Binh Thuy Air Base
|Binh Thuy Air Base|
|Part of South Vietnamese Air Force (SVNAF)
Pacific Air Forces (USAF)
Binh Thuy Air Base, South Vietnam 1967
Location of Binh Thuy Air Base, Vietnam
|Type||Air Force Base|
|Controlled by|| South Vietnamese Air Force
United States Air Force
|Condition||Seized 1975 by PAVN, Now Civil Airport|
4th Air Division (SVNAF)
74th Tactical Wing (SVNAF)
84th Tactical Wing (SVNAF)
632d Combat Support Group (USAF)
22d Tactical Air Support Training Squadron (USAF)
|IATA: none – ICAO: none|
|Elevation AMSL||79 ft / 24 m|
Binh Thuy Air Base is a former air force base in Vietnam, It was constructed by the United States in 1965 and used by the South Vietnamese Air Force (SVNAF) and the United States Air Force during the Vietnam War in the IV Corps Tactical Zone of South Vietnam. It was seized by the Vietnam People's Army in April 1975 and was abandoned for several decades. Today, the site is being redeveloped as Trà Nóc Airport.
Binh Thuy Air Base was the most southern airbase used by the VNAF and USAF in Vietnam during the Vietnam War. Plans for a United States Air Force Base at Binh Thuy were developed in 1964 after the 1964 Gulf of Tonkin Resolution and the decision to deploy large numbers of United States forces to South Vietnam. The base was one of several air bases in the former South Vietnam built by United States Air Force RED HORSE civil engineering squadrons. The airfield was designed as a replacement for the ARVN Can Tho airfield which was located nearly in the heart of the city of Cần Thơ and had no room for expansion. In 1964 construction began on Binh Thuy Air Base on paddy fields that had to be drained and solidified with fill material.
Enough construction was complete that the SVNAF 74th Tactical Wing at Can Tho was moved to Binh Thuy on 1 September 1965. Air units were simultaneously moved to the base, including the 520th Fighter Squadron from Bien Hoa Air Base (A-1 Skyraider); 217th Helicopter Squadron from Tan Son Nhut Air Base (H-34 Choctaw) and the 116th Observation Squadron from Nha Trang Air Base (O-1 Bird Dog).
USAF use during the Vietnam War
United States Air Force units began using Binh Thuy as a Forward Air Control (FAC) base simultaneously with the VNAF in September 1965. Seventh Air Force activated the 632d Combat Support Group (632d CSG) which performed the non-operational base hosting mission. The 632d CSG supported transient Air Force gunships, transport aircraft, and other close air support aircraft, while the United States Navy operated a Naval Support Activity and a Naval Air base with a combat helicopter squadron (HAL-3) a few miles south of the base. The "Black Ponies, VAL-4 Naval aviation squadron of OV-10s operated from Binh Thuy. Detachment 10 of the 38th Aerospace Rescue & Recovery Squadron, US Air Force, operated two HH-43 helicopters at Binh Thuy from 15 September 1965 to 20 December 1969. One or two Y0-3As operated by the 220th Surveillance Aircraft Company, 16th Aviation Group, U.S. Army. Also some YOV-10D Broncos (2 EA) were operated from the base by the U.S. Marines 1st MAW detachment.
22d Tactical Air Support Squadron
The 22d Tactical Air Support Squadron (Light) (22d TASS) was the major USAF operational unit at Binh Thuy. The squadron was activated on 8 May 1965 and assigned to the new base in September. Organizationally, the 22d TASS was assigned to the 505th Tactical Control Group, then on 8 December 1966 to the 504th Tactical Air Support Group. These came under the command of the 22d Air Division headquartered at Tan Son Nhut Air Base. The squadron operated the Cessna 0-1 Birddog aircraft, 1965–1971 and the Cessna O-2A and Bs Super Skymasters aircraft, 1967-1971.
The squadron provided air crews in Vietnam to direct air strikes for tactical aircraft operating within the Tactical Air Control System (TACS). It also performed visual reconnaissance, convoy escort, and other missions as directed by the Tactical Air Commander. Aircraft and maintenance were provided in support of these operations within IV Corps, Republic of Vietnam, as directed by Seventh Air Force. The squadron provided aircraft and personnel in support of the Theater Indoctrination School, and field and transient maintenance support of USAF aircraft at Binh Thuy.
