Vietnam People's Air Force

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This article is about the current Vietnamese air force. For the air force of the former Republic of Vietnam, see Vietnam Air Force. For Non-valvular atrial fibrillation (NVAF), see Atrial fibrillation.
Vietnam People's Air Force
Không Quân Nhân Dân Việt Nam
Vietnam People's Air Force emblem.svg
Vietnam People's Air Force emblem
Active 1959 – present
Country Vietnam

Five branches

  • Aircraft
  • Air Defence missiles
  • Air Defence artillery
  • Radar Surveillance
  • Paratroops
Size 35,000 personnel (2009)
551 active aircraft
Part of Vietnam People's Army
Colors ‹See Tfm›    ‹See Tfm›     Azure, Dark Green
Anniversaries October 22, 1963
Engagements First Indochina War
Vietnam War
Cambodian-Vietnamese War
Sino-Vietnamese War
Decorations Vietnam Hero ribbon.png Vietnam Gold Star ribbon.png Vietnam Hochiminh Order ribbon.png Vietnam Independence Order ribbon.png Vietnam Military Exploit Order ribbon.png
Battle honours Operation Linebacker
Operation Linebacker II
The 1975 Spring Offensive
Commander Lieutenant General Phuong Minh Hoa
Political Commissar Major General Nguyen Van Thanh
Chief of Staff Major General Nguyen Van Tho
Flag of Vietnam People's Air Force
Vietnam People's Air Force flag.png
Roundel Roundel of the Vietnamese Air Force.svg
Wings Air Force wings.jpg
Awards Hero of the People's Armed ForcesGold Star Order (Vietnam)Gold Star Order (Vietnam)Gold Star Order (Vietnam)Ho Chi Minh OrderHo Chi Minh OrderHo Chi Minh OrderHo Chi Minh OrderOrder of IndependenceMilitary Exploit OrderFatherland Defense Order
Aircraft flown
Attack Su-22, Mi-24
Fighter Su-30, Su-27, MiG-21
Patrol Ka-27, Ka-25
Reconnaissance M-400, An-30
Trainer Yak-52, L-39
Transport An-38, M-28, An-24, An-26, UH-1, Mi-8, Mi-17

The Vietnam People's Air Force (Vietnamese: Không quân Nhân dân Việt Nam) is the air force of Vietnam. It is the successor of the former North Vietnamese Air Force and absorbed the Republic of Vietnam Air Force following the re-unification of Vietnam in 1975. The Vietnam People's Air Force (VPAF) is one of three main branches in the Vietnam People's Army which is a part of the Ministry of Defense. The main mission of the VPAF is the defense of Vietnamese airspace and the provision of air cover for operations of the Vietnam People's Army.


Beginning-1964 (North Vietnam)[edit]

The first aircraft in service for the Vietnamese Armed Forces were two trainers, a de Havilland Tiger Moth and a Morane-Saulnier, which were initially the private property of the emperor Bảo Đại.[1] In 1945, Bảo Đại gave the aircraft to the Vietnamese government. Until 1950, even though the Vietnam People's Army (VPA) had acquired credible offensive capabilities on the ground, it was almost powerless against reconnaissance or attacking operations from the French Expeditionary Air Force. On March 9, 1949, General Vo Nguyen Giap was authorized to establish the Air Force Research Committee (Ban Nghiên cứu Không quân) under the General Staff to study ways to deal with the air war. The first Vietnamese service aircraft flight was made by the Tiger Moth on August 15, 1949.[1] A small-scale training was carried out in the following years.

Further development of aviation in North Vietnam began in 1956, when a number of trainees were sent to the USSR and China for pilot training. They were organized into two groups, for pilots and mechanics, respectively; and among others, utilized the Czechoslovak Zlín Z-226 and Aero Ae-45. The first unit of the VPAF was the No. 919 Transport Regiment (Trung đoàn Không quân Vận tải 919), organized on May 1, 1959, with An-2, Li-2, Il-14 aircraft, followed by the No. 910 Training Regiment (Trung đoàn Không quân 910) with Yak-18 trainers.[1] In 1963 the Air Force and Air Defense Force were merged into the Air and Air Defence Force (Quân chủng Phòng không – Không quân).

1964–74 (North Vietnam)[edit]

Anti-aircraft systems of Vietnam People's Air Force against U.S. fighters and bombers in Operation Linebacker and Operation Linebacker II

The first North Vietnamese combat plane was a T-28 Trojan trainer, whose pilot defected from the Royal Lao Air Force; it was utilized from early 1964 by the North Vietnamese as a night fighter. The T-28 was the first North Vietnamese aircraft to shoot down a U.S. aircraft, a C-123, on February 15, 1964.[1]

The North Vietnamese Air Force (NVAF) received its first jet fighter aircraft, the MiG-17 in February 1964, but they were initially stationed at air bases on Mainland China, while their pilots were being trained. On February 3, 1964, the first fighter regiment No. 921 (Trung đoàn Không quân Tiêm kích 921), aka "Red Star squadron", was formed, and on August 6 it arrived from China in North Vietnam with its MiG-17s.[1] On September 7, the No. 923 fighter regiment, aka "Yen The Squadron", led by Lt. Col. Nguyen Phuc Trach, was formed. In May 1965, No. 16 bomber company (Đại đội Không quân Ném bom 16) was formed with Il-28 twin engine bombers. Only one Il-28 sortie was flown in 1972 against Royal Laotian forces.

