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aeroplanedriver

RAF Air Power In Vietnam

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The history of British involvement in Vietnam has been written about extensively over the past four decades, however a brief review of Operation Manticore will help place this model in context.

As the US became more embroiled in the Vietnam Conflict in the late 1960s President Johnson continued to pressure British Prime Minister Harold Wilson to provide material support for the war. Johnson saw British involvement as a valuable public relations tool as opposition to the war grew at home. Despite Johnson’s continued requests for combat troops, Wilson continued in his opposition to British involvement. The prickly nature of the personal relationship between the two men did nothing to improve Johnson’s chances of success.

The situation changed on September 19, 1967 when a Viet Cong bomb exploded in a Saigon nightclub killing 21, including four British nurses working for the International Red Cross. This act of terror opened just enough of a door for Johnson to approach Wilson again, and gave Wilson just enough justification at home to accede to the request. To make the British deployment more palatable on the home front Wilson proposed to Johnson that the request for military assistance should come from Australia. Perhaps correctly so, Wilson felt that coming to the aid of a Commonwealth nation would be more readily accepted by the British people than helping the USA.

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So, after much backroom political negotiation 42 Commando, Royal Marines became the first British military unit to deploy to Vietnam in June 1968. Two RAF squadrons also deployed in support of the Marines, 78 Sqn operating Westland Wessex helicopters and 20 Sqn operating Hawker Hunters. Within a year this small contingent had grown to over 6,000 troops, including Royal Marines, the Black Watch, elements of the Parachute Regiment, Royal Artillery, Ghurkas, and SAS & SBS special forces. The RAF contribution grew to include three squadrons of Hunters, two of Canberras, four Wessex units, a number of transport aircraft, and a flight of Vulcan heavy bombers. Two squadrons of Hunters were based with US forces at Da Nang, while the remainder of the fixed-wing combat aircraft were based at Phan Rang alongside Australian forces.

Even though support for involvement was short-lived on the home front, more British units deployed to southeast asia over the following two years, peaking at 24,000 combat troops in country in late 1970. RAF involvement grew to involve Hunters, Canberras, Strikemasters, Vulcans, Victors, Phantoms, and Eagles. The Royal Navy also contributed forces to the campaign, including the aircraft carriers HMS Eagle and Ark Royal, along with their Scimitar, Sea Vixen, Buccaneer, and Phantom aircraft. All together British combat aircraft flew over 29,000 sorties during the conflict, dropping millions of pounds of bombs, and shooting down 37 enemy aircraft.

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As public resistance grew, both in the UK and the US, Britain began drawing down forces in late 1970, with the last British troops leaving the theater in September 1972. In total 65,328 UK service personnel served in the Vietnam theater between 1968 and 1972. Casualties were heavy, with 1,935 killed, 7,445 wounded, and 89 Missing-in-Action. A total of 55 aircraft were lost to enemy action; 12 Wessex, 1 Belvedere, 2 Sea King, 4 Scout, 11 Hunter, 4 Canberra, 9 Strikemaster, 5 Phantom, 2 Eagle, and a Vulcan, as well as 4 RN Buccaneers.

One footnote to this bloody and divisive conflict came to light in the 1980s, when it was revealed that the nightclub bombing that acted as the catalyst to British involvement was actually engineered by the CIA. This bombshell could have been the death knell of the “Special Relationship” were it not for the close personal relationship between Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher. Reagan’s heartfelt public apology to the British people, and Thatcher’s acceptance of the apology led most people to chalk the incident up as one more example of the turbulent times that were the 1960s.

