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[Image 1: Photo
courtesy of BGen
William A. Bloomer,
USMC (Ret). An
EA-6B Prowler cruises near ships of the Seventh Fleet providing
electronic countermeasures support to the Navy-Marine Corps
team. These aircraft of VMCJ-1
would fly from the USS Coral Sea around the clock in support of Operation
Frequent Wind.

Page 13(The Bitter End)



tillery reveals how misleading the numbers game really was. In total numbers
of artillery pieces, the South Vietnamese were down from 1,600 at the time
of the ceasefire to 1,200 in January of 1975. On paper this still presented
a distinct advantage for the South Vietnamese when compared to the estimated
400 tubes the North Vietnamese operated in South Vietnam. If the comparison
ended there, the South Vietnamese enjoyed an imposing three-to-one edge over
the NVA. Yet the characteristics of the weapons presented a vastly different
picture. The North Vietnamese were equipped with 85, 100, 122, and 130mm guns,
all of which could fire faster with a longer range than their South Vietnamese
counterparts. The ARVN, meanwhile, possessed primarily 105mm and 155mm howitzers.
They augmented this array of weapons with 80 175mm guns, the only ones with
enough range to fire counterbattery, while all of the enemy's artillery possessed
this capability. Compounding this problem was the fact that the ARVN by this
time was fighting a basically static war from fixed positions, budget reductions
having limited their ability to conduct prudent clearing and counter-offensive
operations. In contrast the NVA enjoyed relatively unrestricted freedom of
movement. With the ability to mass its weapons at the time and place of its
choosing, the NVA gained a significant edge. To neutralize the NVA advantage,
the ARVN used air support, which often during times of critical need was not
available, and when on station, usually ineffective.35


The question surrounding the reliability of air support arose from the combined effects of funding cutbacks and enhanced North Vietnamese AAA capability. This combination had a detrimental impact on the readiness and effectiveness of the South Vietnamese Air Force (VNAF). The VNAF numbered some 62,000 men and was subdivided into six air divisions with bases at Da Nang, Pleiku, Bien Hoa, Tan Son Nhut, Binh Thuy, and Can Tho. At the time of the ceasefire, South Vietnam operated 2,075 aircraft with Article 7 of the Accords allowing a one-for-onc replacement of lost aircraft. More importantly, the VNAF composition reflected a serious degradation in firepower and the ability to suppress the enemy's air defense system. The South Vietnamese strike force consisted of 388 attack aircraft (79 A-ls, 248 A-3 7s, 11 AC-47s, and 50 AC-119s) and 143 F-5A/B fighters. In 1972 it added two squadrons (32 aircraft) ofC-130As to its arsenal, significantly modernizing its transport fleet of 56 C-7s, 14 C-47s, 16 C-119s, and 19 C-123s. Still, the bulk of the VNAF, over 44 per cent, consisted of helicopters: 861 UH-1s and 70 CH-47s. Thus this seemingly impressive figure of 2,075 aircraft quickly translated into only 391 jet-propelled fighter and attack aircraft and no electronic warfare planes capable of neutralizing the enemy's highly effective, mobile air defense system.3(r)


The North Vietnamese had used extensive numbers of radars to build a very deadly air defense network centered around three closely integrated weapon systems. As General William W. Momyer, a former commander of the Seventh Air Force, later wrote: "The








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