The MiG-21 N. 4324 of the Vietnam People's Air Force. This fighter aircraft (flown by many pilots) alone was credited for 14 kills during the Vietnam War
USAF's F-105 Thunderchief bomber was hit and crashed by VPAF's SA-2 missile

The North Vietnamese Air Force's first jet air-to-air engagement with U.S. aircraft was on April 3, 1965. The NVAF claimed the shooting down of two US Navy F-8 Crusader, which was not confirmed by US sources, although they acknowledged having encountered MiGs.[1] Consequently, April 3 became "North Vietnamese Air Force Day". On April 4 the VPAF (NVAF) scored the first confirmed victories to be acknowledged by both sides. The US fighter community was shocked when relatively slow, post-Korean era MiG-17 fighters shot down advanced F-105 Thunderchief fighters-bombers attacking the Thanh Hóa Bridge. The two downed F-105s were carrying their normal heavy bomb load, and were not able to react to their attackers.[1]

In 1965, the NVAF were supplied with supersonic MiG-21s by the USSR which were used for high speed GCI controlled hit and run intercepts against American air strike groups. The MiG-21 tactics became so effective, that by late 1966, an operation was mounted to especially deal with the MiG-21 threat. Led by Colonel Robin Olds on 2 January 1967, Operation Bolo lured MiG-21s into the air, thinking they were intercepting a F-105 strike group, but instead found a sky full of missile armed F-4 Phantom IIs set for aerial combat. The result was a loss of almost half the inventory of MiG-21 interceptors, at a cost of no U.S. losses. The VPAF (NVAF) stood down for additional training after this setback.

Meanwhile, the disappointing performances of US Air Force and US Navy (USN) airmen, even though flying the contemporary advanced aircraft of those times, combined with a legacy of successes from World War II and the Korean War, resulted in a total revamping of aerial combat training for the USN in 1968 (Top Gun school; established 1969). The designs for an entire generation of aircraft, with engineering for optimized daylight air-to-air combat (dog fighting) against both older, as well as for emerging MiG fighters, were being put to the drawing board. US forces could not consistently track low flying MiGs on radar, and were hampered by restrictive rules of engagement (ROE) which required pilots to visually acquire their targets, nullifying much of the advantage of radar guided missiles, which often proved unreliable when used in combat.

The VPAF (NVAF) was a defensive air arm, with the primary mission of defending North Vietnam, and until the last stages of the war, did not conduct air operations into South Vietnam; nor did the NVAF conduct general offensive actions against enemy naval forces off the coast. However it did conduct limited attacks on the opposing naval vessels, notably damaging the United States destroyer USS Higbee in 1972. In a separate incident, MiG-17s that ventured over water were shot down by surface-to-air missiles (SAMs) fired by U.S. warships.

President Ho Chi Minh congratulates his highest ranking ace, Captain Nguyen Van Coc, who flew a MiG-21 with the NVAF 921st Fighter Regiment. His 11[Note 1] confirmed air victories made him the highest scoring ace of the Vietnam War[2][3]
The first squadron from the 923rd from fight: Luy Huy Chao (6 kills), Le Hai (7 kills), Mai Duc Tai (2 kills), and Hoang Van Ky (5 kills, killed 5 June 1967) in front of their grey MiG-17s. These pilots downed an F-4 Phantom on 24 June 1967 and an F-105 the following day

The VPAF (NVAF) did not engage all US sorties. Most US aircraft were destroyed by SA-2 surface-to-air missiles or anti-aircraft artillery (AAA), and in some cases, even small arms. Typically, VPAF MiGs would not engage unless it was to their advantage. Some of the aerial tactics used were similar to Operation Bolo, which lured the NVAF to the fight.

On March 24, 1967, regiments Nos. 921, 923 and 919 were incorporated into the 371st Air Division "Thăng Long" (Sư đoàn Không quân 371). In 1969, No. 925 fighter regiment was formed, flying the Shenyang J-6 (the Chinese-built MiG-19). In 1972 the fourth fighter regiment, No. 927 "Lam Son", was formed.[1]

VPAF flew their interceptors with superb guidance from ground controllers, who positioned the MiGs in perfect ambush battle stations. The MIGs made fast and devastating attacks against US formations from several directions (usually the MiG-17s performed head-on attacks and the MiG-21s attacked from the rear). After shooting down a few American planes and forcing some of the F-105s to drop their bombs prematurely, the MiGs did not wait for retaliation, but disengaged rapidly. This "guerrilla warfare in the air" proved very successful. In December 1966 the MiG-21 pilots of the 921st FR downed 14 F-105s without any losses.[4]

The U.S Air Force and the U.S. Navy continued to lay down great expectations on the F4 Phantom, assuming that the massive arms, the perfect on-board radar, the highest speed and acceleration properties, coupled with the new tactics will provide "Phantoms" an advantage over the MiGs. But in collisions with lighter VPAF's MiG-21, F-4 began to suffer defeat. From May to December 1966, the U.S. air battles lost 47 aircraft, destroying all of this only 12 enemy's fighters. From April 1965 to November 1968, over North Vietnam was conducted 268 air battles, VPAF claimed shot down 244 U.S. or ARVN's aircraft, and they lost 85 MiGs (including 27 F-4s and 20 MiG-21s).[5]

In the spring and summer of 1972, to illumine the theater of war 360 tactical fighters of the U.S. Air Force and 96 Navy fighter, a great number of which were F4 Phantom of recent modifications, opposed only 71 VPAF's aircraft (including 31 MiG-21) was a militant.[5]

The culmination of the struggle in the air in the spring of 1972 was May 10, when the VPAF's aircraft completed 64 sorties, spending 15 air battles. VPAF claimed 7 F-4s were shot down (U.S confirmed five F4s were lost[6]). Those, in turn, managed to kill two MiG-21s, three MiG-17s and one MiG-19. May 11, two MiG-21, who played the role of "bait", brought the four F-4 to 2-circled at low altitude MiG-21. MiGs quickly stormed the "Phantoms" and 3 missiles shot down two F-4. May 18, Vietnamese aircraft made 26 sorties and spent eight air combat, which cost the 4 F4 Phantom, Vietnamese fighters on that day did not suffer losses. June 13, MiG-21 unit intercepted a group of F-4, the second pair of MiGs made a missile attack and was hit by two F-4 and did not suffer losses.[5]

