Vietnam US Aces

Discussion in 'Military History and Militaria' started by jonwilly, Dec 13, 2008.

Welcome to the Army Rumour Service, ARRSE

The UK's largest and busiest UNofficial military website.

The heart of the site is the forum area, including:

  1. Was having a liquid lunch yesterday and on the next table where a group we knew apart from one Aussy, who started shooting his gob off.
    Now I must be fair he was a Nam vet and was there during the Tet offensive, he was very vocal but sounded that he knew his subject.
    He then came out with the following statement,
    The Yanks had only two aces (five enemy a/c shot down) and the Viets had about 25.
    Balls thought I.
    I have been watching the series on Discovery Channel 'Shootout' which shows how the US saved the world in every air encounter their has ever been.

    I did a quick Google check and was gobsmacked by the following

    "While only two American pilots became aces in the Vietnam War - Randy "Duke" Cunningham (USN) and Steve Ritchie (USAF) - sixteen Vietnamese pilots earned that honor. Nguyen Van Coc is also the Top Ace of Vietnam War with 9 kills: 7 planes and 2 UAV (Un-manned Airborne Vehicle) Firebees. Among those seven US planes, six are confirmed by US records (see table below), and we should add to this figure a confirmed USAF loss (the F-102A flown by Wallace Wiggins (KIA) on February 3 1968), originally considered a probable by the VPAF. Even omitting UAV "drones," his 7 confirmed kills qualified Coc as the Top Ace of the war, because no American pilot achieved more than 5."

    Luckily I had kept my mouth shut yesterday, an Aussi in our party had said 'That guys talking sense'.

    OK Not 25 Viet aces but a mere 16 but I was surprised that there where only two US aces.

  2. The US claim that they had five aces - Cunningham and Ritchie were the only two pilots, though - the three others were Cunningham's RIO (Willie Driscoll) and Chuck DeBellvue and Jeff Fenistein, who were both F-4 backseaters - although they both ended up as pilots after the war.

    The bias towards the defending/outnumbered side in terms of having more who score more than five victories is a reasonably well-established one, not least since the side superior in numbers tends to be able to rotate its aircrew out of the front line...

    Although he didn't score five victories, Robin Olds deserves to be included in any list of 'ace' US pilots in Vietnam.
  3. One of those Viet Aces became the first Asian in space I have have forgotten what his name is which is not a good move as he is regarded as a God in Vietnam.
    Pham Tuan,maybe
  4. Western air forces in general succumbed to "missile disease" in the late 50's/early '60's. I believe the UK MOD presented a White Paper in which it was stated that guns would no longer be needed on fighter aircraft. (Later another white paper stated that manned fighters were obsolete). The F-4 Phantom originally had no guns at all, relying on Sidewinders and Sparrow missiles. The Sparrow in particular had a horrible failure rate in SE Asia, apparently particularly sensitive to the high humidity of the region. The Vietnamese in their gun-armed MiGs got in close and used their guns against American aircraft incapable of responding. Also the ROE's of aerial combat at the time greatly disadvantaged American pilots.

    As a result of the lopsided kill ratios, the US instituted Agressor training squadrons, Top Gun school, and Red Flag exercises among other programs to give realistic combat training for fighter pilots.
  5. Presumably the Vietnamese could also rack up their scores on bombers, OPs, medicvac, freight aircraft and helicopters? AFAIK, the US only had enemy fighters to engage.
    (Source: Francillon)

    A-1 - 2
    EB-66 - 1
    RC-47 - 1
    F-4 - 33
    RF-101 - 1
    F-102 - 1
    F-105 23

    HH53 - 1


    A-1 - 1
    A-3 - 1
    A-4 2
    A-6 - 2
    F-4 - 5
    F-8 - 4


    F-4 - 1


    OV-1 - 1
    UH-1 - 1

    Losses to MIGs made up only 2.1% of total losses.
    SAMS -5.3%
    AAA - 57.5%
    At Air Bases -3.9%
    Operational -31.2%

    Total US Losses from 1962-1973 were 8,488 aircraft.

