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 Vietnam War: Air to Air Combat U.S. Air Force Reports

Vietnam War:
Air-to-Air Combat
U.S. Air Force Reports

3,405 pages of United State Air Force reports regarding air-to-air combat during the Vietnam War.


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Some reports in this collection were not declassified until 2006.

This collection contains:

Project RED BARON Reports

Three reports created by the Weapons Systems Evaluation Group (WSEG). At the request of the Director of Defense Research and Engineering, the Weapons Systems Evaluation Group conducted a study of air-to-air encounters in Southeast Asia. The project's code name was RED BARON.  It collected, analyzed, assembled, and presented data on air-to-air encounters.

The purpose of the project was to make available data that could assist research and development programs for future high-performance fighter aircraft. A secondary purpose of the study was to provide data for use by the military services and scientific community.

For purposes of this study, encounters that were investigated were defined to include the following types: Sighting of enemy aircraft (either visually or by radar); Either U.S. or enemy aircraft initiating hostile or evasive maneuvers; Either U.S. or enemy aircraft expending ordnance; Loss or damage in combat of either U.S. or enemy aircraft.

Essential elements of these reports are the accounts of encounters based on both official reporting media and personal interviews of participants. In Project RED BARON, interviews were considered the primary data source, supplemented, where available, by official reports.

The summation of encounters data sections include: primary mission and tactical situation, mission route, aircraft configurations, flight conditions prior to encounter, initial detection, action initiated, situation development, ordnance, equipment problems, aircrew comments, data sources, narrative description, event summary charts, illustration of events.

The next to last section, was an edited narrative, which integrates all the information sources pertaining to the designated air-to-air engagement. Whenever an air-to-air engagement proved to be of sufficient complexity that a perspective drawing aided in its understanding, such a representation was developed and placed after the narrative in the report.

The three WSEG reports included in this collection are:

"WSEG Report Air-to-Air Encounters in Southeast Asia � Volume 1 Account of F-4 and F-8 Events Prior to 1 March 1967" - An October 1967, 1,305 page report compiling available data on F-4 and F-8 air-to-air encounters between January 1965 and 1 March 1967.

"WSEG Report Air-to-Air Encounters in Southeast Asia � Volume 2 F-105 Events Prior to 1 March 1967" - A September 1968, 372 page compilation of available data on F-105, RF-4C, RF-8, RF-101, A-1, and A-4 encounters between January 1965 and 1 March 1967.

"WSEG Report Air-to-Air Encounters in Southeast Asia � Volume 3 Events from 1 March 1967 to 1 August 1967 and Miscellaneous Events" - A February 1969, 406 page compilation of available data on all air-to-air encounters between 1 March 1967 and 1 June 1967.

Also included in this collection are:

Project CHECO Southeast Asia Report. Air-to-Air Encounters Over North Vietnam, 1 January - 30 June 1967

This report discusses the development of fighter tactics by both US and North Vietnamese Air Forces and significant lessons learned during this period in which North Vietnamese offensive and defensive MiG activity increased. Air-to-air engagements over North Vietnam (NVN) during the first six months of 1967 were marked by an intensity of battle unmatched in the entire two previous years of USAF airstrikes in the north. In this one six-month period, USAF pilots downed 46 MiG aircraft, which represents 75 percent of the total kills up to June 1976. As evidence of the increased use of MiG-17 and MiG-21 aircraft, five more USAF planes were downed bringing the total USAF air-to-air losses to 12.

Project CHECO Southeast Asia Report. Air-to-Air Encounters over North Vietnam, 1 July 1967 - 31 December 1968

Summaries of operations for July-September 1967, October-December 1967, January-May 1968, and April-December 1968. This report describes and analyzes four periods of air-to-air activity before the bombing halt of 1 November 1968. It also depicts the relative strengths of United States airpower and North Vietnamese air defenses in the months which followed their struggle for air supremacy. Charts reflect the relative strengths of US air power and North Vietnamese air defenses for these periods. This publication reviews briefly events before 1 July 1967, as it is a continuation of CHECO report, "Air-to-Air Encounters over North Vietnam, 1 January - 30 June 1967."

History of Operations Bolo

This report covers the planning execution and results of "Operation Bolo."

Led by Col. Robin Olds, OPERATION BOLO used a deception tactic that destroyed half of the North Vietnamese MiG-21 fighter force, with no USAF losses.

In late 1966, the USAF was not permitted to bomb North Vietnamese airfields and could only destroy enemy fighters in the air. Complicating the problem, enemy MiGs focused on bomb-laden F-105s and only initiated combat when they had a clear advantage. Col. Robin Olds, 8th Tactical Fighter Wing (TFW) commander, and the wing's tactics officer, Capt. John "J.B." Stone, devised a masterful plan to lure and trap North Vietnamese MiG-21s by mimicking an F-105 bombing formation.