Over the course of the air war, between 3 April 1965[7] and 8 January 1973, each side would ultimately claim favorable kill ratios. A total of 1972 between American and Vietnamese planes took 201 air battle. VPAF lost 54 MiGs (including 36 MiG-21s and one MiG-21US) and they claimed 90 U.S aircraft were shot down (including 73 F-4 fighter and two spy RF-4C)[5]

U.S. Navy ace Randy Cunningham believed that he shot down a Mig-17 piloted by the mythical "Nguyen Toon" or "Colonel Tomb" while flying his F4 Phantom. However, no research has been able to identify Col. Tomb's existence; Cunningham most likely downed a flight leader of the 923rd Regiment. Legend states Col. Toon downed 13 US aircraft during his tenure.[8] Many North Vietnamese pilots were not only skilled but unorthodox, as Cunningham found out after making elementary tactical errors.[9] The resulting dogfight became extended. Cunningham climbed steeply, and the MiG pilot surprised Cunningham by climbing as well. Using his Top Gun training, Cunningham finally forced the MiG out ahead of him and destroyed it. In fact, there wasn't any pilot in VPAF named Nguyễn Toon, he was a fictional character of the American pilots and they often made jokes with the dissertation. As a goodwill of the American pilots, Colonel Toon was a combination of good pilots in Vietnam, like the "solo artist" lonely night bombing in World War II was called Washing Machine Charlie.

There were several times during the war that the U.S. bombing restrictions of North Vietnamese Airfields were lifted. Many VPAF (NVAF) aircraft were destroyed on the ground, and those that were not, were withdrawn to a sanctuary in the north west of the country or in China. In December 1972, the North Vietnamese air defences nearly exhausted their supply of surface-to-air missiles trying to down the high-flying B-52 raids over the North. The North Vietnamese Air Defense Network was degraded by electronic countermeasures (ECM) and other suppression of Enemy Air Defenses (SEAD) measures. Though the North Vietnamese forces claim over 81 US aircraft as shot down during Operation Linebacker II, (including 34 B-52s, two attributed to the VPAF),[10][dubious ], U.S sources acknowledge only 27 aircraft lost by the Americans (including 15 B-52s).[11]

Within 12 days of the operation "Linebacker-2" (18–29 December), during the eight air battles were shot down seven U.S. aircraft (including four F4 Phantom) and three Vietnamese MiG-21.[5]

After the negotiated end of American involvement in early 1973, the No. 919 transport air group (Lữ đoàn Không quân vận tải 919), was formed; and equipped with fixed-wing aircraft, as well as helicopters (rotor-wing) in November.

During the 1975 Spring Offensive, the bombing of Tan Son Nhut Air Base, the only airstrike conducted by the VPAF, occurred on April 28, 1975, just two days before the Fall of Saigon. The operation was carried out by the VPAF's Quyet Thang Squadron, using captured A-37s aircraft flown by hero pilot Nguyen Thanh Trung who had bombed the Presidential Palace in Saigon, less than one month earlier before defecting to the north.

During the Vietnam War, NVAF used the MiG-17F, PF (J-5); MiG-19 (J-6), MiG-21F-13, PF, PFM and MF fighters.[1] They claimed to have shot down 266 US aircraft, and US claimed to have shot down or destroyed 204 MiGs aircraft and at least six An-2s, of which 196 were confirmed with solid evidence[citation needed] (100 MiG-17s, 10 MiG-19s and 86 MiG-21s). However, VPAF admits only 154 MiGs were lost through all causes, including 131 in air combat (63 MiG-17s, 8 MiG-19s and 60 MiG-21s)[12]). Like that, total kill ratio would be 1:1.3 to 1:2.[13][14] With the number of losses to MiGs confirmed by US (121 aircraft shot down and 7 damaged[13][14]), the kill ratio turn 1.6:1 against the MiGs, or 1.1:1 even accepting the VPAF's figure of only 131 in air combat. However, this ratio does not include the number of ARVN's aircraft shot down by VPAF (One source claims 72 ARVN's aircraft were shot down by VPAF[15])

1975–present (reunified Vietnam)[edit]

Fighter/bomber Su-22M number 5815 belongs to the 923rd Regiment which took part in the first flight to patrolling Spratly islands on February 10, 1988

The VPAF did not play a major role during the Ho Chi Minh Campaign in 1975. The only sorties flown were conducted by five captured VNAF A-37s. SA-2s were transported into South Vietnam to counter possible US military air strikes. The US could not bring back their air power during the 1975 offensive, which had proven decisive in 1972, and the VNAF did not have the capability to strike targets in the north nor to defend against the onslaught in the south.

After the end of the Vietnam War (called the American War in Vietnam) in May 1975, more regiments were formed. No. 935 fighter regiment "Đồng Nai" and no. 937 fighter-bomber regiment "Hậu Giang", followed by no. 918 transport regiment "Hong Ha" and no. 917 mixed transport regiment "Đồng Tháp" were created in July 1975. In September 1975, the four newly created regiments were formed into the 370nd Air Division "Lê Lợi" and the 372nd Air Division "Hai Van" was formed, including among others the 925th fighter regiment.[1]

On May 31, 1977, the Vietnam People's Air Force (Không quân Nhân dân Việt Nam) was separated from the Air Defense Force (Quân chủng Phòng không).[1]

When South Vietnam was overrun by PAVN forces on 30 April 1975, approximately 877 aircraft were captured by PAVN. Of that number, 41 were F-5s and 95 were A-37s.[16] When Vietnam invaded Cambodia in 1979, former VNAF A-37s flew most of the ground support missions. These aircraft were more suited to the role than the MiGs. Former VNAF F-5Es, C-123s, C-130s, and UH-1s were used by the VPAF for many years after the end of the War.

