John F. Kennedy, Inaugural Address
20 January 1961
Air War: F-105 Thunderchief
Originally designed as a supersonic long-range nuclear bomber, the F105 Thunderchief could carry up to five tons of bombs. From 1965 to 1970, the Thunderchief did most of the Air Force's bombing in Vietnam, typically carrying a cargo of eight 750-pound bombs. Though primarily an attack aircraft over Vietnam, the F-105 was able to shoot down several MiG-17s and MiG-21s.
First flown in May 1958, the Phantom II originally was developed for U.S. Navy fleet defense and entered service in 1961. The USAF evaluated it for close air support, interdiction, and counter-air operations and, in 1962, approved a USAF version. The USAF's Phantom II, designated F-4C, made its first flight on May 27, 1963. Production deliveries began in November 196. In its air-to-ground role the F-4 can carry twice the normal bomb load of a WW II B-17. USAF F-4s also fly reconnaissance and "Wild Weasel" anti-aircraft missile suppression missions. Phantom II production ended in 1979 after over 5,000 had been built--more than 2,600 for the USAF, about 1,200 for the Navy and Marine Corps, and the rest for friendly foreign nations. In 1965, the first USAF Phantom IIs were sent to Southeast Asia (SEA).
In 1963, the U.S. Air Force began a program to modify the AD-5 Skyraider for service in Vietnam and redesignated it the A-1E. Because of its ability to carry large bomb loads, absorb heavy ground fire, and fly for long periods at low altitude, the A-1E was particularly suited for close-support missions.
The B-52 set many records in its 25-plus years of service. On Jan. 18, 1957, three B-52Bs completed the world's first non-stop round-the-world flight by jet aircraft, lasting 45 hours and 19 minutes with only three aerial refuelings en route. It was also a B-52 that made the first airborne hydrogen bomb drop over Bikini Atoll on May 21, 1956. In June 1965, B-52s entered combat when they began flying missions in Southeast Asia. By Aug. 1973, they had flown 126,615 combat sorties with 17 B-52s lost to enemy action.
Bell UH-1P Huey
The UH-1 evolved from a 1955 Army competition for a new utility helicopter. The Army employed it in various roles, later including that of an armed escort or attack gunship in Vietnam. The USAF, USN, and USMC eventually adopted the model as did Canada, Brazil, and West Germany. The initial Army designation was HU-1, which led to the common unofficial nickname of "Huey." It was redesignated in 1962 as the UH-1 under a triservice agreement.
USAF orders for the Huey began in 1963 for UH-1Fs, intended for support duties at missile sites, and for TH-1Fs for instrument and hoist training and medical evacuation. The HH-1 H incorporated a longer fuselage and larger cabin for a crew of two and up to eleven passengers or six litters. The USAF ordered these in 1970 as local base rescue helicopters to replace the HH-43 "Huskie." The first of the USAF's UH-1Ns, a twin-engine utility version capable of cruising on one engine, was obtained in 1970.