped by MiG-17s, and Majs Thomas Madison and Thomas Sterling were forced to eject from F-105F 63-8341 – Dethlefsen’s Medal of Honor mission aircraft. “Kingfish 1” completed its bomb-run and set off to cover the Weasel crew as they parachuted down. Both “Kingfish” F-105Ds were also damaged and had to withdraw, leaving Thorsness’s F-105F as the only

American aircraft in the area. Noticing a MiG-17 that was about to make a strafing run on Madison and Sterling,

Maj Thorsness shot it down and then out-ran a second MiG-17.

Low on fuel, he headed for a tanker, called in a RESCAP team for the downed Weasels and briefed them on the situation, and on SAM evasion tactics as they were dangerously near Hanoi. After a brief discussion with his “Bear”, Thorsness then returned to provide solo cover for his wingman. En route they encountered a “wagon wheel” formation of five MiG-17s, and Thorsness fired out his last 500 rounds at one, scoring a probable kill. The other four immediately pursued him, and he dived in afterburner to weave through several valleys, sometimes flying below 50ft as he shook off the VPAF fighters.

Meanwhile, another MiG-17 flight had shot down the lead RESCAP A-1E “Sandy” aircraft (flown by Maj John Hamilton) and Thorsness returned to the fight once again, advising Hamilton’s wingman to turn hard just above the forest to evade the MiGs. Although out of ammunition, the F-105F crew turned hard into the MiG-17s, denying them a target and allowing “Sandy 02” to escape. Low-altitude maneuvers in afterburner had run the F-105F low on fuel again and Thorsness sought another tanker, feeling that the rescue had failed since contact with the downed crew was impossible.

In his brief absence the “Brigham Control” rescue coordinator had directed “Panda” (a post-strike F-105 flight) into the rescue area, where its leader, Capt William Eskew, had shot down a MiG-17 – two other VPAF fighters had also been seriously damaged. A third F-105 strike

Peter Giroux in the B-52 cell saw the first missile just miss the leading bomber, but “a second or two later I saw a second SAM light up the overcast almost directly below the F-105. It popped through the clouds and almost immediately struck the underside of the ‘Thud’. The ejection seats went out seconds later, and I was surprised that I could see them fire at this distance”. Maj Norbert Maier and Capt Kenneth Theate ejected and were recovered after a hair-raising duel between rescue forces and North Vietnamese Army (NVA) troops.

In 1966—68 the Weasels’ primary weapon was the Shrike, and with Soviet guidance 44 the SA-2 operators learned to defeat it. Their primary defense was simply to turn off


persuaded a tanker pilot to come north and meet up with Bodenhammer, rather than see him eject. A quick calculation convinced the Weasel crew that they could just get to Udorn RTAFB, and they effectively glided the F-105F for 70 miles, landing with a zero reading on the fuel gauge. For a mission that Harry Johnson described as “a full day’s work”, Maj Thorsness was later awarded the Medal of Honor and Capt Johnson the Air Force Cross.

Eleven days later, on the 93rd mission for Maj Thorsness and his second that day, things went very wrong for his “Carbine” flight. With communications drowned out by a malfunctioning emergency beeper in an F-105’s ejection seat, his element was jumped from below by a 921st Fighter Regiment MiG-21 flight led by VPAF ace Nguyen Van Coc. Thorsness’ wingman, 1Lt Robert Abbott, was shot down in F-105D 59-1726 and Thorsness’ F-105F (62-4447) took an “Atoll” missile, fired by Le Trong Huyen, in its tailpipe. Badly injured in an ejection at almost 600 knots, and filled with a sense of failure, Thorsness landed hard with a damaged parachute. He and Johnson were soon captured. Thus began an agonizing, but heroic, six – year prison sentence in Hanoi.

Finally released in March 1973, Thorsness received his Medal of Honor from President Richard Nixon on October 15, 1973 – his receipt of this award was kept secret while he was a PoW as there were concerns that the North

flight ("Nitro”) was vectored in to provide further cover, Vietnamese would use this against him. Unable to return

and Majs Jack Hunt and Ted Tolman each shot down a MiG. to fighters because of the back injuries he suffered in his

However, “Panda 03” (Capt Howard Bodenhammer) ejection, Thorsness retired from the USAF with the rank of became separated in the dogfight and had only 600lbs of colonel. He subsequently served as director of civic fuel remaining. Despite his own fuel shortage Thorsness affairs for Litton Industries, prior to taking full retirement.

