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The Vietnam War (1955-1975) was one of the most intense and complex periods in American military history. Combat aircraft played a crucial role in this conflict, with a variety of models evolving over the years to meet the changing needs of the battlefield. In this article, we’ll explore the American combat aircraft used during the Vietnam War, highlighting their performance, notable missions, and subsequent replacement.
F-4 Phantom II
The F-4 Phantom II is one of the most iconic aircraft of the Vietnam War. It was a versatile fighter-bomber and served in a variety of roles throughout the conflict.
- Maximum speed: 2,237 km/h
- Operational ceiling: 18,288 m
- Rate of climb: 15,240 m/min
- Armament: The F-4 was equipped with AIM-7 Sparrow and AIM-9 Sidewinder air-to-air missiles, as well as air-to-ground bombs and rockets.
The F-4 Phantom II was mainly used as a fighter-bomber, for air interception missions, close air support, and suppression of enemy air defenses. It was also used for reconnaissance missions.
- The F-4 Phantom II was used extensively in Operation Rolling Thunder, a strategic bombing campaign against North Vietnam.
- It was also used in Operation Linebacker, an intensified bombing campaign in 1972.
- The F-4 was engaged in fierce aerial combat with enemy aircraft, such as the North Vietnamese MiG-21.
The F-4 Phantom II was retired from active service in the US Air Force in 1996, but continued to serve in National Guard and Reserve units until 2004. It was replaced by the F-15 Eagle and F-16 Fighting Falcon.
The A-4 Skyhawk was a light attack aircraft that saw extensive service during the Vietnam War.
- Maximum speed: 1,076 km/h
- Operating ceiling: 12,192 m
- Rate of climb: 2,286 m/min
- Armament: The A-4 was equipped with bombs, rockets and machine guns.
The A-4 Skyhawk was mainly used for close air support and ground attack missions. Its maneuverability made it an ideal choice for precision bombing missions.
Notable missions :
- The A-4 took part in numerous close air support missions in support of US ground troops.
- It was also used in missions to suppress enemy anti-aircraft defenses.
Withdrawal from service :
The A-4 Skyhawk was withdrawn from active service in the US Navy in 1976. It was replaced by the A-7 Corsair II.
The F-105 Thunderchief was a supersonic bomber that was used extensively in the early days of the Vietnam War.
- Maximum speed: 2,235 km/h
- Operating ceiling: 15,545 m
- Rate of climb: 7,620 m/min
- Armament: The F-105 was capable of carrying a variety of bombs, including tactical nuclear bombs.
The F-105 was mainly used for strategic bombing and ground attack missions. It was also used as a fighter-bomber.
- F-105s were used in Operation Rolling Thunder and in attacks against targets in North Vietnamese territory.
- They suffered heavy losses due to North Vietnamese anti-aircraft defense.
Withdrawal from service:
The F-105 Thunderchief was withdrawn from active service in the US Air Force in 1984. It was replaced by the F-4 Phantom II in the supersonic bomber role.
American combat aircraft used during the Vietnam War played a variety of roles, from air interception to strategic bombing to close air support. Each of these aircraft had specific performance characteristics that made them well suited to their particular missions. After the war, most of these aircraft were withdrawn from active service and replaced by more modern models, marking a significant evolution in American military aircraft technology.
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