Friday, December 17, 2010

A/C Losses in Vietnam

AFA Members, Congressional Staff members, Civic Leaders, DOCA members,

Dr Richard P. Hallion, former AF historian, sent me the information below. In it, he describes – by aircraft type – US Air Force losses in Vietnam. A few quick observations.

1. Low and slow is dangerous. We lost 150 Skyraiders, 34 C-130s, 22 A-37s, 21 C-123s, 47 OV-10s, 82 O-2s, and 122 O-1s. That's a lot of CSAR support, political risk via POWs, and general projection of vulnerability. Are we planning for this sort of attrition with our buy of C-130Js, C-27s, and even the C-17?

2. We need to plan for attrition on high-end systems. We lost 382 F-4s, 198 F-100s, 283 F-105Ds, 37 F-105Gs, 76 RF-4s, and 33 RF-101s. What sort of fleet do we have today with mostly 4th gen aircraft and other legacy systems? Are we in a position to execute effective combat ops against a near peer? Do we have the industrial base capacity to replace combat losses in a timely fashion (we lost 15 B-52s in 12 days during Linebacker II—today, that would be over 20% of the fleet)?

3. Numerous aircraft were lost for other non-combat reasons — including 2 SR-71s. While there are few guarantees in combat operations … we do know we will suffer unexpected accidents. We need to plan for an inventory that accounts for this basic reality. These losses will be increasingly hard to sustain as we stretch small fleets over increasingly longer service lives.

It is easy to point out that many of the losses in Vietnam were due to the ROE, etc. While that is true, I think it is also important to anticipate that war is generally muddled, and ROE is often constrained by numerous factors that are hard to predict (note the two current conflicts). This further highlights the need to plan for redundancy and a flexible range of options.

This list reminds me of a quote from General (Ret) Richard E. Hawley:

"But institutions can have short memories too. And in the early 60s we entered another Asian war, this time in Vietnam, without a capable air-to-air fighter -- without pilots schooled in the fine art of air-to-air combat -- and without weapons to neutralize the emerging threat of surface-to-air missiles -- and we paid a terrible price against a third-rate power.

In the six months from 23 August 1967 to 5 February 1968, Vietnamese MiG-21 pilots racked up a 16 to 1 kill advantage. In all, we lost 2,448 fixed wing aircraft to a third world military whose Air Force deployed fewer than 200 aircraft.

How easily we forget."

For your consideration.


Michael M. Dunn
Air Force Association


USAF losses in Vietnam

USAF Douglas A-1 Skyraider, 191 total, 150 in combat

-First loss A-1E 52-132465 (1st Air Commando Squadron, 34th TG) shot
down during the night of 28-29 August 1964 near Bien Hoa, SVN

-Final loss A-1H 52-139738 (1st Special Operations Squadron, 56th
Special Operations Wing) which was shot down 28 September 1972 (pilot
was rescued by an Air America helicopter).

A-7D Corsair II -- 6 total, 4 combat

-First loss 71-0310 (353d Tactical Fighter Squadron, 354th TFW) on 2
December 1972 shot down on a CSAR mission in Laos (Capt Anthony Shine

-71-0312 (353d TFS) mid-air collision with an FAC O-1 Bird Dog in Laos
on 24 December 1972, (Capt Charles Riess PoW)

-71-0316 (355th TFS) operational loss (non-combat) crash in Thailand on
11 January 1973 (Pilot Rescued)

-70-0949 (354th TFW) shot down Laos on 17 February 1973 (Maj J J
Gallagher Rescued)

-71-0305 (3rd TFS, 388th TFW) shot down in Cambodia on 4 May 1973 (1Lt T
L Dickens Rescued)

-Final loss 70-0945 (354th TFW) shot down in Cambodia on 25 May 1973
(Capt Jeremiah Costello KIA)

A-26 Invader --22 total

-First loss B-26B 44-35530 (Detachment 2A, 1st ACG) shot down in IV CTZ
on the night of 4-5 November 1962 killing the 3 crew..