the “Fan Song”, denying the Shrike its target. Missile crews also realised that they could track incoming Weasels on radar, watching for one to pull up into a climb to “loft” a Shrike at them and then turn off the radar. They realised too that the Shrike’s exhaust gases contained tiny metal fragments from its solid rocket fuel. These gave a strong enough radar trace to provide warning of an incoming missile. Combined with the “dummy load” power switch described earlier, these techniques severely reduced the Shrike’s chances of a kill, particularly from long range. They also frustrated dummy attacks on sites by Weasel crews who were attempting to force the

radar off the air through the threat of a Shrike launch. 45


It was also clear that multiple Shrike launches did not improve the missile’s success rate either. However, as a 1973 USAF Security Report concluded, “By their very presence, these aircraft reduced SAM firing rates considerably, and sometimes by as much as 90 per cent”. Col James McCarthy, leading a wave of Linebacker IIB-52s, reported “About ten seconds prior to bombs away we observed a Shrike being fired, low and forward of our nose. Five seconds later several SAM signals dropped off the air and the EW (ECM operator) reported they were no longer a threat to our aircraft”. By Night 4 of the campaign, most SA-2s were manually guided, sometimes with range information from I-band signals from “Fire Can” radars, and most missiles were fired at bombers within ten miles of the sites, at two – to three-second intervals. New consignments of ARMs were tuned to operate in I-band.

Training for the early Wild Weasel crews was minimal. Capt Ed Sandelius was the only TAC EWO in the pioneering 469th TFS at first:

SAC had about 85 per cent of the EWOs and electronic warfare equipment. We were all trained EWOs, so the receivers were a piece of cake. The AN/APR-25/26 provided relative bearing. With practice you could interpret relative signal amplitude and get quite
good at estimating range. When you flew over a site, the signal’s amplitude would get extremely long and switch from 360 to 180 degrees. At this time you would try to pick up the site visually.

WildWeasell pilot Capt Allen Lamb added:

There was no training to speak of for Wild Weasel I. We did run against the SADS-1 “Fan Song” simulator at Eglin AFB to check the accuracy of the equipment. Then we went to war to see if it would really work.

The length of the strobe indication on the RWR scope showed how close the “Fan Song” was. If it reached the first or second concentric ring there was little immediate danger, but a “three ringer”, reaching the outer ring, represented a real threat.

The learning curve was still rising when Dan Barry began F-105F/G missions in 1970:

On my first tour at Takhli with the 44th TFS we had a “combat tips book” full of various combat lessons learned by “Thud” pilots ahead of us. One had to do with evading a SAM at night, and the author had written, “Imagine yourself in a huge parking lot in the dark of night and a motorcycle is coming at you at maximum speed. Because there is only a single headlight you have no gauge for distance or closure rate to know when to jump out of the way. You just have to guts it out because if you move too soon he corrects and nails you. If you jump too late he’s tracked you all the way to the kill. You only have one chance and you have to do it right”.

In Capt Terry Gelonick’s experience, “Even though they zigzagged on their upward flight, we had been briefed that if a SAM was tracking our aircraft it would maintain its same relative position on the cockpit window”.

Wild Weasel crews had to face a multitude of threats, including MiGs that were usually coordinated with AAA and SA-2s. Of the 23 F-105s shot down by VPAF pilots, with the loss of ten USAF aircrew, six were Iron Hand or Weasel two-seaters. Only one was an F-105G, lost on May 11, 1972 during an Iron Hand mission near Hanoi. Two SA-2 batteries were ordered to fire six missiles at the flight as it moved in on a third site. While the F-105G crew (Majs Bill Talley and Jim Padgett) were fully occupied in defeating the SAMs, they did not see a MiG-21 flight closing in behind them. Their aircraft, 62-4424 Tyler Rose of the 17th Wild Weasel Squadron (WWS), was hit by an “Atoll” missile from Ngo Duy Thu’s MiG-21.

Maj Talley, on his 183rd mission and third combat tour, had made an emergency landing at Da Nang after a compressor fire ten days previously and thought that he had another failed turbine. He slowed to 350 knots and ejected with Padgett (on his 13th mission) at 1,000ft. “I landed on the side of a mountain and climbed to the top to await rescue”, Talley explained. “However, the rescue attempt was not made until mid-morning of the following day. I was captured just as the rescuers flew into the area where I was hiding. They tried to rescue my back-seater but were driven away by MiGs”.


