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Laos Pt.1: LNAF Vampire FB.52

Started by comrade harps, October 27, 2022, 03:51:09 AM

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comrade harps

HAL-built de Havilland Vampire FB.52
a/c 412, 1st Fighter Squadron, Laos National Air Force (LNAF), Wattay Airfield, Vientiane, Laos, August 1969
Pilot: Major Soukaphone Vongchiengkham

The Lao Issara (Free Laos) government of Laos struggled throughout its tenure to control the country. Formed in 1945 in opposition to both Japanese and French domination, the nationalist group was republican and capitalist in its outlook. This brought favourable responses from Nationalist China and the US; both used their wartime incursions into Laos to support Lao Issara's October 1945 declaration of independence and their establishment of a provisional government. Challenged by the returning French colonial authorities, the Lao Issara joined a coalition government within the French-backed Kingdom of Laos.

This uneasy situation was maintained until 1950-51, when French power was weakened by the European Red Revolutions of 1950. With the Laotian King Sisavang Vong rendered irrelevant by the rapid decline of French colonial power, the Lao Issara successfully mounted a coup in November 1951 and again asserted the nation's independence. As a result of regional peace agreements, Laos left the UN in 1952 to follow a policy of neutrality. At this time the Lao Issara established a strong diplomatic and military relationship with India, which had also left the UN to assert its neutrality. Despite early American support, by the 1960s the fierce independence of the Lao Issara had brought it into conflict with the US and the UN. With the Red Chinese and North Vietnamese using Laotian territory to infiltrate combatants into neighbouring countries, the Lao Issara resisted attempts to hand over command of its defence to the US embassy in Vientiane. Instead, the UN launched a secret bombing campaign of Laos, interdicting Red supply trails through the country and supporting indigenous anti-Communist guerillas. The latter were a fractious combination of Patriotic Neutralist, Hmong, lu Mien and Royalist irregulars commanded by, respectively, a mutinous Captain, a disaffected General, a tribal leader and a rebel Prince. Unable to project sufficient airpower to counter the Reds or defend its airspace, the Lao government tacitly accepted UN airpower within its airspace. The result was a compromised, conflicted and confused series of campaigns and strategies that undermined Laotian sovereignty and the overall anti-Communist effort. Deconfliction was usually the best outcome achieved, leaving Laotian and UN actions poorly coordinated and often at odds. While the Lao Issara focused on defending its existing areas of influence, the UN was focused on combating the Patho Lao, interdicting the Mao Tse Tung Trail in the country's north west and the Ho Chi Minh Trail in the country's east. The Lao Issara frequently protested the selection of UN targets (including loyalist villages) and the use of CBUs and mines on its territory, but the LNAF avoided contact with UN airpower. The contradictions of this relationship would result in a failed US-backed coup in October 1964 and disastrously played out during Operation Half Back Flanker in 1972.

The Laotian National Air Force (LNAF)  was established in 1952, with India, Thailand and the US providing training and aircraft. In 1954 HT-2 trainers were supplied by India, joining former USAF and French C-47s, L-19A Bird Dogs from the US and DHC Beavers from Canada. Against a backdrop of increasing Patho Lao and Viet Minh activity, surplus Thai AT-6G Texans and ex-USAF AC-47Ds were delivered for COIN duties in 1956, followed by Indian supplied, HAL-built Vampire jets in 1957. When de Havilland's UK operations were subsumed into the Red's organization of revolutionary Britain in 1950, Australia's GAF and India's HAL were both building Vampires. HAL built 286 Vampires, of which 42 second-hand FB.52s were delivered to Laos through to 1966, plus 7 recce-modified R.52s, 9 T.55s and 8 NF.56s. The Vampire NF.56 was a night fighter version of the unarmed T.56, a HAL-modified T.55 equipped as a radar trainer with the APG-37 of the F-86K (60 of which were operated by the Indian Air Force). Summit Aviation modified North American T-28D Trojans replaced the Texans on COIN duties from 1962. The Trojans and Vampires took the brunt of the LNAF's combat burden until late 1969, when the first of 32 HAL modified Dassault Super Mystere B.2-J52s entered service. The Vampire depicted here, 412, was delivered in 1964 and damaged at Wattay during the 1964 attempted coup. Rolled into a hanger, it was rebuilt and resumed flying in July 1969, explaining its unusually clean appearance.