-Final loss A-26A 64-17646 (609th SOS, 56th SOW) lost over Laos on the
night of 7-8 July 1969 killing both crewmen.

A-37 Dragonfly --22 total

-First loss 1967; final loss 1972

AC-47 Spooky --19 total, 12 in combat

-First loss 1965, final loss 1969

AC-119 Shadow/Stinger --6 total, 2 in combat

-First loss AC-119G 52-5907 (Det.1, 17th SOS, 14th SOW) which crashed on
take-off from Tan Son Nhut, SVN on 11 October 1969 killing 6 of the 10

-Final loss 1971

AC-130 Spectre --6 total, all combat.

-First loss AC-130A 54-1629 (16th SOS, 8th TFW) hit by 37mm AAA over
Laos and crash-landed at Ubon RTAFB, 2 crewmen died (one died of
injuries before reaching Ubon) but 11 others survived.

-Final loss 1972

B-52 Stratofortress --31 total, 17 in combat

-First losses were operational (non-combat) mid-air collision 2 B-52F
57-0047 and 57-0179 (441st Bomb Squadron, 320th Bomb Wing), 18 June
1965, South China Sea during air refueling orbit, 8 of 12 crewmen killed

-Final loss B-52D 55-0056 (307th Bomb Wing Provisional) to SAM 4 January
1973, crew rescued from Gulf of Tonkin

B-57 Canberra --56 total, 38 in combat

-First loss 1964, final loss 1970

C-5A Galaxy --1 total, 0 in combat. Crashed while attempting emergency
landing at Tan Son Nhut AB 4 April 1975, as part of Operation Babylift.
Five of the 8 US Military women killed during the Vietnam War, were
aboard this airplane.

C-7 Caribou --19 total, 9 in combat

-First lost C-7B 62-4161 (459th Tactical Airlift Squadron, 483d Tactical
Airlift Wing) which was hit by a US 155mm shell on 3 August 1967 in SVN
killing the 3 crewmen. Note: there were two fatal crashes during
Operation Red Leaf transition training of USAF crews in Army CV-2's, on
4 and 28 October 1966[3].

-Final loss was C-7B 62-12584 (483d TAW) which crashed in SVN on 13
January 1971, all 4 crewmen survived.

C-47 Skytrain --21 total

-A C-47 was very first USAF aircraft lost in the SEA conflict, C-47B
44-76330 (315th Air Division) on TDY at Vientiane, Laos which was shot
down by the Pathet Lao on 23 March 1961 killing 7 of the 8 crewmen. The
sole survivor, US Army Maj. Lawrence Bailey was captured and held until
August 1962.

-Final loss EC-47Q 43-48636 (361st Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron,
56th SOW) shot down in Laos on the night of 04/5 4-5 February 1973
killing all 8 crewmen.

C-123 Provider --53 total, 21 in combat

-First loss was C-123B 56-4370 attached to the 464th TAW which came down
on an Operation Ranch Hand (defoliation) training flight between Bien
Hoa and Vung Tau, SVN on 2 February 1962

-Final loss 1971

C-130 Hercules --55 total, 34 in combat

-First loss was C-130A 57-0475 (817th Troop Carrier Squadron, 6315th
Operations Group) on 24 April 1965, a Blind Bat flareship that crashed
into high ground near Korat Royal Thai Air Force Base, Thailand,
attempting to land in bad weather with a heavy load, two engine
failures, and low fuel, killing all six crewmen. This was the 14th
recorded loss of a C-130 to all causes.

-Final loss C-130E 72-1297 (314th TAW) destroyed by rocket fire at Tan
Son Nhut AB on 28 April 1975.

C-141 Starlifter --2 total, 0 combat

-C-141A 65-9407 (62d Military Airlift Wing) destroyed in a night runway
collision with a USMC A-6 at Danang, SVN on 23 March 1967 killing 5 of
the 6 crewmen.

