Vietnam War era / American
1964 - 1973
French Indochina was formed in October
1887 from Annam, Tonkin, Cochinchina (now
modern Vietnam) the Kingdom of Cambodia
was added after the Franco-Siamese War of
The years after the Second World War
saw the countries of French Indo China
begin a series of guerrilla wars to avoid
being taken back under French rule.
France’s defeat in the Indo China
war in 1954, led to the Geneva Conference
awarding power to the nationalist
governments of Cambodia, Laos, North
Vietnam, and South Vietnam.
The Vietnam War, also referred to as
the Second Indochina War, was fought
between the communist Democratic Republic
of Vietnam (North Vietnam), supported by
its communist allies, and Republic of
Vietnam (South Vietnam) supported by the
On the 15th January 1973, President
Nixon of the U.S. announced the
suspension of offensive operations
against North Vietnam. The Paris Peace
Accords on, Ending the War and Restoring
Peace in Vietnam, were signed on the 27th
January 1973, officially ending direct
U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War.
The war ended with approximately
58,000 U.S. soldiers killed, 3 - 4
million Vietnamese from both sides, and
1.5 to 2 million Laotians and
MiG-17 1952, Soviet, 711 mph
The MiG-17 was an upgrade of the 668
mph MiG-15 that served in the Korean War.
The MiG-17 scored its first victories
during the Vietnam War, when they
normally worked with MiG-21s and
Some North Vietnamese pilots stated
they preferred the MiG-17 over the
MiG-21, as it was more agile, though not
The American's were shocked in 1965
when elderly, subsonic MiG-17s began
shooting down Mach-2, F-105 Thunderchief
fighter-bombers over North Vietnam. This
led to the Americans setting up air
combat training programs such as
MiG-17s shot down about 17 x
F-105 Thunderchief, 8 x F-8
Crusader, and 33 x F-4 Phantom II,
mainly with their 23mm or 37mm
MiG-19 1955, Soviet, 909 mph
Most of North Vietnam's MiG-19's were
supplied by China, only being involved in
the 1970s, years after the MiG-17 and
Many North Vietnamese pilots stated
they preferred the MiG-17 for
maneuverability, or the MiG-21 for
MiG-19s shot down about 2 x A-6
Intruder (ground attack aircraft)
and 5 x F-4 Phantom II, mainly with
their 23mm or 37mm cannon.
1956, US, 673 mph
The Douglas A-4 Skyhawk was the US
Navy's main light bomber over North
Vietnam during the early years of the
Vietnam War, at a time the USAF was
flying the supersonic F-105
Skyhawks carried out some of the first
air strikes by the US, and a Marine
Skyhawk is said to have dropped the last
A famous naval aviator who flew the
Skyhawk was Cdr. John McCain.
On the 1st May 1967, an A-4C
Skyhawk piloted by LCDR Theodore R.
Swartz, shot down a MiG-17 with an
unguided Zuni rocket, the Skyhawk's
only air-to-air kill in the
Thunderchief 1956, US, 1,390
The Republic F-105 Thunderchief was
the largest single seat fighter/bomber
ever built, capable of Mach 2.
The F-105 was the main strike bomber
over North Vietnam during the early years
of the war. Of the 833 F-105
Thunderchiefs built before the end of the
Vietnam War, almost half were lost to
anti aircraft artillery and surface to
North Vietnamese MiGs claimed to
have shot down about 47 of the
F-105s. There were about 27 MiGs
shot down by the 105s, mostly using
their 30mm cannon and a few with
the AIM-9 short-range, heat-seeking
1957, US, 1,225 mph
The F-8 Crusader was a single engine
aircraft carrier based fighter built by
Chance-Vought of Dallas/ Texas.
Some experts at the time, with air to
air missiles being fitted to most fighter
aircraft, believed dogfights would no
longer take place.
The war in North Vietnam soon proved
many aircraft were still having to use
their guns and cannon in some accounters
with the enemy.
The F-8 Crusader was credited
with shooting down, 16 MiG-17s, and
3 MiG-21s, four with cannon, and 15
with AIM-9 short-range,
heat-seeking Sidewinder missiles.
North Vietnam claimed their MiGs
shot down 11 x F-8 Crusader.
Starfighter 1958, U.S., 1,328
The Lockheed F-104 Starfighter was an
American single engined, supersonic
interceptor in service from 1958 until
The F-104 was rarely involved in
encounters with MiGs, with no confirmed
air-to-air kills. They were usefull
though, as the MiG interceptors would
avoid attacking missions with F-104
The US only built 296 of the 104s, as
at that time, they failed to see the
importance of air superiority.
The Starfighter was not suitable
for the fighter bomber role, as it
lacked the payload and endurance of
other U.S. aircraft.
The last USAF Starfighters were
taken out of active service in
MiG-21 1959, Soviet, 1,385 mph
The MiG-21 first saw action in the
Vietnam War, one of the most advanced
aircraft at that time.
Many North Vietnamese though, stated
they preferred the MiG-17 as it was more
Although the MiG-21 lacked the long
range radar and missiles of the U.S.
fighters, it was a real threat to US
aircraft when used in high speed hit and
MiG-21 intercepts of the 1,390 mph
F-105 Thunderchiefs, often forced the US
aircraft to jettison their bombs, so they
could fight the MiGs, or use their speed
to leave the area.
MiG-21s shot down about 30 x
F-105 Thunderchief, 3 x F-8
Crusader, and 70 x F-4 Phantom II,
most with their Vympel K-13 (AA-2
Atoll) short-range, heat-seeking
missiles. Also armed with 23mm or
30 mm cannon.
F-4 Phantom II
1960, U.S., 1,472 mph
The McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II
is a two-seat, twin-engined
fighter-bomber built for the U.S. Navy,
Marine Corps and Air Force.