In the years between 1953 and 1991, approximately 700 warplanes, 120 helicopters, and 158 missile complexes have been supplied to North Vietnam by the USSR and PR China (primarily the MiG-19 (J-6 series). Even today, three-quarters of Vietnamese weaponry has been made in post-Cold-War Russia.[17]

Today the VPAF is in the midst of modernization. It still operates late model MiG-21s, Su-22s, aircraft of the Cold War era.[18][19] However, it has recently been modernizing its air force with models of the Su-27-SK air superiority fighter following closer military ties, and an array of arms deals with Russia. To date, Vietnam has ordered and received 12 of these aircraft. In 2004, it also acquired 4 modified variants of the Su-30 MK2V, newer models of the Su-27. In May 2009, they have inked a deal to procure additional 12 aircraft from the Russian to bolster their aging fleet. The Vietnamese air force has also acquired new advanced air defense systems, including two S-300 PMU1 (NATO designation: SA-20) short-to-high altitude SAM batteries in a deal worth $300 million with Russia.[17]

A twin-engine light transport aircraft of the 918th Transport Regiment crashed into a field on the outskirts of the capital Hanoi (Thanh Tri District) on Tuesday morning 8 April 2008 during a training mission, killing five Vietnamese military pilots. The plane took off from Gia Lam Airport in Hanoi, Northern Vietnam, with five officers aboard for a training exercise. It crashed on its way back to the airport.

Aerial aces[edit]

The MiG-17 number 2047 was flown by Nguyen Van Bay on April 19, 1972 and bombed US Navy light cruiser USS Oklahoma City
The MiG-21 number 5121 was flown by Pham Tuan December 26, 1972, during Operation Linebacker II and shot down B-52 Stratofortress
MiG 17 tail showing insignia

In Vietnam War, many Vietnamese pilots had notable achievements, and were honored in as "aces".[20]

Name Victories VPAF Aircraft Regiment Service
Nguyễn Văn Cốc Eleven kills (nine aircraft and two UAV) MiG-21 921st Fighter Regiment 1967–69
Mai Văn Cường Eight kills MiG-21 921st Fighter Regiment 1966–68
Nguyễn Hồng Nhị Eight kills MiG-21 921st/927th Fighter Regiment 1966–72
Phạm Thanh Ngân Eight kills MiG-21 921st Fighter Regiment 1967–69
Đặng Ngọc Ngự Seven kills MiG-21 921st Fighter Regiment 1966–72
Nguyễn Văn Bảy Seven kills MiG-17 923rd Fighter Regiment 1966–72
Lê Hải Six kills MiG-17 923rd Fighter Regiment 1967–72
Lê Thanh Đạo Six kills MiG-21 927th Fighter Regiment 1971–72
Lưu Huy Chao Six kills MiG-17 923rd Fighter Regiment 1966–68
Nguyễn Đăng Kỉnh Six kills MiG-21 921st Fighter Regiment 1967–68
Nguyễn Đức Soát Six kills MiG-21 921st/927th Fighter Regiment 1969–72
Nguyễn Ngọc Độ Six kills MiG-21 921st Fighter Regiment 1967–68
Nguyễn Nhật Chiêu Six Kills MiG-17/MiG-21 921st Fighter Regiment 1965–67
Nguyễn Tiến Sâm Six kills MiG-21 921st/927th Fighter Regiment 1968–72
Vũ Ngọc Đỉnh Six kills MiG-21 921st Fighter Regiment 1966–70
Nguyễn Văn Nghĩa Five kills MiG-21 927th Fighter Regiment 1972

About the other pilots, see Safarik's comprehensive list.[21]

Organizational structure[edit]

Air Force and Air Defense Divisions[edit]

The organizational levels of Vietnam People's Air Force, from highest to lowest are:

  • High Command of Vietnam People's Air Force
  • Air Division (Vietnamese: Sư đoàn không quân)
  • Air Regiment (Vietnamese: Trung đoàn không quân)
  • Air Flight (Vietnamese: Phi đội)
  • Air Section (Vietnamese: Biên đội)
Vietnam People's Army
Vietnam People's Army signal.jpg
Flag of Viet Nam Peoples Army.svg
Ministry of Defence
Vietnam People's Army General Staff insignia.jpgGeneral Staff
Vietnam People's Army insignia.png Ground Force
Vietnam People's Air Force insignia.png Air Force
Vietnam People's Navy insignia.png Navy
Vietnam Border Defense Force insignia.jpg Border Guard
Vietnam Marine Police insignia.jpg Coast Guard
Ranks of the Vietnamese Military
Ground Force ranks and insignia
Air Force ranks and insignia
Navy ranks and insignia
Border Guard ranks and insignia
Coast Guard ranks and insignia
History of the Vietnamese Military
History of Vietnamese military ranks
Military history of Vietnam

Air Division and Regimental Names of the VPAF[22] Recent base information is from the Vietnamese Wikipedia VPAF article.

