Gnat FG.3, Phan Rang, South Vietnam, 1969

Started by AeroplaneDriver, October 02, 2018, 06:37:24 PM

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My entry for the GB will be my third effort at a RAF Vietnam machine, this time the Airfix 1/48 Gnat T.1 as a Gnat FG.3.  The build thread is ongoing in the Current Projects forum, but here is the backstory to go with it. 

The history of British involvement in Vietnam has been written about extensively over the past four decades, however a brief review of Operation Manticore will help place this model in context.

As the US became more embroiled in the Vietnam Conflict in the late 1960s President Johnson continued to pressure British Prime Minister Harold Wilson to provide material support for the war.  Johnson saw British involvement as a valuable public relations tool as opposition to the war grew at home.  Despite Johnson's continued requests for combat troops, Wilson continued in his opposition to British involvement.  The prickly nature of the personal relationship between the two men did nothing to improve Johnson's chances of success.

The situation changed on September 19, 1967 when a Viet Cong bomb exploded in a Saigon nightclub killing 21, including four British nurses working for the International Red Cross.  This act of terror opened just enough of a door for Johnson to approach Wilson again, and gave Wilson just enough justification at home to accede to the request.  To make the British deployment more palatable on the home front Wilson proposed to Johnson that the request for military assistance should come from Australia.  Perhaps correctly so, Wilson felt that coming to the aid of a Commonwealth nation would be more readily accepted by the British people than helping the USA. 

So, after much backroom political negotiation 42 Commando, Royal Marines became the first British military unit to deploy to Vietnam in June 1968.  Two RAF squadrons also deployed in support of the Marines, 78 Sqn operating Westland Wessex helicopters and 20 Sqn operating Hawker Hunters.  Within a year this small contingent  had grown to over 6,000 troops, including Royal Marines, the Black Watch, elements of the Parachute Regiment, Royal Artillery,  Ghurkas, and SAS & SBS special forces.  The RAF contribution grew to include three squadrons of Hunters, two of Canberras, four Wessex units, a number of transport aircraft, and a flight of Vulcan heavy bombers.  Two squadrons of Hunters were based with US forces at Da Nang, while the remainder of the fixed-wing combat aircraft were based at Phan Rang alongside Australian forces. 

Even though support for involvement was short-lived on the home front, more British units deployed to southeast asia over the following two years, peaking at 24,000 combat troops in country in late 1970.  RAF involvement grew to involve Hunters, Canberras, Strikemasters, Gnats, Vulcans, Victors, Phantoms, and Eagles.  The Royal Navy also contributed forces to the campaign, including the aircraft carriers HMS Eagle and Ark Royal, along with their Scimitar, Sea Vixen, Buccaneer, and Phantom aircraft.  All together British combat aircraft flew over 29,000 sorties during the conflict, dropping millions of pounds of bombs, and shooting down 37 enemy aircraft.

As public resistance grew, both in the UK and the US, Britain began drawing down forces in late 1970, with the last British troops leaving the theater in September 1972.  In total 65,328 UK service personnel served in the Vietnam theater between 1968 and 1972.  Casualties were heavy, with 1,935 killed, 7,445 wounded, and 89 Missing-in-Action.  A total of 61 aircraft were lost to enemy action; 12 Wessex, 1 Belvedere, 2 Sea King, 4 Scout, 11 Hunter, 4 Canberra, 9 Strikemaster, 6 Gnats, 5 Phantom, 2 Eagles, and a Vulcan, as well as 4 RN Buccaneers.

One footnote to this bloody and divisive conflict came to light in the 1980s, when it was revealed that the nightclub bombing that acted as the catalyst to British involvement was actually engineered by the CIA.  This bombshell could have been the death knell of the "Special Relationship" were it not for the close personal relationship between Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher.  Reagan's heartfelt public apology to the British people, and Thatcher's acceptance of the apology led most people to chalk the incident up as one more example of the turbulent times that were the 1960s.

Here is the original thread with the backstory and the other two builds...a Hunter and a Phantom. 

So I got that going for me...which is nice....


Britain's brief but bloody war in Vietnam saw a peak deployment in late 1969-1970.  1968 Saw increased political pressure from the US for the UK to increase the initial deployments to Vietnam.  It also saw the WarPac taking advantage of the resulting UK drawdown in Europe to stage war games in Eastern Europe.  With pressure from both the US and NATO the UK found itself needing additional combat aviation assets.  Hawker Siddeley had already done extensive studies on developments of the successful Gnat trainer, capitalizing on its small size and agility. 

In June 1968 the British Government awarded HS a contract to convert 26 Gnat T.1s to FG.3 standard.  The conversion included a new Orpheus 803 engine providing additional thrust, cockpit armoring,  two ADEN 30mm cannon in the engine intakes with 110 rounds per gun, a 55 gallon ventral fuel tank, combat avionics including a radar ranging gunsight, two additional wing pylons rated at 750lb, the provision for wingtip launch rails for Sidewinder AAMs,  and improved landing gear to handle the addition weight.  Additional modifications to the Gnat's underwing fuel tanks allowed for the fitting of either a M154 7.62mm minigun with 1250 rounds of ammunition or a photo reconnaissance package. 

The first Gnat FG.3s entered service with the RAF in August 1969, with the first combat deployment to Vietnam following in December of that year when 73 Sqn deployed to Phan Rang.  The initial deployment allowed 16 Sqn's Canberras to move back to Europe.  73 Sqn was tasked primarily with CAS, and in this role most often carried US BLU-27 napalm bombs or SNEB rockets in Matra 155 pods and a minigun in the left underwing fuel tank.  If operating in an area with heavy North Vietnamese fighter coverage wingtip sidewinders were fitted, though this was rare.

Though the Gnat was originally viewed with some skepticism as a combat type, its small size and agility made it an effective platform.  In the CAS role its twin ADEN cannons were effective against vehicles, the 7.62mm minigun was effective against soft targets and personnel, and with either SNAB rockets or napalm it made an effective close support weapon. 

So I got that going for me...which is nice....


Nice! I like the minigun, integrated into the slipper tank, a lot.  :thumbsup:


Do not condemn the judgement of another because it differs from your own. You may both be wrong.


Best development of the Gnat I've come across so far ;D


Another superb entry into the GB, it's gonna make choosing really difficult.

As an aside, I've read sometime ago (so can't remember where), an account of RAF Javelins having encounters during the Vietnam war, ones which were based in Singapore. It's not an officially recognized account though ---- (like the Government saying it didn't happen)
If I'm not building models, I'm out riding my dirtbike