-C-141A 66-0127 (4th Military Airlift Squadron, 62d MAW) crashed soon
after take-off from Cam Ranh Bay, SVN on 13 April 1967 killing 6 of the
8 man crew.

E/RB-66 Destroyer --14 total

-First loss was RB-66B 53-0452 (Det 1, 41st Tactical Reconnaissance
Squadron, 6250th Combat Support Group) which crashed 22-23 October 1965
west of Pleiku, SVN killing the crew.

-Final loss EB-66B 42nd TEWS, 388th TFS lost to engine failure on Dec.
23, 1972 during Operation Linebacker II. 3 crewmen were KIA.

EC-121 BatCat --2 total, 0 combat

-EC-121R 67-24193 (554th Reconnaissance Squadron, 553d RW) crashed 25
April 1969 on take-off in a thunderstorm from Korat RTAFB, killing all
18 crewmen.

-EC-121R 67-21495 (554th RS) crashed on approach to Korat RTAFB on 6
September 1969, 4 of the 16 men were killed.

F-4 Phantom II -- 445 total, 382 in combat

-First loss was operational (non-combat), F-4C 64-0674 (45TH TFS, 15th
TFW) which ran out of fuel after strike in SVN on 9 June 1965; first
combat loss F-4C 64-0685 (45th TFS, 15th TFW) shot down Ta Chan, NW NVN
on 20 June 1965. 9 of the losses were parked aircraft struck by rockets.

-Final loss 1973

F-5 Freedom Fighter --9 total

-First loss 1965, final loss 1967

F-100 Super Sabre --243 total, 198 in combat

-First loss 1964, final loss 1971

F-102 Delta Dagger --14 total, 7 combat

-First loss 1964, final loss 1967. 4 of the combat losses were parked

F-104 Starfighter --14 total, 9 combat

-First loss 1965, final loss 1967

F-105D Thunderchief --335 total, 283 in combat

-First loss 62-4371 (36th TFS, 6441st TFW) written off from battle
damage over Laos 14 August 1964, at Korat, Thailand

-Final loss 61-0153 (44th TFS, 355th TFW) shot down Laos 23 September
1970, pilot Capt. J. W. Newhouse rescued

F-105F/G Thunderchief: "Wild Weasel," "Ryan's Raiders," "Combat
Martin"-- --47 total, 37 combat

-First loss EF-105F 63-8286 (13th TFS, 388th TFW) shot down by AAA RP-6
July 1966, Maj. Roosevelt Hestle and Capt.. Charles Morgan KIA

-Last loss F-105G 63-8359 (Det.1 561st TFS, 388th TFW) shot down by SAM
16 November 1972, RP-3, crew rescued

F-111A "Aardvark" --11 total, 6 in combat

-First loss mission-related TFR failure, 66-0022 (428th TFS 474th TFW,
Project Combat Lancer), 28 March 1968, Maj. H.E. Mccann and Capt. D.L.
Graham MIA

-Final loss 67-0111 (474th TFW) mid-air collision over Cambodia, 16 June
1973, both crewmen rescued

HU-16 Albatross -- 4 total, 2 combat

-51-5287 to unk cause 19 June 1965

-51-0058 to unk cause 3 July 1965

-51-0071 (33d ARRS) shot down by AAA 14 March 1966, two crewmen killed

-51-7145 (37th ARRS) disappeared 18 October 1966, 7 crewmen KIA-BNR

KB-50 Superfortress tanker --1 total, 0 combat

-Only loss KB-50J 48-0065 (421st Air Refueling Squadron Detachment) at
Takhli RTAFB which crashed in Thailand on 14 October 1964, all 6 crewmen

KC-135 Stratotanker --3 total, 0 combat

-Two crashes in 1968, one 1969, all operational (non-combat)

O-1 Bird Dog --172 total, 122 in combat

-First loss 1963, final loss 1972

O-2 Skymaster --104 total, 82 in combat

-First loss 1967, final loss 1972

OV-10 Bronco --63 total, 47 in combat

First loss 1968, final loss 1973

QU-22 Pave Eagle --8 lost, 7 in combat

-First loss YQU-22A 68-10531 (554th RS, 553d RW) crashed due to engine
failure on 11 June 1969

-Final loss QU-22B 70-1546 (554th RS) on 25 August 1972, pilot killed.