On Jan. 2, 1967, 8th TFW F-4s entered North Vietnam from the west using the same route, altitude, and formation as an F-105 bomb strike. They also carried and operated electronic jamming pods used by F-105s. The North Vietnamese took the bait, and the MiGs came up to intercept what they thought was an F-105 strike. At the same time, 366th TFW F-4s came into North Vietnam from the east to block the MiGs' escape to China and to orbit their bases, preventing the MiGs from landing.

During the 12-minute engagement, seven North Vietnamese MiG-21s, about half of their operational force, were shot down with no USAF losses. Four days later, another ruse, this time mimicking an F-4 reconnaissance flight, shot down two more MiG-21s. These crippling losses greatly reduced MiG activity for several months.

CIA Memorandums

23 pages of CIA memos, dating from June 1965 to February 1966, sent to the Johnson White House marking the development of air-to-air missile capabilities of the Communist Northern Vietnamese.

Aces and Aerial Victories, 1965-1973

A 1976 monograph produced by the Albert F. Simpson Historical Research Center Air University and the Office of Air Force History.

Aces and Aerial Victories is a collection of firsthand accounts by Air Force fighter crews who flew combat missions over North Vietnam between 1965 and 1973. They recall their air battles with MIG fighters, the difficult and dangerous tactical maneuvers they had to perform to survive, and their victories and defeats. The narratives are taken directly from aircrew after-action reports.

Soviet Union Study - US Aggression in Southeast Asia the Final Stage of the War (English Translation)

An English summary translation of a GRU Seven Volume Study "US Aggression in Southeast Asia: The Final Stage of the War. Several Examples and Conclusions," created by the Soviet Union in 1977. It contains a series of brief descriptions of particular incidents, almost all involving air-to-air combat, in the US air war against North Vietnam, from April 1965 to December 1972.

The Shootdown of Trigger 4 - Report of the Project Trigger Study Team

A 2001 United States Air Force report on whether the reporting of a shootdown of an USAF F-4 in 1972 was accurate. On July 29, 1972 Air Force F-4s and North Vietnamese MiG-21s engaged fifty miles northeast of Hanoi. The F-4s shot down two MiGs, and the MiGs shot down an F-4 whose callsign was Trigger 4 (the fourth F-4 in a flight of four). This report examines whether the shootdown of the F-4 was actually caused by friendly fire.

Report on an Interview with Pilots from 555th Tactical Fighter Squadron re: F-4D in air-to-air encounters

A summary of a two hour interview with three pilots who discussed the role of the F-4D in air-to-air encounters.

Gradual Failure the Air War over North Vietnam 1965�1966

A 388 page book published by the Air Force History Office. From the forward written by Richard P. Hallion, Air Force Historian:
"The United States Air Force reached its nadir during the opening two years of the Rolling Thunder air campaign in North Vietnam. Never had the Air Force operated with so many restraints and to so little effect. These pages are painful but necessary reading for all who care about the nation's military power.

Jacob Van Staaveren wrote this book in the 1970s near the end of his distinguished government service, which began during the occupation of Japan: the University of Washington Press published his book on that experience in 1995. He was an Air Force historian in Korea during the Korean War, and he began to write about the Vietnam War while it was still being fought. His volume on the air war in Laos was declassified and published in 1993. Now this volume on the air war in North Vietnam has also been declassified and is being published for the first time. Although he retired to McMinnville, Oregon, a number of years ago, we asked him to review the manuscript and make any changes that seemed warranted. For the most part, this is the book he wrote soon after the war.

Readers of this volume will also want to read the sequel, Wayne Thompson's To Hanoi and Back: The U. S. Air Force and North Vietnam, 1966-1973, which tells the more encouraging story of how the Air Force employed airpower to far greater effect using a combination of better doctrine, tactics, technology, and training."

To Hanoi and Back the United States Air Force and North Vietnam

A 430 page book published in 2000 by the Air Force History Office, about the later of achievements of USAF air power delivered to North Vietnam.

United States Air Force Fact Sheets

10 pages of text and 28 photographs taken from USAF facts sheets: "Countering MiGs: Air-To-Air Combat over North Vietnam," "USAF Southeast Asia War Aces," "Brig. Gen. Robin Olds: Combat Leader and Fighter Ace," and "Operation Bolo."














Brigadier General  Robin Olds

A World War II ace and Air Force Cross recipient, he gained widespread fame and respect as the aggressive
commander of the 8th Tactical Fighter Wing during the Vietnam War.Led by Olds, OPERATION BOLO used
a brilliant deception tactic that destroyed half of the North Vietnamese MiG-21 fighter force, with no USAF losses.


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