Campaign Toan Thang was launched by a joint Patho Lao and Viet Minh force on 18 June 1969. Their first major wet season offensive in Laos, the Reds overwhelmed the numerically superior Laotian National Army (LNA) and US-backed Hmong and Patriotic Neutralist irregulars, occupying most of the Plaine des Jarres. A hastily organised counter-offensive, Operation Off Balance, started on 1 July, but soon falted. Adverse weather severely limited air support throughout the Operation, the Hmong and LNA lacked coordination and the Patriotic Neutralists retreated instead of advancing. Stiff opposition was met, the Reds having reinforced their gains with tanks and heavy artillery, and on the 13th they mounted a series of flanking offensives. Operation Off Balance was officially abandoned on the 15th as orders to pull back were issued. It was a humiliating defeat and precipitated a crisis in the Lao Issara government.

The Vampire pilots of the LNAF's 1st Fighter Squadron (the 2nd Fighter Squadron having been disbanded due to a lack of aircraft) did what they could. The weather was against them and the enemy's air defences had improved. Low clouds and monsoon rains made navigation and targeting difficult. Many missions were abandoned as LNAF and UN aircraft searched in vain for an opening in the clouds. Some UN aircraft had the navaids to deliver their ordnance through cloud, using radar returns, Combat Skyspot or LORAN, but the usefulness of these missions was questionable and post-strike analysis often ambivalent. Still, there were notable successes, and the LNAF Trojan and Vampire pilots were praised for their bravery, skill and accuracy.

While the actions of the LNAF were impressive, those of the LNA were not. With the Army proving to be unreliable, the Lao Issara government placed its faith in the LNAF to strike back at the Reds. Seeking a suitable target, the regime selected the town of Khang Khai. Previously the home of a major LNA training centre and a key site of Lao Issara resistance to both the Japanese and the French, the town had been occupied by the Patho Lao since mid-1964. Declared off limits to air strikes due to its history, the Reds had exploited its status as a sanctuary and established it as a model liberated zone. Particularly irksome to the politicians in Vientiane was the town's propaganda radio station, established in early 1965. In July of that year the UN also placed a bombing ban on Khang Khai, due to the presence of a Red Chinese "cultural mission." On 7 August, 1969, the Lao Issara President ordered that Khang Khai be bombed, a mission labelled Operation Jataka (named after a turtle in Laotian folklore). Starting on 11 August, the first targets were the radio station, its transmitter and the building housing the Red Chinese mission. After that, the town was systematically destroyed in a series of day and night raids. When UN commanders realised that the Chinese had remained silent about the bombing of their mission, they lifted the site's bombing ban and ordered a B-52 strike for 15 August. This obliterated what was left of the town. The civilian casualties from 4 days of bombing were counted in the hundreds. The Lao Issara suppressed the latter fact and claimed that significant military damage had been meted out to the Reds. In fact, Khang Khai was a demilitarised zone, as evidenced by the complete lack of anti-aircraft fire experienced over it by LNAF aircrew.

As part of its propaganda effort, the Lao government released a series of newspaper stories, photos and films documenting the destruction of Khang Khai (although some of this material came from existing stock footage). One of the aircraft to feature in this propaganda was the Vampire FB.52 412, depicted here. It was photographed and filmed carrying a loadout of 2 bombs, with and without fuse extenders. The bombs are usually said to be Mk.82s, but although the LNAF did use these weapons, their use was limited; the US Ambassador to Laos had control over the supply of their fuses, which were stored in Thailand. More likely, they were 250 kg Mk.82 clones produced in Brazil by Avibras, which supplied bombs, tail units (including Snakeye-type high drag systems) and fuses (including fuse extenders) to Laos via UN channels without restrictions on use. Fuse extenders were often used during the wet season, as standard impact fusing saw most bombs penetrate the wet soil and mud before exploding, thereby suppressing the blast effects.

The usual pilot of 412 at this time was Major Soukaphone Vongchiengkham. He was a highly decorated officer trained in India during the 1950s with "over a thousand" combat missions to his credit. A hero of the resistance to the October 1964 coup attempt, Vongchiengkham shot down 2 Air America Caribous bringing Hmong troops to Vientiane.