RF-4C Phantom II --83 total, 76 in combat

-First loss 1966, final loss 1972

RF-101 Voodoo --39 total, 33 in combat

-First loss 1964, final loss 1968

SR-71A Blackbird --2 total, 0 combat

-64-17969 (Det OL-8, 9th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing) suffered engine
failure over Thailand on 10 May 1970, both crewmen ejected safely

-64-17978 (Det OL-KA, 9th SRW) crashed on landing at Kadena, Okinawa on
20 July 1972, both crewmen survived

T-28 Trojan-- --23 total

-First loss 1962, final loss 1968

U-2C "Dragon Lady" --1 total, 0 combat

-Only loss 56-6690 (349th Strategic Reconnaissance Squadron 100th SRW)
which crashed on 8 October 1966 near Bien Hoa, SVN, Maj. Leo J Stewart
ejected and was rescued.

U-3B Blue Canoe --1 total, 1 combat

-Only loss 60-6058, destroyed on the ground during a VC attack on Tan
Son Nhut, SVN on 14 June 1968.

U-6A Beaver --1 total, 0 combat

Only loss 51-15565 (432d Tactical Reconnaissance Wing) which crashed in Thailand 28 December 1966, both crewmen survived.


Unknown said...

Well, first of all, consider how much less the losses in Vietnam would have been had we had JDAM and GPS tech at the time.

A JDAM drop performs contempt of engagement on all sorts of ground to air threats. So for example; pick your Vietnam era aircraft, A-4, F-100, F-4 etc. A JDAM drop would mean you wouldn't be engaged by trashfire, tripple AAA, MANPADS small battlefield SAMS and in the case of that era even the exposure to the SA-2 would be a lot less.
So just stating generation "X" of aircraft doesn't address that issue at all. JDAM and similar tech reduce and deny the effects of legacy IADS.

zoomie1995 said...

Wow, no mention of helicopter losses? Why the oversight? Haven't seen a fixed wing come to a hover yet in a CSAR. Get with it, USAF helicopter crews are in harm's way now like they were in Vietnam with loss of aircraft and crews. Have you heard of the Jolly Green Giants?

Tom Garcia said...

Where are the helicopter losses?
Tom Garcia 20th SOS (UH-1F & UH-1P)

Unknown said...

Don't believe this accounting is 100% correct. I flew EC-47s and we had several combat and operational losses. could it be that they are erroneously included in the AC-47 tally?

Maj. Carl (Rusty) Hubbard. USAF-Ret.

Unknown said...

I don't believe the tallies are 100% accurate. I flew EC-47s and we had several combat and a few operational loses. Could it be that the EC-47 loses are erroneously included in the AC-47 tallies?

Carl (Rusty) Hubbard, Maj, USAF-Ret.

halwilson said...

Great historical run down of planes - wonder what the total count of crew members lost were?

Unknown said...

What? No USAF helos lost in Viet Nam? I thought I would see some recognition of their service in the paragraph 1. commentary: "Low and slow is dangerous." Especially with the comment about "CSAR support." But short of that, I at expected to see them at least listed at the end of the article. I guess Gen Hawley's quote was more apropos than intended, "How easily we forget."

Unknown said...

