October 7, 2022

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“Those Meg must be killed.” Polo operation in Vietnam

Vietnam 1967. the operation rolling thunderThe campaign of aerial bombardment in the north, which began in 1965, is in full swing. But the losses of American aircraft by enemy fighters and air-missile defense systems worry American orders and unleash the bitter irony of the pilots.

In fact, the F-105 “Thunderchief” was renamed “Thud”, the sonic sound of a jingle resulting from the fall of a heavy object, because during that struggle he set the unenviable record of losses incurred by opponents of the Mig. The Thud was, on paper, well armed and was one of the few aircraft equipped with the M61A1 Vulcan self-defense gun, but the problem was its poor maneuverability, and when the North Vietnamese MiGs, instead of adopting the classic “blow and run”, enjoyed participating in Maneuver air combat, it was a problem. The F-105 was heavy, with a maximum payload of nearly 24 tons which was more than three times that of agility. MiG 17 And more than double that of MiG 21: It was actually called “lead sled”. Most of all, the radius of the Mig-17 was about a third of the radius of the Thunderchief, depending on temperature and altitude. The result: almost a massacre.

Catch All Missiles

If the Mig-17 was really an obsolete aircraft of those years, so was the Mig-21, which recently appeared in the northern airspace, the presence of which undermined the air superiority of the United States. There was actually a limit, due to the nature of American planes: fighters, like the very famous plane F-4C PhantomThey did not have an internal cannon and the pilots became unaccustomed to close air combat, relying exclusively on missiles.

However, a Phantom pilot didn’t have much chance of making full use of his plane “all rockets”: The ability of the Aim-7 Sparrow, for example, to operate out of line of sight, was almost unusable in the skies of North Vietnam, because it was so crowded with “friendly” (and enemy) aircraft that it was practically impossible to use it safely, and therefore rarely allowed American pilots fired on them. It seemed impossible to eliminate the threat of the North Vietnamese MiG, also given the fact that American pilots were expressly forbidden to bomb enemy airfields.

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Oldest idea

And so for the USAF veteran pilot, Colonel Robin Olds, come an idea. In November 1966 I was convinced that something had to be done. Ricorda Olds “So I turned to the commander of the Seventh Air Force, General Maumere, with the suggestion that I let my thoughts develop. I had no answer, but after a few days he summoned me to Saigon. I explained to him my reasons and my thoughts, and he gave me the green light”.

BoyBullseye operation. Olds relies on an old friend of his in planning, General Donovan Smith, who suggests he organize an “anti-MiG” mission using the Eighth Tactical Fighter Wing and simulating the speed, tactics and flight features of the F-105 to mislead her. North Vietnamese.

Olds arrives on September 30, 1966 in Ubon To take command of the Eighth Wing, which flew F-4Cs, he chose two young pilots (Captain John Stone and Ralph Waterhan) to help him study routes and timing. Together they meticulously try and retry what the mission will be: they take turns in the role of Northern Radar Officer, Chief of the Hanoi Defense Network, commander of the American attack formation until they can roughly approximate reaction time. Northerners, delays, problem-solving, in short, a careful and long work to leave nothing to chance.

Meg Contro Phantom

the January 2, 1967After weeks of preparation in complete secrecy, Operation Polo took off. Olds directly handles 14 squadrons of F-4C Phantoms, another six EF-105F “Wild Weasel” equipped to destroy North Vietnamese surface-to-air missiles on the ground, and four F-104C “Starfighters” support aircraft.

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At dawn on that January day, all the planes, in formation, spaced out using the radio call signs normally used by Thuds, were taking off and heading north. Each phantom is prepared with an asymmetric configuration: on one side an additional tank, on the other side the nacelle Ecm is usually used by Thunderchiefs, as well as a gastropod and a weapon of four Target 9 Sidewinder e quattro Target 7 Sparrow.

The first wave, made up of three squadrons (Olds, Ford, Rambler callsigns), is directly led by the Colonel, and as it drifts over Phuc Yen, a Mig base as well as a petroleum products depot, Olds is told that some MiG-21s are taking off on alert to be intercepted, in While others, at the same time, were emerging from the blanket of mist that covered northern Vietnam: the trap had worked.

The battle for the area rages on immediately, even before the second wave of F-4s arrive: the fighting, from medium and close range, is fierce and American pilots try to get their best Phantoms out. More than one missile fired does not hit the target and highlights, once again, the usefulness of having a cannon mounted on the F-4 rather than just the missiles. Everything is consumed in a few minutes, but endless, and in the end they are just fine Put in the Mig-21 The North Vietnamese are being shot down by American fighters.

fake victory

Operation Polo ended with a clear American victory. F-4 fighters were not shot down that day, but the mission had huge cost From the point of view of the resources used: in addition to the fighters already listed, the intervention of EC-121 early warning aircraft, EB-66 electronic warfare platforms, F-4Cs from other support flocks, plus – the mobilization of an infinite number of rescue forces that She remained alert: at least 96 aircraft were taken off in support of the mission.

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That morning they were released 28 air-to-air missilesSixteen of them missed the mark. Expensive price for only seven meg. At the end of the conflict, the total number of MiGs in Hanoi would be 57, while the total number of destroyed aircraft would be 196 for the missing 89 American fighters: a report that appeared pro-US but success was illusory and only understood after the importance of air combat and gunner training.

Anyway, those few meg Deleted from the records of North Vietnam On that day in January 1967 he allowed the United States, for a time, to gain clear air superiority and thus paved the way for the continuation of the bombing campaign in the north, which continued until October 31, 1968 when it was suspended and then resumed, in 1972, with Operation Linebacker II, but that’s another story.