This was to be the last major campaign for the LNAF's Vampires. As they attacked Khang Khai, the LNAF had personnel training in India on the HAL-upgraded Dassault Canada Super Mystere B.2-J52. Down to just 7 airworthy Vampires, the LNAF retired the type on 27 December 1969. Major Soukaphone Vongchiengkham was killed on 3 June 1972, when the Super Mystere B.2-J52 he was flying was shot down by a Red SAM.



Nice camo comrade.   :thumbsup:

Will there be elephant roundels in your Lao series?

- Can't be bothered to do the proper research and get it right.

Another ill conceived, lazily thought out, crudely executed and badly painted piece of half arsed what-if modelling muppetry from zenrat industries.

zenrat industries:  We're everywhere...for your convenience..


Back in 2012 I created the F-82T Twin-Turbo-Mustang, a turbine powered twin-Mustang in Lation service.

How to reduce carbon emissions - Tip #1 - Walk to the Bar for drinks.


What If? & Secret Project SIG member.
On the go: Beaumaris/Battle/Bronco/Barracuda/Corsair/Flatning/Hellcat IV/Hunter PR11/Hurricane IIb/Ice Cream Tank/JP T4/Jumo MiG-15/P1103 (early)/P1154-ish/Phantom FG1/I-153/Sea Hawk T7/Spitfire XII/Spitfire Tr18/Twin Otter/FrankenCOIN/Frankenfighter


Reminds me that I have some Laotian roundels (for MiG-21s) somewhere in The Stashâ„¢, too. Very nice cammo!  :thumbsup:


Decals my @r$e!

comrade harps

Quote from: zenrat on October 27, 2022, 04:26:02 AMNice camo comrade.   :thumbsup:

Will there be elephant roundels in your Lao series?

Nope. The elephant roundels represent the Laotian Kingdom, but this is a republic. The decals are actually of Belize, but are similar to the Laotian flag. That coincident is where the inspiration came from.


Really nice camo, good backstory and a nation for me to consider. Well done.


The consensus is the great camo and paint job..totally agree..great story and a lovely build  :thumbsup:
If it aint broke ,,fix it until it is .
Over kill is often very understated .
I know the voices in my head ain't real but they do come up with some great ideas.
Theres few of lifes problems that can't be solved with the proper application of a high explosive projectile .


Although i'm not a fan of the Vampire, i am a fan of Comrade's camo schemes and the colors he chooses for them. Also, the backstories never disappoint, and this one is no exception. Great stuff, Comrade!  :thumbsup:  :thumbsup:
"Sticks and stones may break some bones but a 3.57's gonna blow your damn head off!!"

comrade harps

Quote from: DogfighterZen on October 27, 2022, 03:08:35 PMAlthough i'm not a fan of the Vampire, i am a fan of Comrade's camo schemes and the colors he chooses for them. Also, the backstories never disappoint, and this one is no exception. Great stuff, Comrade!  :thumbsup:  :thumbsup:

Thank you.

A surprising amount of the backstory is based on fact, like the US Ambassador in Vientiane holding the keys to the Mk.82 fuses and the series of wet season campaigns mentioned (including Operation Off Balance). The war in Laos was tawdry and bizarre.


Quote from: comrade harps on October 27, 2022, 05:21:55 PMA surprising amount of the backstory is based on fact, like the US Ambassador in Vientiane holding the keys to the Mk.82 fuses and the series of wet season campaigns mentioned (including Operation Off Balance). The war in Laos was tawdry and bizarre.

Which always makes for the best back stories  :thumbsup:  It's amazing how much you learn simply trying to find a few lines to describe your latest build. I swear half the increase in my library is down to that over the last few years  ;D
Decals my @r$e!


There was also a 4-boom Twin-Vampire for training, it seems: <_<

= link http://www.kristofmeunier.fr/vampire-laos33.jpg
[the word "realistic" hurts my heart...]

comrade harps

Quote from: Tophe on October 29, 2022, 04:57:45 AMThere was also a 4-boom Twin-Vampire for training, it seems: <_<

= link http://www.kristofmeunier.fr/vampire-laos33.jpg

That's thoughtful. The instructor and student can wave to each (and make other hand gestures as appropriate).


[the word "realistic" hurts my heart...]