The South Vietnamese Airforce has entered the jet age. For more than six years it?
The South Vietnamese Airforce has entered the jet age. For more than six years it has been fighting the war in old, slow propeller-driven planes while for some time the communist Vietnamese in the north have been flying Mig jet fighters built in the Soviet Union. Now the South Vietnamese have the F 5 Freedom fighter and they will be flying a squadron of them out of Bien Hoa.
The jet will not displace the old reliable Skyraiders which continue to be excellently suited to their job of carrying heavy bombs loads and protecting troops by staying over battlefields for long periods of time.....the jets will however, solve the problem of what to do when the Skyraiders wear out ...they are no longer in production and they cannot be patched up indefinitely.
The best of the Vietnamese pilots, who have served a long apprenticeship in the Skyraiders have been assigned to the jets. Many of these pilots have from 800 to 1000 missions to their credit....
American pilots consider themselves veterans after 200 missions.
Because of their size and diet Vietnamese pilots do not have strength and stamina. The F 5 is ideally suited them....it is a relatively unsophisticated aircraft, which takes little effort to fly. It does not carry radar or any other complicated electrical equipment.
The F 5 has its limitations, however, and these drawbacks caused the United States to drop it as a combat aircraft after a year of service in Vietnam.
It has a limited range and a limited bomb load and it is not anywhere near as fast as the majority of American jets in Vietnam. But the F 5 can do most of the things the Skyraider can do and it will be able to react faster.
The South Vietnamese F 5 Squadron will be used in the southern part of the country to support South Vietnamese ground troops and to attack Vietcong camps and bases. It can carry a satisfactory load of napalm and make good use of it.
The Vietnamese pilots have earned the respect of the American advisers who have helped them complete their jet training during combat missions. The Americans point out that the Vietnamese have made and unusually direct progression from propeller-driven planes to combat quickly.
INTERVIEW WITH SENIOR ADVISOR COLONEL BRIAN J LINCOLN
More than anything it is a matter of pride for the South Vietnamese to operate a jet squadron. South Vietnamese pilots are the elite among all the fighting men in this country...their patron is their premier, Air Vice Marshal Ngyuen Cao Ky. Without doubt the F 5 is a glamorous addition to an air force which is very conscious of glamour.
Bill Wordham NBC News at Bien Hoa Air Base, South Vietnam.