Command Division Regiment Name Equipment Base
High Command of Air Defense and Air Force 371st Air Force Division
(Thăng Long Air Wing)
931st Fighter Yên Bái Squadron Su-22M-4/UM-3K Yên Bái Air Base
921st Fighter Red Star Squadron Su-22M-4/UM-3K Phúc Yên Air Base
923rd Fighter-bomber Yen The Squadron Su-30MK2 Tho Xuan Airport
927th Fighter Lam Son Squadron Su-30MK2 Kép Air Base
916th Helicopter Ba Vi Squadron Mi-6, Mi-8, Mi-24D, Mi-171 Hòa Lạc Air Base
918th Air Transport Hong Ha Squadron An-2, An-26, An-30, M-28, C-295M Gia Lam Airport
372nd Air Force Division
(Hai Van Air Wing)
929th Fighter-Bomber Son Tra Squadron MiG-21 bis,Su-22M4 may temporarily be deployed to this airport, Da Nang International Airport
930th Helicopter Mi-8, Mi-171 Da Nang International Airport
940th Fighter/Air Training Tây Sơn Squadron Su-27SKM/UBK/PU Phu Cat Airport
370th Air Force Division
(Lê Lợi Air Wing)
937th Fighter-Bomber Hậu Giang Squadron Su-22M-4/UM-3K Thanh Son Air Base
935th Fighter Đồng Nai Squadron Su-30MK2 Bien Hoa Air Base
917th Mixed Air Transport Đồng Tháp Squadron UH-1H, Mi-8, Mi-171 Tan Son Nhat International Airport
Air Force Officer School 910th Air Training L-39C Dong Tac Airport
920nd Air Training Yak-52 Nha Trang Air Base
361st Air Defense Division
(Ha Noi Air Defense Division)
218th SA Artillery Hoa Lư Regiment ZSU-23-4, SA-2 Guideline, SA-3 Goa, SA-9 Gaskin, SA-13 Gopher, SA-17 Grizzly, SA-20 Gargoyle, SA-22 Greyhound Ha Noi
280th SA Artillery Hong Linh Regiment
236th SA Missile Song Da Regiment
250th SA Missile Thăng Long Regiment
257th SA Missile Red Flag Regiment
64th SA Missile
363rd Air Defense Division
(Hai Phong Air Defense Division)
240th AA Artillery ZSU-23-4, SA-2 Guideline, SA-3 Goa, SA-9 Gaskin, SA-13 Gopher Hai Phong
213th SA Missile
238th SA Missile Hạ Long Regiment
285th SA Missile Nam Trieu Regiment
365th Air Defense Division
(Bac Thai Air Defense Division)
228th SA Artillery Ham Rong Regiment ZSU-23-4, SA-2 Guideline, SA-3 Goa, SA-9 Gaskin, SA-13 Gopher, SA-6 Gainful Bắc Giang
267th SA Missile Dien Bien Regiment
284th SA Missile Song La Regiment
375th Air Defense Division
(Da Nang Air Defense Division)
224th SA Artillery To Vinh Dien Regiment SA-2 Guideline, SA-3 Goa, SA-6 Gainful Da Nang
275th SA Missile Soc Son Regiment
282nd SA Missile Tam Giang Regiment
377th Air Defense Division
(Khanh Hoa Air Defense Division)
591st SA Artillery Truong Son Regiment SA-2 Guideline, SA-3 Goa, SA-6 Gainful, SA-17 Grizzly, SA-22 Greyhound Cam Ranh
274th SA Missile Hung Vuong Regiment
367th Air Defense Division
(HCMC Air Defense Division)
230th SA Artillery Thong Nhat Regiment SA-2 Guideline, SA-3 Goa, SA-6 Gainful, SA-20 Gargoyle Ho Chi Minh city
261st SA Missile Thanh Loa Regiment
263th SA Missile Quang Trung Regiment
276th SA Missile
93rd SA Missile


Vietnam Fighter Regiments

Some airbases in the south were built by the French, Japanese* (World War II), United States Air Force or United States Navy for South Vietnam. The northern bases were likely built with assistance and/or use by the French, China or Soviet Union during the Vietnam War.

Air Force Museum[edit]

There are two Air Force museums in Vietnam: Vietnam People's Air Force Museum, Hanoi and Vietnam People's Air Force Museum, Ho Chi Minh City.

Service branches[edit]

Aircraft Air Defense Missiles Air Defense Artillery Paratroops Radar Surveillance
Vietnam People's Air Force pilot.jpg
Vietnam People's Air Force Missile.jpg
Vietnam People's Air Force Anti Aircraft gun.jpg
Vietnam People's Air Force Paratroops.jpg
Vietnam People's Air Force Radar.jpg

Table of Ranks[edit]

Rank of Commander of Vietnam People's Air Force usually is Lieutenant General. Colonel General is very rarely used.

Level Ranks Translation Insignia
Flag Officers
Sĩ quan cấp Tướng
Thượng tướng Colonel General
Vietnam People's Air Force Colonel General.jpg
Trung tướng Lieutenant General
Vietnam People's Air Force Lieutenant General.jpg
Thiếu tướng Major General
Vietnam People's Air Force Major General.jpg
Field Grade Officers
Sĩ quan cấp Tá
Đại tá Senior Colonel
Vietnam People's Air Force Senior Colonel.jpg
Thượng tá Colonel
Vietnam People's Air Force Colonel.jpg
Trung tá Lieutenant Colonel
Vietnam People's Air Force Lieutenant Colonel.jpg
Thiếu tá Major
Vietnam People's Air Force Major.jpg
Company Grade Officers
Sĩ quan cấp Úy
Đại úy Captain
Vietnam People's Air Force Captain.jpg
Thượng úy Lieutenant
Vietnam People's Air Force Senior Lieutenant.jpg
Trung úy Sub-lieutenant
Vietnam People's Air Force Lieutenant.jpg
Thiếu úy Ensign
Vietnam People's Air Force SubLieutenant.jpg
Officer cadets
Học viên Sĩ quan
Học viên Sĩ quan Officer Cadet
Vietnam People's Air Force student officer.jpg
Non-Commissioned Officers
Hạ sĩ quan
Thượng sĩ Sergeant Major
Vietnam People's Air Force Sergeant major.jpg
Trung sĩ Sergeant
Vietnam People's Air Force Sergeant.jpg
Hạ sĩ Corporal
Vietnam People's Air Force Corporal.jpg
Chiến sĩ
Binh nhất Airman First Class
Vietnam People's Air Force First Private.jpg
Binh nhì Airman
Vietnam People's Air Force Second Private.jpg

Aircraft inventory[edit]

Most of the VPAF's aircraft were supplied from the Soviet Union and PRC, but hundreds were left over by the United States via the Republic of Vietnam, most of which are no longer in service.

