South Vietnamese air and ground crews now with one of the world's largest air forces, are rapidly being trained to take over the air war from the United States.
South Vietnamese air and ground crews now with one of the world's largest air forces, are rapidly being trained to take over the air war from the United States. The transformation from seventh largest to fourth largest air force in the world came in a matter of a few days in November, 1972. When it appeared that a Vietnam ??? agreement was imminent, large numbers of aircraft were flown into the country by the U.S. Had a peace agreement resulted, any increase of South Vietnam's strength would have been tied to a North Vietnamese build-up. That was one of the conditions of the nine point plan then being discussed by the negotiators in Paris.
While the South Vietnamese Air Force is happy to have the aircraft, the massive build-up has left them with a major problem... the Air Force is understaffed. There is only one pilot training school in South Vietnam, at Nha Trang, and this is only able to train pilots to handle light aircraft. A bigger problem is technician training. The Air Force is having difficulty recruiting trainees with the necessary education and background for the highly technical jobs. There is, however, no shortage of volunteers for the ground-crew training programme. Hundreds of United States military advisers are still in South Vietnam, many of them engaged in training air force personnel. They would go home under a ??? agreement. The advisers are quick to praise the skill of the South Vietnamese pilots, but they admit that ground maintenance standards are lagging.
South Vietnamese military authorities decline to give exact figures on aircraft strength. All they will say is that the South Vietnamese Air Force is "very big." But, following the November build-up. the air force was known to have well in the excess of 1,500 aircraft. In a few days, some four hundred aircraft were handed over by the U.S.. They included thirty Hercules C-130 transport planes, seventy-two A 37 fighter-bombers, thirty-six Skyraiders, 23 Chinook helicopters and one-hundred and twenty F-5 interceptors. The F-5's were not even available in the United States at the time they were handed over to the South Vietnamese. They were borrowed from U.S. allies.
Many South Vietnamese fighter-bomber pilots are extremely experienced. Some have as much as three times the combat flying time of even the most experienced United States pilots. The U.S. instructors say that the Vietnamese are natural flyers, with excellent co-ordination. But because of the ??? for new pilots, the training concentrates on the flying aspects and the Vietnamese pilots lack the all-round training that would be given to most Western pilots.
At one stage, the South Vietnamese were flying up to 95 per cent of the combat missions inside South Vietnam. Recently, heavy- transport pilots completes an intensive course from U.S. airmen to handle their new Hercules transports. Prior to the build-up, the largest transports in the South Vietnamese Air Force were two-engine C-123's. The exact number of Hercules handed over was not revealed, but it is believed to be upwards of fifty. The speed with which aircrews were trained for the Hercules, less than two months, gives an indication of the high priority given to Air Force training in South Vietnam.
SYNOPSIS: Massive shipments of aircraft from the United States have created in South Vietnam the fourth largest air force in the world... but an air force with insufficient trained men to make the new aircraft an effective fighting force. To cope with the personnel shortage, South Vietnam launched an intensive training programme which is already bearing tangible results.
Hundreds of aircraft.... fighters, bombers, transports, helicopters, were rushed into South Vietnam in a few days in November when it appeared a peace settlement and an arms freeze was likely to come from the Paris negotiations.
United States military advisers have played a major part in the massive training programme that followed the arms shipments. But once a peace is agreed, the advisers must leave South Vietnam. They are quick to praise the skill of the South Vietnamese pilots, but they admit that ground maintenance standards are lagging. It is in this area that the U.S. advisers and South Vietnam's own instructors are concentrating.
At least one recent result of the training programme is impressive. South Vietnam received its first Hercules transport aircraft in November. Less than two months later, military authorities claimed the training of personnel was complete. Air and ground crews for more than fifty aircraft had to be trained.
The South Vietnamese Air Force has taken over most of the bombing missions in South Vietnam. The missions used to be flown by the United States Air Force.... which is still, however, responsible for bombing of North Vietnam.
At one stage, the South Vietnamese were flying up to ninety-five per cent of all combat missions in the South. Most of the missions, like this one, are in the Central Highlands region where Communist activity is reported heaviest. Although they are not as highly trained as United States pilots, the South Vietnamese are often far more experienced.
United States instructors say the South Vietnamese are natural pilots. It's not unusual for a South Vietnamese fighter-bomber pilot to have three times the number of combat hours as even the most experienced U.S. pilots.
These pilots fly missions six days a week... and at nights they are on stand-by duty for emergencies... some indication of South Vietnam's need for more trained airmen to fly the new aircraft recently received from the U.S..