    The US Army alone lost 1,380 UH-1's
  7. AlienFTM

    AlienFTM LE Book Reviewer

    I wonder if the following has any bearing on this thread. (I cannot find the link right now, but I found it off one of the links from this page: )

    It states that F104s were shipped to Vietnam, but once the Commies realised what they were up against ("we need a plane for bombing, strafing, assault and battery, interception, ground support and reconnaissance. Not just a fairweather fighter." See link), their rule of thumb was that when the F104s took to the air, the MiGs went home.
  8. Oddly enough, I see logic in this. Despite its awful record in Europe, it might well have proven to be a good escort fighter vs. the MiG-21 in Vietnam. It was fast, and could pursue the bad guys out of the engagement area and destroy them.

  9. There is no doubt that the Starfighter was a very sexy looking aeroplane. However, the fact remains, that it’s record in Vietnam was far from stellar. Eight were lost for zero MIGs.

    The data I posted previously shows that there is a discrepancy between US losses due to enemy fighters and those claimed by the NVAF. The number of claimed kills by the NVAF ‘Aces’ alone, exceed the total number of aircraft lost to air to air combat according to US records.

    This is, in my view due to the usual story. That is, over-claiming by the NVAF and US air combat losses being attributed to AAA rather than air to air. The truth lies probably somewhere in between.

    Air to Air combat is as sexy as the Starfighter. But looking at the US data above, the fighter component of the NVAF integrated air defence system was only, roughly, half as effective at killing aircraft as the attacks on airfields. That is, 2.1%-V-3.9%

    Fighter aircraft and the associated radars and systems to coordinate them are fantastically expensive. Sending Nigel through the wire with a satchel charge is ridiculously cheap. Having Nigel launch rockets at an airbase from several clicks out is nearly as cheap, and has the added advantage that Nigel might live to rocket another day.

    Airfield attacks in Vietnam also simplified the accounting process. There was no ambiguity as to what was the cause of the loss. Was it a SAM? Was it AAA? Was it a MIG? The only thing required to establish the facts was to count the number of still smoking airframes in the morning.

    The US counter to the poor air to air exchange rate was, for the Navy at least, the ‘Top Gun’ programme. Would it not have been more efficient and effective, albeit way less sexier, to simply improve airfield defence?

  10. Yes, but British designers didn't actually drop the guns from the airframe did they. Hunter, Swift, Javelin, Lightning all had guns. In fact every RAF fighter up to Typhoon had guns.

    The designs that didn't , didn't actually make it into service , SR53 etc
  11. Manned fighters are indeed obsolete, if only because pilots are redundant, particularly in any bar related scenario!
  12. Dogfights, I believe & about as historically accurate as the Hitler Diaries. It's preposterous that such a bias programme can be shown on a history based television network & claimed as historically accurate. It's nothing more than over-hyped allied propaganda.

    How can they have the audacity to talk of American aces & not even bother to mention the Luftwaffe? The highest scoring allied ace was a Russian with about 60 & he wasn't given any recognition. I think the highest American ace was a VMF pilot with something around 40, his name fails me at the moment.

    Now compare those scores to the top 10 aces of all time:

    Erich Hartmann 352
    Gerhart Barkhorn 301
    Gunther Rall 275
    Otto Kittel 267
    Walter Nowotny 258
    Wilhelm Batz 237
    Erich Rudorffer 222 (12 ME262)
    Heinz Bar 220 (16 ME262)
    Hermann Graf 212
    Heinrich Ehrler 208 (8 ME262)

    By the way, all those chaps are Germans from ww2 & they didn’t even get a mention! :roll:

    I remain, &c.

  13. Dogfights, yes that's the correct title I used their other one of Shootouts which is used over here.
    The program is highly US biased too much so that it does spoil what should be a good program of computer based graphics.
    I know a Yank Fighter Pilot from the days of Korea, he's the most aggressive 70 odd year old I have ever known.
    I know so many of the German kills where made during the early days of the Invasion of Russia, Hans Joachim Marseillaise was highest scorer against the Western Allies about 130 memory says.
  14. You should pop along to Pattaya and run with the Hash, John. There are some extremely aggressive ex-mil Yanks there!
  15. Wasn't Barkhorn one of the team leaders on the Harrier?

    And the Germans didn't do tours like the Allied Air Forces, they fought till they were too tired to go on, or dead

    Don't forget a lot of those kills were against Russian Pilots , and in the early years especially, it was a Turkey shoot.