Photo Aircraft Origin Type Versions In service Notes
Trainer aircraft
Aero L-39 Albatros-001.jpg
Aero L-39 Albatros  Czechoslovakia Trainer L-39C[23] 26[24] Subsonic jet trainer
Yakkes Yak-52 RA-3085K.jpg
Yakovlev Yak-52  Soviet Union Trainer Yak-52 36 Basic trainer aircraft. Version Iak-52 Trainer aircraft 2014 Assembled from kits in Viet Nam, delivery 2016–2018. Option on 24 more
Combat aircraft
Uganda People's Defence Force Air Wing Sukhoi Su-30MK2 MTI-2.jpg
Sukhoi Su-30MK2  Russia Multi-role fighter Su-30MK2
36[25][26][27] Russia completes delivery of all Su-30MK2 to Vietnam Air Force[27]
Sukhoi Su-27  Russia Air superiority fighter Su-27SK/UBK[28] 12[25] Su-27SK: 7
Su-27UBK: 5
Sukhoi Su-22UM-3K Fitter at RIAT 2010 arp.jpg
Sukhoi Su-22  Soviet Union Ground attack Su-22M3
36[25][30] Flight Global reported that 38 aircraft in service as 2014.Two aircraft crashed in April 2015.[31]
At least 50+ in storage

54 Su-22M3/M4 were upgrade in 1998
40 Su-22M3K/M4 on ordered in 2005

Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-21PF USAF.jpg
Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-21  Soviet Union Air superiority fighter MiG-21Bis 144[25] Flight Global reported that 144 aircraft in service as 2014
100 MiG-21 has the Bison upgrade package from India. This is the latest upgrade package of this aircraft
Transport aircraft
Polish Air Force CASA C-295M Lofting.jpg
EADS CASA C-295  Spain Transport C-295M 1 2 on order[32]
Antonov An-24  Soviet Union Transport An-24 unknown
Vietnamese Air Force Antonov An-26 Wadman.jpg
Antonov An-26  Soviet Union Transport An-26 30[33]
Antonov An-2R on ski Ryabtsev.jpg
Antonov An-2  Poland Light transport An-2TD 15
M28 Skytruck Góraszka 2.JPG
PZL M28 Skytruck  Poland Light transport M-28 11 In 2005, Vietnam bought 12 PZL M28-1Rs (M-28B) from Poland. In November 2005, 1 PZl M-28 of VPAF crashed in Gia Lam district, Hanoi. All three crewmembers died.[34]
Baltic Airlines Mil Mi-8 Aladyshkin.jpg
Mil Mi-8  Soviet Union Transport helicopter Mil Mi-8 70
Afghan MI-17 helicopters.jpg
Mil Mi-17  Russia Transport Mil Mi-17/171 68
Mil Mi-24  Soviet Union Attack helicopter Mi-24A/D 36
Vietnamese Air Force Huey MRD.jpg
UH-1H Huey  United States Utility UH-1H 14[24]
Aerospatiale HH-65.jpg
Eurocopter Dauphin  France SAR helicopter SA-365 N2 6 From the Ministry of Defence
Eurocopter Cougar.jpg
Aérospatiale Super Puma  France Civilian transport AS-332L2 8 From the Ministry of Defence. One Super Puma operated by Southern Service Flight Company (SFC) was lost in sea transportation mission for offshore platform in 2007.
Miscellaneous Aircraft
AV.UAV.SM1[35]  Vietnam UAV unknown unknown
AV.UAV.S1  Vietnam UAV unknown unknown
AV.UAV.S2[36]  Vietnam UAV unknown unknown
AV.UAV.S3  Vietnam UAV unknown unknown
AV.UAV.S4  Vietnam UAV Unknown unknown
M-400 UAV  Vietnam UAV M400-CT Currently used for air defenses training purpose.
VT Patrol  Vietnam UAV Unknown. Tested in 2013, VT Patrol aircraft capable of flying at speeds of 100 to 150 km / h, 50 km distance operations, reconnaissance in full HD camera. The aircraft also operate slopes in inclement weather with temperatures about 10 °C, cloudy., .
VNS-41  Vietnam Amphibious VNS-41 12 Domestic produced light plane type ULM with floatation devices.