It is interesting how all the AF CSAR helicopter losses were left out of this review, at least I hope the C-130 numbers include Rescue tankers lost in the war. Rescue forces are the heroes who put their lives on the line then and every day in current conflicts for not only AF members but our joint and coalition partners as well. Active Duty CAF CSAR crews (to include Pararescuemen) are deployed as much as they are at home and our Guard and Reserve CSAR team members pull a huge load as well; they all have for the past 10 years as Low Supply-High Demand assets. And they aren’t just sitting alert. According to a recent Air Force Link story, they have saved 500 lives and treated 600 other patients since the beginning of September 2010. They are flying their aircraft, to include the same HC-130s flown in Vietnam, at unprecedented operations tempo yet there is no outcry from the AF to increase the CSAR force structure because most of our defense and AF leaders consider rescue a "pick-up game” and too far below the radar screen to be bothered with. Perhaps it's good we don't have a large fixed-wing inventory to risk being shot down. There won't be anyone to come get them as did the hundreds of those recovered in Vietnam.
But you said it well: "How easily we forget."

Unknown said...

Could help but notice the lack of data for Air Force helicopter losses. The data is available at and includes CH/HH-3, HH-43, CH/HH-53 and UH-1 aircraft. We were a small but vital component of the Air War in SEA in my opinion.

Jim Henthorn
21st Special Operations Sq
56th Special Operations Wing
Nakhon Phanom RTAFB

Unknown said...

Another aircraft that flew many missions (over 2000) in Vietnam with a few hundred losses was AQM-34 series RPV's/drones from the 100 SRW. They flew low and high altitude recon, electronic intelligence, countermeasures, real-time, chaff and leaflet dropping missions. The DC-130A/E was our launch platform with no losses and the CH-3 was our recovery helicopter also with no losses.
Richard Hutchinson, Ret. MSgt from 100AMMS, 100SRW

outsidetheglass said...

If I may ask a question. My father was shot down and rescued flying an F5 in 1966 or 67. Is there a way to find information about this flight?

Air Force Association said...

Unfortunately, we would not have any information about the flight or the rescue. But we will inquire about the best place to track down that type of information.

Anonymous said...

I was wondering if you have in your records the serial number of the F-101 that Capt. Walter Burton Walts was shot down in on 11/21/64? The number listed I have does not exist in the F-101's built? Please let me know at

Sam McGowan said...

There were no Rescue HC-130s lost in Vietnam except for two that were lost at Tuy Hoa to ground attack. The first C-130 lost was not a "Blind Bat flareship." It was on an airlift mission and was low on fuel.

Sam McGowan said...

JDAM and GPS wouldn't have made any difference in Vietnam. The majority of transports shot down were lost while on approach to landing by small arms fire. There were three C-130s shot down during airdrop missions. GPS might, and I repeat "might" have made a difference in operational losses but I doubt it.

Unknown said...

I see no listing for the EC-47 (Electronic Warfare) I flew 124 missions from DaNang in my third tour of combat missions in the war. Captain Bollinger was the Navigator on Baron 52 when it was shot down and all hands lost. I checked him out when he came into theater at DaNang, then he moved to Thailand to fly the "Electric Goon" over there. At approximately 0125 hours on 5 February 1973, Baron 52 reported to Operational Command that they were observing ground fire directed toward them from the jungle covered mountains of Southern Laos. The last message received from the EC47Q, nicknamed the "Flying Pueblo", came five to ten minutes later when Capt. Spitz reported that everything was all right. When the aircraft failed to return to friendly control, the crew was declared missing. The aircraft was found, the classified destroyed and eventually some remains were recovered but all hands were lost. This may have been the last aircraft lost in the war to enemy fire as that was only 18 days before the last aircraft load of Freedom Bird people left DaNang. The cease fire was a couple of weeks before that. I'll research how many EC-47s were lost, as this listing is incomplete without them.
Colonel Curtis D. Dale, PhD, USAF (Ret)
Colonel Curtis D. Dale

Unknown said...

My father's eb 66 which crashed in Thailand before Xmas 72 ,engine problems. dad's. Name Major Henry,Hank, Repeta

Sam McGowan said...

Only two rescue HC-130s were lost in Southeast Asia and they were both lost on the ground at Tuy Hoa at the same time.

ed huett said...


ed huett said...