In 1969, the 22d TASS began closing down operations at the base as part of the general US withdrawal from South Vietnam. The squadron was moved to Bien Hoa Air Base in January 1970, with the last assigned USAF personnel leaving by the end of the month. At Bien Hoa, the assets of the 22d TASS were absorbed by the 9th Tactical Air Support Squadron and the unit was reduced to a paper organization. It was transferred without personnel or equipment to Wheeler Air Force Base, Hawaii on 15 May 1971.
Other USAF units at Binh Thuy Air Base
- 6255th Air Base Squadron
- 9th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron (Detachment)
- 211th Operations Squadron (7th Air Force)
- 619th TCS Paddy Control, Eyes and Ears of the Mekong
- 1880th Communications Squadron (AFCS)
- OL-26 1CEVG (SAC) Combat Skyspot
- 632 Security Police Squadron
- Det 15 600 Photo Sq.
- 19th TASS (Tilly Facs)
- 632 Dispensary
Known VNAF Units At Binh Thuy
With the Americans moving out in 1969, Binh Thuy Air Base became the headquarters for the VNAF 4th Air Division. The 74th Wing was supplemented by the 84th Tactical Wing in 1972 with helicopter gunship units to further the defense of the Mekong Delta region. By 1974, the SVNAF had the following units assigned to the base:
- 4th Air Division (Headquarters)
- 74th Tactical Wing
- 116th/122d Liaison Squadron Cessna O-1A, U-17As and U-17B
- 520th/526th/546th Fighter Squadron A-37A/B
- 84th Tactical Wing
- 211th/225th/227th Helicopter Squadron UH-1D
- Det G 259th Helicopter Squadron Bell UH-1H Hueys (Medevac)
Also about 4 VNAF AC-47 gunships were assigned to the base.
Capture of Binh Thuy Air Base
By late April 1975, in the general retreat of South Vietnamese military forces south many surviving VNAF aircraft landed at Binh Thuy, Bien Hoa and Tan Son Nhut Air Bases. Sorties flown during the final days before the Fall of Saigon were to support defensive actions at Phan Rang, Phan Thiết and Xuân Lộc, however no effort was made to fly against advancing North Vietnamese columns moving south. This was due in part to the Soviet-made SA-7 shoulder held surface-to-air missiles which the VNAF had no defense against along with a lack of reconnaissance aircraft. The South Vietnamese government literally had no idea of what was happening inside the territory lost to North Vietnamese forces.
Following the last-ditch effort in defense of Saigon in the Battle of Xuân Lộc, North Vietnamese forces quickly overran Bien Hoa Air Base and moved along Highway One towards Saigon. By April 29 the fighting had reached the suburbs with North Vietnamese troops overruning Tan Son Nhut Air Base. On April 30, 1975 the South Vietnamese government surrendered unconditionally and South Vietnam ceased to exist.
Some VNAF planes and personnel managed to escape to Thailand from still-unoccupied Binh Thuy Air Base briefly after the surrender, however within a few days the North Vietnamese reached the base as well as other parts of the Mekong Delta.
After the seizure of the base by the North Vietnamese in 1975, the captured South Vietnamese military aircraft were either destroyed or flown out to other airfields and Binh Thuy Air Base was abandoned, apparently remaining so for many years. A small part of the base may have been used by the Vietnam People's Air Force, as recent markings on the ramp area indicate use by helicopters. Many of the buildings on the former base were abandoned to the elements, and today the skeletal remains of many are intermixed with vegetation growth of 35 years, reclaiming the land. Much of the large aircraft parking ramp, complete with metal and sandbag revetments remains, along with faded painted markings on the ramp for aircraft parking and taxiing.
Over the past several years, redevelopment of the base into a new, civil airport has been taking place. The former airfield runway is being torn up and replaced with a new one, most of the flightlne buildings including the USAF control tower have been torn down and the land being re-graded for the construction of Trà Nóc Airport.
- Mesco, Jim (1987) VNAF South Vietnamese Air Force 1945-1975 Squadron/Signal Publications. ISBN 0-89747-193-8
- Mikesh, Robert C. (2005) Flying Dragons: The South Vietnamese Air Force. Schiffer Publishing, Ltd. ISBN 0-7643-2158-7
- Ravenstein, Charles A. (1984). Air Force Combat Wings Lineage and Honors Histories 1947-1977. Maxwell AFB, Alabama: Office of Air Force History. ISBN 0-912799-12-9.
- VNAF - The South Vietnamese Air Force 1951-1975
- USAAS-USAAC-USAAF-USAF Aircraft Serial Numbers--1908 to present