Air Defense[edit]

Photo Name Origin Type Versions No. of launchers No. of missiles Notes
Air Defence Missile
ZRS S-300PS 2007 G1.jpg
SA-20 Gargoyle
 Russia long range SAM system S-300PMU-2 2 batteries, 12 launchers[17] 75 missile Fully upgraded.
Buk-m2 ky.jpg
SA-17 Grizzly
 Russia medium range SAM system Buk-M2E 6 batteries, 36 launchers 200 9M317 missiles Recently put on active duty.
S125 Neva 250 brPVO VS, september 01, 2012.jpg
SA-3 Goa
(S-125 Neva/Pechora)
 USSR surface-to-air missile S-125 Pechora 2TM (upgraded version of SA-3) 30+ systems Unknown
SA-2 Guideline.JPG
SA-2 Guideline
(S-75 Dvina)
 USSR surface-to-air missile S-75 Volga 2MV (upgraded version of SA-2) 30+ systems 1000+ missiles
Sa6 1.jpg
SA-6 Gainful
(2K12 Kub)
 USSR surface-to-air missile SA-6 MV 10+ systems 1600 missiles
Strela 10.jpg
SA-13 Gopher
 Russia surface-to-air missile Strela 10M3MV 20 launchers 200 missiles Licensed produced in Vietnam
SA-7 Grail
 Russia Man-portable surface-to-air missile launcher Strela 2M 100 launchers 350 missiles
SA-24 Grinch
 Russia Man-portable surface-to-air missile launcher Igla-S 50 launchers 400 missiles Licensed produced in Vietnam
Air Defence Artillery
ZSU-23-4 Shilka, Togliatti, Russia-2.JPG
ZSU-23-4  USSR SPAAA ZSU-23-4M 100 systems[37]
57 mm AZP S-60  USSR AAA guns S-60 250
37 mm automatic air defense gun M1939 (61-K)  USSR AAA guns Twin barrel version At least 260 Indigenously produced in Vietnam
ZU-23-2 in Saint Petersburg.jpg
ZU-23-2  USSR AAA guns 2500
14,5-мм счетверенная зенитная пулеметная установка конструкции Лещинского ЗПУ-4 (1).jpg
ZPU-4  USSR AA Machine gun 1300


Photo Name Origin Type Versions Launch platform Number of missiles Notes
Kh-59MK2 maks2009.jpg
AS-13 Kingbolt  Russia anti-ship missile Kh-59MK
280 missiles
AS-17 Krypton  Russia anti-ship missile Kh-31A
80 missiles[38]
100 more on order
delivery in 2012[39]
Kh-29L (1).jpg
AS-14 Kedge  Russia anti-ship missile Kh-29T
100 missiles [40]
Mig 29 firing AA-10.JPG
AA-10 Alamo  Russia air-to-air missile R-27ER
 – [41]
R-73 HuAF.jpg
AA-11 Archer  Russia air-to-air missile R-73 Su-30MK2
– 250 missiles[38] [41]
AA-12 Adder  Russia air-to-air missile RVV-AE Su-30MK2
AS-10 Kerry on Su-24 2008 G4.jpg
AS-10 Karen  Russia anti-ship missile Kh-25ML
AS-16 Kickback 2008 G1.jpg
AS-9 Kyle  USSR anti-ship missile Kh-28E Su-22M4 [42]
K-13 (AA-2 'Atoll').jpg
AA-2 Atoll  USSR anti air-to-air R-3S Mig-21
AA-8 Aphid  USSR anti air-to-air R-60 Mig-21


Some jet fighters (F-5s and A-37s) were auctioned in 1998, and are currently owned by private companies, and individuals in America, Australia, New Zealand, and Europe.

The current procurement plan of the VPAF is to equip up to 3 regiments with 3 x 12 Sukhoi Su-30 "Flanker" until 2015. VPAF already upgraded its air defense system with more effective missile system such as Buk missile system and Pantsir-S1 system. Vietnam may be the third customer to buy the S-400 Triumf missile system around 2017[43]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Captain Van Coc had only scored 9 victories during his meeting with Ho Chi Minh in 1969, he scored 2 USAF reconnaissance drones[44] in December of 1969, after Ho Chi Minh's death which occurred in September of that same year