Подпись:image49Подпись: While Weasel crews fought in Vietnam, the training and development programs continued at “Wild Weasel College” with the 66th FWS/ 57th FWW at Nellis AFB. This unit replaced the 4537th FWS in October 1969, which in turn replaced the USAF Fighter Weapons School from September 1, 1966. F-105F 62-4438 (unofficially dubbed an “EF-105F”) performed both training and test and evaluation functions with all these units, remaining in USAF 48 service until mid-1983. (USAF)
Engine failure was another occupational hazard for Thunderchief crews as their J75s struggled with frequent over-work. Engine fires were common. Indeed, 31 aircraft — half of the wartime non-combat casualties — were lost to engine or oil system problems, including eight Weasels. Fortunately, all were over Thai territory, although five pilots died in these accidents. Above all, Weasel crews learned to cope with the unexpected.

For example, after knocking out several “Fan Songs” on July 29, 1972, an Iron Hand flight on its way home was caught by a MiG-21. As they turned to avoid its “Atoll” missile, Majs T. J. Coady and H. F. Murphy jettisoned their centerline tank, which wrapped itself around the F-105G’s wing, shorted wires in the AGM-78 pylon and fired the missile towards US Navy ships off-shore! As the vessels closed down their radars, the F-105G (62-4443) refueled in afterburner and headed for Da Nang. Sadly, the errant tank prevented the main landing gear from extending and the crew had to eject.

The complexity and physical duress of the F-105G’s cockpit in the days before automation could also be daunting. Dan Barry recalled:



In the summer of 1972 I was flying a night B-52 support mission at the western end of the DMZ with my “Bear”, John Forrester. Just about the B-52s’ time-on-target, without any RHAW signals, three SAMs started coming off the launchers about ten miles in front of us. In the blackness I immediately picked them up visually and we simultaneously started receiving their guidance signals. John started calling, “Give me the big one!” I had a Shrike selected since I usually preferred to monitor its audio signal, so I had to start switching to the AGM-78 instead while maneuvering to get the SAMs out at “two o’clock” and pushing the nose down to get our Mach up for evasive maneuvering.


Officially recognized by the NVA as a hero following his service with the 61st Battalion, 236th Missile Regiment, Nguyen Xuan Dai operated the range tracking controls of a “Fan Song” at Hai Duong, Ha Noi and Ninh Binh.

The soldiers on his course were ready to start missile training as early as May 11, 1965, but they had to curtail their tuition on the SA-2 after only two months, rather than completing the normal nine-month course, because of increased US air attacks. The NVA crews effectively learned to operate the SAM systems in practice “on the job”, studying the technical aspects of the equipment at a later date. On their first day in action – July 24, 1965 – Nguyen Xuan Dai’s team shot down F-4C Phantom II 63-7599 of the 15th TFW (the first American SA-2 casualty), and later also claimed to have destroyed the 400th US aircraft credited to North Vietnam’s militia.

After each SA-2 engagement, Nguyen Xuan Dai and his team would quickly take cover under nearby trees just in case their battery had been targeted by an ARM. Once the all clear had been given, they would move with the battalion to another site. The SM-63 launchers themselves would only be moved under the cover of darkness, a tractor being used to pull the 12-wheeled vehicle. Travel time depended on the distance to the next site. For example, it took soldiers two days to move the missiles from Ninh Binh to Ha Tay.

Like other types of missile, when the SA-2 was activated the first stage of the rocket propellant created a huge cloud of dust and smoke and a large explosion to thrust the missile into the sky.

Personnel manning the SA-2 sites were always prepared for action. Fortifications for the weapons were dug deep into the ground, and the transporters, computing van and other vehicles, including the radar vans, were hidden. Initially, the Soviet SAMs were supplied in an overall white finish, but during the war they were resprayed in dark green paint and camouflaged with leaves that matched the battlefield terrain. Personnel even planted trees around the more permanent fortifications to deceive the USAF

Each launcher had five to six people on duty as loaders, while the “Fan Song” team had three troops – one operator to monitor target altitude, another tracking the position and a third monitoring range. A control officer observed when the target was first detected and then turned the “Fan Song” antenna to locate the target.

Soldiers like Nguyen Xuan Dai always felt nervous before combat, but they never thought about matters of life and death. They just tried to hit the targets, although the SA-2’s most effective interception method was impeded by US jamming. American aircraft, particularly the B-52, had 15 different types of jammer they could employ, while the EW-dedicated EB-66 also restricted the capability of the SA-2. Moreover, the Americans understood how the SA-2, and its radar, worked, so many early sites were heavily damaged.

