Tan Son Nhut Air Base - Use of Tan Son Nhut Air Base By The United States - 460th Tactical Reconnaissance Wing - Electronic Reconnaissance

Electronic Reconnaissance

A few months after the 460th TRW’s activation, two squadrons activated on 8 April 1966 to take on projects “Hawkeye,” “Phyllis Ann,” and “Drillpress.” In April 1969 the 460th TRW stood up an additional detachment to fly EC-47s. This started out as 460th TRW Det 2, but on 1 June 1969 the unit transferred to become 360th TEWS Det 1.

EC-47 Skyktrain
Deployed from 1st Air Commando Wing, England AFB, Louisiana.
Reassigned to 1st Air Commando Wing, Hurlburt Field, Florida
  • 361st Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron 8 April 1966 - 31 August 1971 (EC-47N/P/Q Tail Code: AL) (Nha Trang AB)
Deployed from 1st Air Commando Wing, England AFB, Louisiana.
Deactivated in place
  • 362d Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron 1 February 1967 - 31 August 1971 (EC-47N/P/Q Tail Code: AN) (Pleiku AB)
Deployed from 1st Air Commando Wing, England AFB, Louisiana.
Deactivated in place

Project “Hawkeye”: This mission came about as a better and safer way to conduct radio direction finding (RDF), whose main target during the Vietnam conflict were Viet Cong radio transmitters. Before this program RDF involved tracking the signals on the ground. Because this exposed the RDF team to ambushes, both the US Army and USAF began to look at airborne RDF. After some initial problems, “Hawkeye” was born. While the US Army used U-6 Beaver and U-8 Seminole aircraft for its own version of the “Hawkeye” platform, the USAF modified several C-47 Skytrains/Dakota. These were one of the main workhorse during World War II and the USAF had a great many of them in its inventory

Project “Phyllis Ann”: Also used modified C-47s. However, the C-47s for this program were highly modified with a great deal of advanced, for its time, navigational and reconnaissance equipment. In essence the “Hawkeye” and “Phyllis Ann” missions were the same. The real difference was that the “Phyllis Ann” aircraft were more sophisticated. On 4 April 1967, project “Phyllis Ann” changed to become “Compass Dart”. A year later, on 1 April 1968, “Compass Dart” became “Combat Cougar”. Because of security concerns the operation’s name changed two more times first to “Combat Cross”, and then to “Commando Forge”.

"Project “Drillpress”: Used modified C-47s, their mission was a little different. Whereas, “Hawkeye” and “Phyllis Ann” tracked Viet Cong radio traffic to find the enemy and track their movements, “Drillpress” listened into that traffic and collected intelligence from it. This data gave insights into the plans and strategy of both the Viet Cong and the North Vietnam military. Information from all three projects contributed in a major way to the intelligence picture of the battlefield in Vietnam. In fact about 95 percent of the B-52 Stratofortress Arc Light strikes conducted in South Vietnam were based, at least partially, on the data from these three programs. On 6 October 1967, “Drillpress” changed to “Sentinel Sara”.

Lam Son 719: On 8 February 1971 units from the Army of the Republic of South Vietnam (ARVN) launched Operation “Lam Son 719” into the southeastern panhandle of Laos. This operation called for ARVN troops to drive west from Khe Sanh, cut the Ho Chi Minh Trail, seize Tchepone in Laos and, after destroying North Vietnamese Army forces and supplies, then return to South Vietnam. While ARVN provided and commanded the ground forces entering Laos, US Army and Air Force units furnished aviation airlift and supporting firepower. Part of that support came from 460th TRW units like the 362nd TEWS and its EC-47s, and the 460th TRW Det 1’s "Patricia Lynn" RB-57Es. The ability to track enemy units electronically and through reconnaissance photos was a major factor in the operations military success. After heavy losses, the ARVN returned to South Vietnam on 9 April 1971.

Because these three squadrons flew the modified C-47 Skytrains, and many of the squadron personnel were World War II veterans, squadron personnel affably dubbed their squadrons “Antique Airlines.” Even though these aircraft were considered vintage, the equipment inside was not and the US would go to great lengths to prevent this equipment from falling into enemy hands, As an example, when one EC-47 from the 362d TEWS crashed on 22 April 1970, members of an explosive ordnance unit policed the area destroying anything they found and six F-100 tactical air sorties hit the area to be sure. Detachments of these squadrons operated from different locations, including bases in Thailand. Each of the main squadrons and their detachments moved at least once due to operational and/or security reasons. Personnel operating the RDF and signal intelligence equipment in the back of the modified EC-47s were part of the 6994th Security Squadron (SS).

Read more about this topic:  Tan Son Nhut Air Base, Use of Tan Son Nhut Air Base By The United States, 460th Tactical Reconnaissance Wing

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