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Ivanov, S.V. (2000). "Boyevoye primenenye MiG-17 i MiG-19 vo Vietnamye (Боевое применение МиГ-17 и МиГ-19 во Вьетнаме)". Voyna v vozdukhye (16). 
  2. ^ Sander Peeters. "Vietnamese Air-to-Air Victories, Part 1 -". Retrieved 24 December 2014. 
  3. ^ "Vietnamese Air-to-Air Victories, Part 2." ACIG. Retrieved: 25 August 2013.
  4. ^ "Vietnamese Aces – MiG-17 and MiG-21 pilots". Retrieved 2013-08-09. 
  5. ^ a b c d e "Mig-21 against the Phantom". 
  6. ^ "Vietnamese Air-to-Air Victories, Part 2". Retrieved 24 December 2014. 
  7. ^ Anderton 1987, pp. 70–71.
  8. ^ Sherman, Stephen (October 2002). "Randy Cunningham". 
  9. ^ Hall, George (1987). Top Gun: The Navy's Fighter Weapons School. Presido Press. 
  10. ^ "Vạch nhiễu tìm thù hạ "ngáo ộp" B52". Tin nhanh Việt Nam ra thế giới (World News Vietnam) – 23 December 2007. 
  11. ^ See "Published Government Documents" and "Secondary Sources" below.
  12. ^ Migs over North Vietnam: The Vietnam People's Air Force in Combat, 1965–75, Stackpole Military History
  13. ^ a b ACIG Team (16 September 2003). "Vietnamese Air-to-Air Victories, Part 1". Indochina Database. Air Combat Information Group. 
  14. ^ a b ACIG Team (16 September 2003). "Vietnamese Air-to-Air Victories, Part 2". Indochina Database. Air Combat Information Group. 
  15. ^ Aviaciya PVO Rossii i nauchno-technicheskii progress. Boevie kompleksi i sistemi vchera, segodnya, zavtra", E.A.Fedosova, Drofa, 2004
  16. ^ Toperczer (29) p. 80, 81
  17. ^ a b c Blagov, Sergei (5 September 2003). "Russian missiles to guard skies over Vietnam". Asia Times Online (Moscow). 
  18. ^ "Su-17,-20,-22 FITTER (SUKHOI)". 
  19. ^ "MiG-21 FISHBED". 
  20. ^ Bowers, Al; Lednicer, David (17 May 1999). "Fighter Pilot Aces List". The Air University. 
  21. ^ ŠAFAŘÍK, Jan Josef (20 December 2010). "VIETNAM: War In Vietnam". 
  22. ^ MiG-17 and MiG-19 Units of the Vietnam War by István Toperczer
  23. ^ Flightglobal Insight | World Air Forces 2011/2012
  24. ^ a b "World Air Forces 2013". Flight International.
  25. ^ a b c d "Free download: World Air Forces directory 2014". The DEW Line. Retrieved 24 December 2014. 
  26. ^ "Vietnam Received Two More Su-30MK2". December 12, 2014. 
  27. ^ a b
  28. ^ "Ukraine to Repair Engines of Vietnamese Su-27 Aircraft". July 23, 2013. 
  29. ^ Reed Business Information Limited. "Multiple engine failure blamed for An-124 Irkutsk accident". Retrieved 24 December 2014. 
  30. ^
  31. ^
  32. ^ "Vietnam Air Force Purchased 3 Transport Aircraft C-295". June 12, 2014. 
  33. ^ "World Air Forces 2014", Flightglobal
  34. ^
  35. ^ "Vietnam Successfully Tests First Unmanned Aircraft". May 5, 2013. 
  36. ^ "Vietnam UAV Flying at Night, Facing the South China Sea". May 28, 2013. 
  37. ^ "ZSU-23-4". Jane's Information Group. 2008-10-30. Retrieved 2008-11-08. 
  38. ^ a b "Thống kê hợp đồng mua sắm đạn dược của Việt Nam". Retrieved 24 December 2014. 
  39. ^ "Việt Nam mua tên lửa chống hạm siêu âm cho Su-30MK2" [The Philippines bought supersonic anti-ship missile for Su-30MK2]. 18 July 2008. 
  40. ^ "Soviet Missiles: Air-to-Surface Missiles". 
  41. ^ a b "Vietnam Arranges Event for Media for the Su-30MK2 Missile". April 1, 2013. 
  42. ^ Kopp, Dr Carlo (August 2009), Soviet/Russian Tactical Air to Surface Missiles (Technical Report APA-TR-2009-0804), Air Power Australia ( 
  43. ^ "Việt Nam là khách hàng mua S-400 thứ ba" [Vietnam is the third S-400 buyer]. Vietnam Press ( 24 March 2012. 
  44. ^ Toperczer (29) p. 86

Published Government Documents

  • Boyne, Walter J. (May 1997). "Linebacker II". Air Force Magazine 80 (11). 
  • Gilster, Herman L. The Air War in Southeast Asia: Case Studies of Selected Campaigns. Maxwell Air Force Base AL: Air University Press, 1993.
  • Head, William P. War from Above the Clouds: B-52 Operations During the Second Indochina War and the Effects of the Air War on Theory and Doctrine. Maxwell AFB AL: Air University Press, 2002.
  • McCarthy, Brig. Gen. James R. and LtCol. George B. Allison, Linebacker II: A View from the Rock. Maxwell Air Force Base AL: Air University Press, 1979.
  • Nalty, Bernard C. Air War Over South Vietnam: 1969–1975. Washington, D.C.: Center of Air Force History, 1995.
  • Schlight, John, A War Too Long. Washington, D.C.: Center of Air Force History, 1993.
  • Tilford, Earl H. Setup: What the Air Force Did in Vietnam and Why. Maxwell Air Force Base AL: Air University Press, 1991.
  • Thompson, Wayne, To Hanoi and Back: The U.S. Air Force and North Vietnam, 1966–1973. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 2002.

Secondary Sources

  • Asselin, Pierre, A Bitter Peace: Washington, Hanoi and the Making of the Paris Agreement, Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2002.
  • Ambrose, Stephen E., The Christmas Bombing in Robert Cowley, ed. The Cold War: A Military History, New York: Random House, 2005.
  • Casey, Michael, Clark Dougan, Samuel Lipsman, Jack Sweetman, Stephen Weiss, et al., Flags Into Battle. Boston: Boston Publishing Company, 1987.
  • Dorr, Robert. Boeing's Cold War Warrior: B-52 Stratofortress. Osprey Publishing, 2000. ISBN 978-1-84176-097-1
  • Drendel, Lou, Air War over Southeast Asia: Vol. 3, 1971–1975. Carrollton TX: Squadron/Signal Publications, 1984.
  • Hobson, Chris, "Vietnam Air Losses USAF/NAVY/MARINE, Fixed-wing aircraft losses Southeast Asia 1961–1973. 2001. ISBN 978-1-85780-115-6
  • Karnow, Stanley, Vietnam: A History. New York: Viking Books, 1983.
  • Lipsman, Samuel, Stephen Weiss, et al., The False Peace: 1972–74. Boston: Boston Publishing Company, 1985.
  • Littauer, Raphael and Norman Uphoff, The Air War in Indochina. Boston: Beacon Press, 1972.
  • McCarthy, Donald J. Jr. MiG Killers: A Chronology of US Air Victories in Vietnam 1965–1973. North Branch, Minnesota: Speciality Press, 2009. ISBN 978-1-58007-136-9.
  • Morocco, John, Rain of Fire: Air War, 1969–1973. Boston: Boston Publishing Company, 1985.
  • Pribbenow, Merle L.(trans) Victory in Vietnam: The Official History of the People's Army of Vietnam. University Press of Kansas, 2002. ISBN 0-7006-1175-4
  • Zaloga, Steven J. Red SAM: The SA-2 Guideline Anti-Aircraft Missile. Osprey Publishing, 2007. ISBN 978-1-84603-062-8

External links[edit]