Monday, May 8, 2017

The Phantom Killers

Small and agile, in the right hands the MiG-17 was a formidable opponent. (Image source: WikiCommons)

As another Lame Cherry exclusive in matter anti matter.

The Vietnam War is one of the most astoundingly propagandized wars against American combat Soldiers who are still witnessed moping around with their caps on declaring they served, as all of them are burdened by Ken Burns historical whining in war is bad.

Vietnam was a good war. The Americans fought very well, and dealt with the idiocy of  "rules of engagement". Soon enough on PBS you will be brainwashed by another Ken Burns series, this time about Vietnam, where it will be like World War II, in only minorities fought it and we should all cry about how horrid Americans are.

In the study of Vietnam Combat in the air, it is fascinating as the pilots received 3 years of training in China. Their combat aircraft were primarily the MIG 17, 19 and 21.
To understand the MIG of the later part of the war, the MIG could turn tighter, while the American F 4 was faster, but less maneuverable.

If one studies the realities of combat in the air, the Navy had TopGun advanced training and it showed. The Airforce had none and they lagged in tactics, coordination and use of the only system the Americans had in missiles, which rarely worked. The F 4 did not have a gun  or cannon as the MIG did, which was a great weakness for the American pilots.

There were earlier aircraft in F 8, Sabers etc..., but in this we observe the "well regulated militia" in the primary jet being the F 4 Phantom II in various forms from D model onward.

The MIG practiced basic combat, in most cases they flew level, dove to the jungle for cover, attacked from the rear and high, using deception, and knew they could out maneuver the F 4 on turns.

The Americans used speed, both slow and fast, to gain advantage, and a series of rolls and crosses to gain the six of the MIGs which would counter with turning into the Americans.

The MIGs did attempt to attack in pairs which is a combat tactic, but just as frequently appeared alone or launched in numbers which while outnumbering the Americans, was never employed with effect to herd the Americans or set up for coordinated shots.

The classic MIG 17 maneuver was "the box" which was almost a 90 degree turn. It was remarkable in the F 4 was incapable of such a turn, and would pull 12 g's if it attempted it, and tear the flaps off the jet.

In classic battles in the late stages of the war, the American pilots would have a MIG on each wing, and in such a situation should have been shot down, but regained advantage and flew away.

The two-seat, twin-engine F-4 Phantom was the U.S. Navy's principle fighter bomber during the Second World War. (Image source: WikiCommons)

In this, the Americans and the Vietnamese both had finite numbers of pilots. For the Americans it was more of a tour of duty and new inexperienced pilots appeared, who had little idea of combat. This degraded the Americans in the period from 1970 onward. TopGun made a distinct advantage, but even in their training, their "breaking into a MIG" was a taught maneuver which would not dislodge any MIG as they had read the manual and were ready for it.
For the NVA, it was a matter of the pilots flew until killed. So they did have equal ability of the Americans, but not as large of pool of pilots. That is what is interesting in the Americans with their fighter and pilots, mirrored exactly their situation, and the NVA with their pilots and fighters mirrored their situation.

The NVA would employ tactics until shot down, and then go quiet in reassessing, and then employ a new tactic. All of which would have been unnecessary if President Johnson and Nixon had not had rules of engagement and simply carpet bombed the airfields of North Vietnam and then shelled them. MIGs can not get into the air to shoot down F 4's if the MIGs can not launch or are in pieces.

In all of this, one thing is certain, and that is unlike the whining propaganda one always is bombarded with, the American and North Vietnamese pilots were all in wonderful spirits and enjoyed themselves as normal peoples do in war. They loved flying, loved fighting and loved being in the military, and were often caught smiling in photos, because it was a wonderful life to be employed at.

Vietnamese Phantom Killers

In assessment, the MIG pilots were good pilots, but not great pilots. They had more training and flight time, than the less experienced American recruits. The Air Force suffered more than the Navy in this lack of being a well regulated militia. The MIG pilots also had adequate ATOL missiles and cannon, while the Americans had missiles in the Sidewinder and Sparrow which failed them by an 80% rate, and no cannon to deal with the MIG.

That is where the reality of the Vietnam Air War was and is, in most cases it was the Americans getting themselves shot down by adequately trained North Vietnamese pilots. The NVA was too regimented due to their totalitarian system and there is a fact in this, that the Chicoms were not the best teaching platform.

It all boils down to the fact that the glory of war should be featured concerning Vietnam, as it was a glorious war. There are far too many wound lickers featured, looking to drool over something that happened a lifetime ago. War is always glorious, as one gets to fly planes, ride in helos, shoot things, kill things, blow things up, and be paid doing it, and dying in a few moments is a hell of a great deal better than suffering through hours of Ken Burns.

Top Vietnamese Aces

Kills (*) Comments Unit Plane
Nguyen Van Coc 9 (7) 2 F-4Ds, 1 F-4B, 2 F-105Fs, 1 F-105D and 1 F-102A 921 FR MiG-21PF
Nguyen Hong Nhi 8 (3) 1 UAV, 1 F-4D, 1 F-105D. Downed once 921 FR MiG-21
Pham Thanh Ngan 8 (1) 1 RF-101C 921 FR MiG-21F-13
Mai Van Cuong 8 (?) - 921 FR MiG-21
Dang Ngoc Ngu 7 (1) 1 F-4C on May 22 1967 921 FR MiG-21
Nguyen Van Bay 7 (5) 2 F-8s, 1 F-4B, 1 A-4C and 1 F-105D 923 FR MiG-17F
Nguyen Doc Soat 6 (5) 3 F-4Es, 1 F-4J, 1 A-7B 927 FR MiG-21PFM
Nguyen Ngoc Do 6 (2) 1 F-105F, 1 RF-101C 921 FR MiG-21
Nguyen Nhat Chieu 6 (2) 1 F-4 (w/MiG-17), 1 F-105D  921 FR MiG-17 & MiG-21
Vu Ngoc Dinh 6 (5) 3 F-105Ds, 1 F-4D, 1 HH-53C 921 FR MiG-21
Le Thanh Dao 6 (2) 1 F-4D, 1 F-4J 927 FR MiG-21PFM
Nguyen Danh Kinh 6 (3) 1 F-105D, 1 EB-66C, 1 UAV 921 FR MiG-21
Nguyen Tien Sam 6 (1) 1 F-4E 927 FR MiG-21PFM
Le Hai 6 (2) 1 F-4C, 1 F-4B 923 FR MiG-17F
Luu Huy Chao 6 (1) 1 RC-47 606 ACS 923 FR MiG-17F
Nguyen Van Nghia 5 (1) - 927 FR MiG-21PFM
(*) The number in parenthesis indicate how many of the claims match with US losses reported so far.

As Commander Sam Flynn would note with Red Baron, fighter review of June 18, 1972 AD in the year of our Lord, the dogfight with a MIG 21, Commander Flynn in NASA flight simulation of a MIG 21 in training, observed that the North Vietnamese pilots were very careful in how they flew their planes, as in they flew like novices or pilots who had been off station for considerable leave.
Flynn understood in his too the edge flying in the simulator, that the NVA pilots were never pushing the MIGs ever to their flight envelope.

The vast majority of Americans who become KIA's were those of not advanced training, and made crucial mistakes of flying in afterburner consuming too much fuel, not going to afterburner soon enough or not pulling hard into fight formation, to enter the engagement on the offensive, instead of the defensive.