South Viet Nam Air Force - Organization
By 1964 there were two fighter squadrons with T-28 training planes; they began replacing T-28 with A-1 in 1964. The VNAF also had a 1st Transport Group with two squadrons of C-47's at Tan Son Nhut.
In early 1965, there were four fighter squadrons (A-1) and two more forming (522nd activated May 1965 and 524th Aug 1965); 150 A-1 aircraft available. There were also two squadrons with CH-34 helicopters (20 each). Two transport squadrons and two liaison squadrons existed, and four more liaison squadrons were forming. Total aircraft: 282.
The VNAF adopted a wing structure in May 1965. The deployment (Jun 1967):
- 41st Tactical Wing at Da Nang (one A-1 fighter, two H-34 helicopter, one O-1 liaison squadrons)
- 62nd Tactical Wing at Nha Trang (one A-1 fighter, one H-34 helicopter, one O-1 liaison squadrons)
- 23rd Tactical Wing at Bien Hoa (one F-5 fighter, two A-1 fighter, one RC-47 reconnaissance squadrons)
- 33rd Tactical Wing at Tan Son Nhut (one H-34 helicopter, three C-47/C-119 transport, one RC-47 reconnaissance squadrons)
- 74th Tactical Wing at Binh Thuy (one A-1 fighter, one H-34 helicopter, one O-1 liaison squadrons)
By 1967, the VNAF had 350 aircraft. Helicopter squadrons had increased to five, and authorized CH-34 strength was 105 (but just over 70 were in service). The six fighter squadrons had their first jet unit. On 1 Jun 1967 the 522nd Fighter Squadron had converted from A-1's to F-5 jet fighters.
The May 1968 MACV plan called for the RVNAF to add another F-5 fighter squadron, four more A-37 squadrons, and 12 more helicopter squadrons. This was to be accomplished by 1970 or later.
The first VNAF fighter squadron began conversion to A-37 jets in Nov 1968, and the 524th, 520th and 516th Squadrons were operational with A-37's (54 on hand) in the Mar-Jul 1969 period.
By the end of 1969, four of the helicopter squadrons converted to UH-1, and squadron strength was to increase to 31 helicopters (23 transport and 8 armed gunships for escort) from 20. It was also proposed to raise eight new UH-1 squadrons and the first CH-47 squadron by the end of 1971. The CH-47 unit (237th Squadron) received its equipment from a US CH-47 company and began training in Sep 1970. The final timetable for this increase in helicopter squadrons was the period Sep 1970-Mar 1971, and it was met. 15 UH-1 squadrons were operational by the end of 1971. A second CH-47 squadron was activated in 1972.
In fall 1969, 817th Squadron took over c. 16 AC-47 aircraft from US units. The next gunship squadron (with AC-119) was active by the end of 1971, but formation date unknown.
By 1969 one of the two original transport squadrons had shifted from C-47 to C-119. The 421st Transport Squadron, first C-123 unit, was activated 1 Apr 1971, the next on 1 Jul 1971 and the third on 1 Dec 1971. Each was formed with 16 aircraft. The first C-7 squadron was activated 1 Mar 1972, the next on 1 May 1972 and the final on 1 Jul 1972.
Following the 1972 Easter offensive, 13 additional VNAF squadrons were authorized: two CH-47, three A-37, two C-130, and five F-5. Material was shipped from the U.S. in advance of unit activation.
In Aug 1972, the planned strength of the VNAF was 66 squadrons. Of these, 39 were operational, 12 were in training, and 15 were scheduled for activation.
The final plan was for:
- 19 fighter squadrons (3 A-1, 10 A-37, 6 F-5)
- 3 gunship squadrons (AC-47 and AC-119)
- 25 helicopter squadrons (21 UH-1 and 4 CH-47)
- 3 reconnaissance squadrons (using variants of C-47 and C-119)
- 5 transport squadrons (2 C-130, 3 C-7)
- 1 special air mission squadron
- 8 liaison squadrons
- 2 training squadrons
These may not have all become, or remained, operational. In some cases, equipment had been received in excess of trained pilots or ground establishments. There were also maintenance problems. For example, by 1974 or early 1975, only about 4 to 8 of the 32 C-130 transports were available on any given day.
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