Nevertheless, the NVA was quick to find new and creative ways to attack US aircraft, using manual tracking and the three-point method. Nguyen Xuan Dai recalled that after one particular engagement his regiment hid their weapons and erected fake missiles made of bamboo framework that had been painted green to resemble a real SA-2. These attracted US aircraft and enabled the AAA units around the site to find targets easily. Five American fighters were duly shot down by AAA while attacking these fake sites.

Meanwhile, I tried to get the ’78 to fire, with no luck. In the blackness I immediately picked them up visually and we simultaneously started receiving their guidance signals. John started calling, “Give me the big one!” While the first two SAMs went well below us, the third looked like it had our names on it, and for the only time in two Weasel tours I told John to turn on the jammers. As the missile zeroed in on us I remember gritting my teeth ’til I couldn’t stand it anymore, and then pulling all the gs I had speed for and rolling into it because I knew the SAM fragmentation pattern exploded in a forward-oriented cone. I was sure it was so close it was going to detonate. When it roared past us the rocket


Pham Truong Huy recalled that in late March 1972 his 62nd Battalion moved to Quang Tri during the Spring Invasion, and it was credited with the first shoot-downs of that campaign – EB-66C 54-0466 “Bat 21” on April 2 and OV-10A 68-3820 five days later. In fact, the People’s Army of Vietnam newspaper for April 5, 1972 described how an “intensely burning B-52 had fallen, broken pieces of it falling to the ground”. The EB-66 pilot, Lt Col Iceal Hambleton, was recovered after one of the most extensive and costly SAR efforts of the Vietnam War, but the jet’s remaining five crewmembers were killed when the EB-66 crashed near Quang Tri. Pham Truong Huy recounted with pride that he had controlled the missiles that claimed three aircraft from the same battery, which few soldiers could do well. Aside from the EB-66 and OV-10, Pham Truong Huy’s battery also claimed a B-52 in the Cam Lo-Quang Tri area.

Due to the topography of the hilly areas near the demilitarized zone (DMZ), batteries could only deploy three missile launchers rather than six, and they had to be set up on land that was both partly soft and partly hard as there was insufficient time to build a firmer base. This in turn meant that when missiles were fired the launchers were unstable, leaving them damaged. With no spares available, crews had to effect running repairs on the launchers as best they could.

Although they enjoyed considerable success in 1972, missile crews also suffered painful losses when the USAF attacked their sites. One night in September 1972 Pham Truong Huy was just minutes away from intercepting a B-52 when USAF fighters located his site. Kham, one of his comrades, died in the heavy attack that followed, being struck in the head with shrapnel before he had time to
don his steel helmet. He died at his position at the “Fan Song” command computer.

A missile soldier lived and fought with his unit for a long time. Indeed, they could be separated from their families for up to seven years. They had to be very resilient and endure hardships, particularly when they moved south “into the field” in 1972. They ate on the site and often had to source water from local villages, travelling up to two kilometers just to bathe.

Ultimately, the efforts of the SA-2 batteries were duly recognized on Reunification Day (April 30, 1975), when the missile soldiers were present in force at the victory parade held in Hanoi.

SA-2 Air Defense veteran Nguyen Hong Mai (left), Professor Pham Cao Thang, USAF F-4 Phantom II ace Brig Gen Steve Ritchie and Nguyen Vinh Tuyen view We and MiG-17, a study of North Vietnam’s air defenses by Vietnamese author Thuy Huong Duong (second from right). No photos exist of Nguyen Xuan Dai or Pham Truong Huy.

(Thuy Huong Duong)

motor lit up the cockpit and the shockwave gave us such a severe jolt I thought we’d been hit. Fortunately, it had gone under us and exploded 10,000 ft above us at 20,000 ft.

As we headed back to the tanker we tried to figure out what saved us. I couldn’t confirm whether I made the correct switch selections to get the AGM-78 launched, and in hindsight I should have pickled a Shrike and then changed weapon selection.

We wondered if the jammer had “blossomed” the SAM radar at just the right point to confuse them, or maybe they had bad fuzing. All this happened in less than 15

seconds, and I’ve always felt fortunate I didn’t have to rethink it in a cell in Hanoi. 51


Following deliveries of SA-2s from May 1965, the Soviet Union formed North Vietnam’s first missile units. Their organization was based on existing Soviet SAM regiments, and they were located around Hanoi at short notice from June onwards after the training of local operators was abruptly curtailed in response to increased US air strikes. Sites were rapidly prepared, with 64 established by December 1965.