From their deployment to Vietnam in
1965, Phantoms were used for air
superiority, ground attack, and bombing
sorties into Laos and North Vietnam.
As many of the F-105 Thunderchiefs
were being lost in the war, the US began
using the F-4 Phantoms more for bombing
missions, and after the remaining 105s
were withdrwn form from combat in 1970,
Phantoms became the main U.S.
A total of 761Phantoms were lost
in the Vietnam War, most to AAA,
some to SAM missiles, some to
accidents, and about 108 to MiGs.
F-4s shot down about 34 x MiG 17s,
8 x MiG 19s, and 66 x MiG 21s, most
with the AIM-9 short-range,
heat-seeking Sidewinder missiles,
or the AIM-7 Sparrow medium-range,
semi-active radar homing air-to-air
missile, only a few by their 20mm
F-111 1967, U.S., 1,650 mph
The General Dynamics F-111 is a
medium-range strategic bomber and strike
aircraft that entered the Vietnam War in
F-111s did not need tankers, and could
carry the bomb load of four F-4 Phantoms.
In over 4,000 combat missions over
Vietnam, they only had six combat
There is little information on the six
losses, as to whether they were downed by
surface to air fire, or, crashed due to
the F-111 flying high speed, low level
The F-111 was originally
intended to be a fighter-bomber,
but was rarely fitted with the
intended M61 Vulcan 20 mm gatling
cannon or Air-to-Air Missiles, so
would just out-run any MiGs it
Blackbird 1968, U.S., 2,200 +
The Lockheed SR-71 is an advanced,
long-range, Mach 3 capable reconnaissance
aircraft used for missions over North
Vietnam from 1968.
The Soviet built S-75 SAM missiles,
used by North Vietnam, had a maximum
altitude of around 60,000ft, and speed of
about 1,864 mph, so were not capable of
hitting the SR-71 flying at 85,000ft, and
Air to Air missiles of the time
of the Vietnam War flew at about:
AIM-9 Sidewinder 1,300 mph, AIM-7
Sparrow 3,000 mph.
The Soviet designed Vympel K-13
Air to Air missiles fitted to MiGs
during the Vietnam War, were
thought to fly at about 1,900
Vietnam War era aircraft that
never took part in the war
Lightning 1959, British, 1,518
The English Electric Lightning was a
British supersonic fighter aircraft of
the Cold War era, known for its high
speed for the time and rate of climb few
modern fighters can better.
RAF pilots stated it was like "being
saddled to a skyrocket". Having never
being involved in combat, this aircrafts
claim to fame was beating the mighty F-15
Eagle in a race to 30,000 feet. From
1974, the British RAF began to rplace
these aircraft with the US bult Phantom
Kuwait retired it's Lightnings
in 1977. Saudi Arabia replaced
theirs in 1985 with European built
Tornados, and the British RAF took
their last Lightnings out of
service in July 1988.
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1963, Soviet, 1,150 mph
The Tupolev Tu-128 was a long-range
interceptor, the world's largest
production fighter aircraft.
This was an interceptor fighter
intended for the high-altitude patrol of
sections of the Soviet Union with no
Equipped with a large I-band radar,
the Tu-28 was armed with two radar-homing
and two infra-red homing Bisnovat R-4
The Tu-28 was withdrawn from
service throughout the eighties,
and replaced by the MiG-31 in 1990.
The Tu-28 is not known to have
engaged another aircraft in
1964, British, 1,630 mph?
The BAC TSR-2 was a Cold War strike
aircraft designed to for low altitude,
high speed attacks.
On its fist supersonic flight, the
TSR-2, with one afterburner lit,
accelerated away from the chase Mach 2
Lightning, even with the Lightning using
full afterburner on both engines. Only
one TSR-2 flew before the project was
cancelled due to cost.
The TSR-2 was said to be by far
the most advanced military aircraft
of it's day, potentially Mach
Although Britain lost a massive
investment in this aircraft, much
of the technology was later used
producing the Mach 2 passenger jet,
Page . www.thunder-and-lightnings.co.uk
1964, U.S., 2,056 mph
Although this aircraft never made it
into service, the thought of its
exsistance forced the Soviets to build
exceptionally fast fighters capable of
matching its performance.
This North American Aviation's B-70
Valkyrie was a nuclear-armed, six-engined
bomber aircraft, capable of flying Mach 3
at high altitude.
The cost of the aircraft, along
with new Russian anti-aircraft
missiles that could have shot these
aircraft down, led to the
cancellation of the program in
On the 4th February 1969,
Valkyrie number one was retired and
flown to the United States Air
Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force
Base near Dayton/ Ohio to be
displayed in their Museum.
MiG-25 Foxbat 1970, Soviet, 2,115
The MiG-25 is a high-speed interceptor
with a top speed of Mach 3.2, a powerful
radar, and four air-to-air missiles. None
of these aircraft were deployed to the
The MiG-25 forced the U.S. to develope
the 1,875 mph F-15 Eagle. With the
MiG-25s speed advantage, on the few
ocasions they encountered western
aircraft in the Israeli and Gulf wars,
they caused considerable concern with
their high speed, forcing their enemy to
use ambush tacktics, along with superior
radar and weapons to bring them down.
In 1981, Israeli F-15A's shot down 2
Syrian MiG 25s with AIM-7F Sparrow
missiles, and two MiG-25s were shot down
by U.S. F-15Cs during the Gulf War.
After the Gulf War, in 1992, a
U.S. F-16 shot down a MiG-25 that
violated the no-fly zone in
One U.S. Navy F/A-18 Hornet was
shot down on the first night of the
Persian Gulf War by an air-to-air
missile, said to have been fired
from a MiG-25.