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This model represents a Phantom FGR.2 of 54 Squadron RAF, deployed to Phan Rang in March 1970. It still wears the WWII-style two-tone blue roundels that were worn during the first years of involvement in the conflict. By 1971 all aircraft in theater had been repainted with the normal red/blue or red/white/blue markings. The aircraft is painted in the standard early Southeast Asia pattern camouflage of tan and dark green, in this case in the later wraparound camouflage, which replaced the light gray or silver lower surfaces in late 1969. This aircraft is shown flying under the callsign DALEK 21, as it appeared on March 18, 1970. It is part of a CSAR mission to rescue a downed Royal Navy Buccaneer crew, who were both recovered with minor injuries. Two Phantoms provided CAS for the rescue mission, which was carried out by a Royal Navy Sea King helicopter, with a USAF O-2 aircraft acting as a forward controller.

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This aircraft survived the war, and is currently on display at the Imperial War Museum, Duxford.

The second model represents a 64 Sqn Hunter F.12 deployed to Da Nang in 1969. Hunter F.12s acted as escorts for RAF and RAAF Canberras throughout their deployment to the SEA theater. This particular aircraft scored two kills, a MiG 17 and a MiG 21, both with Fireflash missiles, before being shot down itself but an SA2 SAM in January 1970. The pilot was rescued with minor injuries by the USAF.

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The Phantom is a Fujimi FGR.2 bought on ebay, already assembled but unpainted. The gear was missing, hence the inflight display. The Hunter is a Revell FGR.9 with the radome made from a 1/48 A-4 drop tank.

I'm planning on expanding this theme with a Vulcan, Strikemaster, Canberra (when Airfix release them!), and maybe a Wessex.

It's nice to be back at the workbench after far too many months away!!

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Brilliant alternative history and the first time I've come across the idea of Brits in Vietnam - Excellent stuff!

Cheers

Col'

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great what-if.... not as fictional as most others :)

just on the subject of the markings, what actually is the story with the far east dark/light blue roundels?

Edited by hovis

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great what-if.... not as fictional as most others :)

just on the nsubject of the markings, what actually is the story with the far east dark/light blue roundels?

I could be wrong was it to stop being recognised asJapaneseaircraft having the red in the roundels taken out.

Impressive what if models and fiction.

Edited by Pilgrim_UK

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S.E.A.C. (South East Asia Command) roundels, gets rid of the Red in the marking, W.W.II, Japanese and all that, also in Blue/White.

Phil

great what-if.... not as fictional as most others :)

just on the nsubject of the markings, what actually is the story with the far east dark/light blue roundels?

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Now this I like alot and Im looking forwards to the Canberra's :wicked:

Thanks for sharing, and nice to see you back on the boards :yahoo:

Bexy

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Nice one, both the kits and the story, I'm a great fan of alternative history.

Cheers

Den

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the roundels bit makes sense..... thanks :)

The logic bahind applying them for the Vietnam conflict goes back to the original plan to deploy Lightnings in 68. It was feared that the splash of red on a Lightning may lead to it being misidentified by the Colonial Cousins as a MiG-21.

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Love the Hunter, really nice.

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excellent cover story and excellent models!!!!

I'm not quite sure how I missed these but with me anything is possible!

Have you expanded on the aircraft for this era?

would love to see some more of your work.

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Sadly, looks like Aeroplanedriver hasn't visited the site since 2010.

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that's a shame, there was some nice work there, plus lots could have been done with the story.

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Yeah, after seeing this I looked around for more of his stuff too. It's all great. He has some more recent builds on whatifmodelers.com. I guess I became a bit of a whif stalker - but this is so cool!

Thanks for posting your builds Aeroplanedriver, wherever you are!

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An interesting idea, but I don't think the fairing for the Marconi ARI 18228 Radar Warning Receiver would have been fitted in this timeframe?

Andy

Edited by andym

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The Vulcan did CA release trials of the ARI 18228 in 1973, so if you factor in the realities of a shooting war, it's not impossible to envisage it, or a similar system, entering service a few years earlier to address the extensive RF threat found over Vietnam.

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Great work and interesting backstory. I wonder what the lightning would have looked like if it had made it over there?

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I imagine it would have been in serious danger of being mistaken for a MiG, so probably some sort of special markings would be in order.

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