This tally also included a number of fake sites that had been built by the North Vietnamese so that battalions could rapidly move from location to location in a “shell





game” to escape attack. A pattern was evolved in which, as Capt Ashmore of the USAF described it, “Immediate steps were taken to establish a minimum of three alternative sites — each defended by three AAA batteries — for each firing battalion, and any of these sites could be abandoned should they become compromised”.

Although this constant cycle of movement degraded readiness, it reduced the battalion’s vulnerability — and clearing a site for an SA-2 battery only took four hours. The Johnson administration, alarmed at the rapid spread of SAM batteries around Hanoi and beyond, concluded from reconnaissance overflights that sites could be fully set up in only 48 hours. On September 9, 1965, F-105s flying just 12 miles from Laos and 62 miles from Hanoi were fired on by SAMs, thought at the time to be low – altitude SA-3 “Goas”. They were of course SA-2s

Early SAM successes drastically influenced US planning. From late August 1965 strike packages were not allowed within range of sites without Iron Hand support, and for another month SA-2 batteries avoided detection from the air thanks to their mobility.

Nguyen Van Dinh, who was only 18 when he joined the 275th Regiment at the height of the air war in 1967, served alongside early SA-2 crews:

I worked with missile troops who had trained in 1965—66 at the Baku Air Defense District in Georgia. Each regiment had trained there for at least six months. I helped the troops use and maintain the SA-2 systems and assist with weekly, monthly and quarterly checks. I was on sites when they shot down US aeroplanes and when they were attacked. Our soldiers recognized the dangers of the Shrike and could move the missiles to another site to avoid attack, although by the end of 1967 the Americans had indeed destroyed some of our equipment.


The cramped, poorly ventilated interior of the “Fan Song” UV van contained the range tracker at the far end, with two other officers tracking elevation and azimuth. All had control wheels and display screens in front of them, and their roles were interchangeable.

A fire control officer sat on the right side of the van and the missile technical officer and plotter managed the tracking and launch of the SA-2s. The battalion commander monitored the “Spoon Rest” radar screen and relayed instructions from Air Defense Headquarters by telephone or radio. He received target details that were transferred to a plotting board while the “Fan Song” was warmed up – it was put on “standby” when the target was within range. Automatic tracking (possible only against non-jamming targets) could be engaged sparingly using the two trough-shaped antennas, followed by missile guidance mode along the antennas’ narrow beams, but at the risk of attracting countermeasures activity. The SM-63 launchers were
turned and angled to the right position ready for launch. “Ready” lights illuminated when the missiles were prepared, and when the target was in optimum missile range the SA-2s were fired at six – second intervals. In “three point” mode the tracking officers operated their control wheels to keep the target, or jamming strobe image from aircraft with ECM transmitters engaged, in the center of their individual vertical displays. Guidance information from the “Fan Song” computer was sent to the missile via its uplink antenna (exposed at the rear of the main missile body once the booster rocket was jettisoned) to keep the SA-2 within the “Fan Song’s” narrow beam. Considerable skill was needed to keep the Mach 3 missile on target in the last stages of its flight, and greater accuracy could be gained from the “half correction” mode in which the missile was aimed with allowance for lead angle on the target, reducing the need for abrupt course corrections.


Подпись: 10. Azimuth tracking control wheel 11. Fire control officer's position 12. Range/elevation/azimuth control wheels 13. Panel with automatic tracking and range mode switches 14. Missile firing buttons and launch lights 15. Radar azimuth dial 16. Missile guidance mode switches 17. Radar elevation dial 18. Radar tracking screen (elevation) 19. Radar tracking screen (azimuth) 20. Missile guidance radio channel switch

1. Battalion commander’s position

2. P-12/P-18 “Spoon Rest” radar controls and goniometer

3. RH-1 scope and Plan Position Indicator (PPI) screen

4. Range tracker’s console (NCO position)

5. Range tracking control wheel

6. Range tracking displays and controls

7. Elevation tracker’s console (NCO position)

8. Elevation tracking control wheel

9. Azimuth tracker’s console (NCO position)

21. Missile fuze setting selectors

22. Missile guidance control channel selectors

23. Radar mode selectors (wide angle/pencil beam/narrow beam)

24. Live fire button

25. Missile gyro controls

26. Radar antenna deploy switch

27. Radar power button

28. Generator power button

29. Target height/distance/velocity indicators

30. Power indicator lights