Phu Cat Air Base

Phu Cat Air Base

Infobox Airport
name = Phu Cat Air Base
nativename =

image-width =300
caption = 2006 Image of Phu Cat Air Base

type =military
owner =
operator =
city-served =
location =
elevation-f = 80
elevation-m = 24
website =
r1-number = 15/33
r1-length-f = 10,010
r1-length-m = 3,051
r1-surface = Concrete
footnotes =
:"For the civil use of this facility after 1975, see Phù Cát Airport"Phu Cat Air Base is a Vietnam People's Air Force "(Khong Quan Nhan Dan Viet Nam)" military airfield located in Qui Nhon, Vietnam. It is located just northwest of Qui Nhon within Binh Dinh Province along the central coast of Southern Vietnam.

Along with its use as a military airfield, a regional civilian airport operates from the facility.

During the Vietnam Wars (1955-1975), the base was used by the Republic of Vietnam Air Force Force (VNAF). The United States used it as a major base from 1966 through 1971,


Phu Cat was one of several air bases developed in the former South Vietnam that was built by United States Air Force Civil Engineering "Red Horse" squadrons in 1966.

On 16 February 1966, during the initial survey to locate a new air base, LtCol William Harold Bodner was killed by a phosphorus mine on what was later designated Hill 151 (Bodner Hill). He and a party of engineers had landed on the hill from a 161st Aviation Company (Airmobility, Light) helicopter.

The site for the new air base was selected in March, and designated Base X. In April, Republic Of Korea (ROK) Tiger Division troops cleared the base area of Viet Cong forces. On 1 May, elements of RMK-BRJ civilian construction firms arrived to build a camp for themselves and ROK security units. By 1 June, a temporary 3000-foot airstrip and a few barracks were completed.

On 1 August, Capt Robert M. Sullivan led a convoy of 53 security policemen and approximately 63 Red Horse (819CES) engineers to the base. The security policemen were the first element of 37th Security Police Squadron which immediately began to assume security of the base from the ROK units. September 19 marked activation of 37th Combat Support Group. On December 20 concrete pouring commenced on the main runway; several records were set for the most concrete poured in a single day in Vietnam. By October, all military personnel were living in permanent structures.

During January 1967, as construction of the main runway, taxiways, barracks, warehouses, etc. progressed, more Air Force personnel and units arrived at Phu Cat Air Base. For example, 459th and 537th Tactical Airlift Squadrons (C-7A aircraft); 1041st USAF Police Squadron (Test), communications, medical airlift control, aircraft maintenance, aerial port, and civil engineering personnel arrived.

VNAF use of Phu Cat Air Base

As the Americans began to phase out of South Vietnam in 1970, Phu Cat Air Base was turned over to the South Vietnamese Air Force (VNAF) in 1971. As part of the transfer of the base to the VNAF, former USAF de Havilland C-7A Caribus aircraft were transferred to the newly formed SVNAF 427th Transport Squadron at Phu Cat. As the inventory of Vietnamese Caribus increased, additional C-7A squadrons, the 492th and 431st was formed. In March 1973, the 427th and 431st squadrons were transferred to Da Nang Air Base.

During the 1972 NVA Easter Offensive, VNAF units at Phu Cat Air Base were effective in halting the attacks down Highway 19 from Kontum/Pleiku toward Qui Nhon. Several VNAF units in other regions shifted detachments to Phu Cat AB. Phu Cat AB VNAF units also provided support for the South Vietnamese ground counteroffensive which began in July.

During another NVA offensive into Binh Dinh province in 1973, Phu Cat Air Base VNAF units responded aggressively and effectively, both in stemming the attacks and in the subsequent South Vietnamese ground counteroffensive.

Known VNAF units at Phu Cat (June 1974 Table Of Organization)

When the Vietnantication program ended USAF operations at the base, Phu Cat Air Base was under the command of the SVNAF 6th Air Division, Headquartered at Pleiku Air Base] .

82d Tactical Wing
* 532d Fighter Squadron A-37
* 241st Helicopter Squadron CH-47A
* 243d Helicopter Squadron UH-1
* Det A 259th Helicopter Squadron Bell UH-1H (MEDEVAC)
* 429th Transportation Squadron C-7

USAF use during the Vietnam War

With its opening in 1967, Phu Cat became a major operational base. The USAF forces stationed there were under the command of the United States Pacific Air Forces (PACAF) Seventh Air Force.

The APO for Phu Cat was APO San Francisco, 96368

14th Special Operations Wing

The 14th Special Operations Wing based at Nha Trang Air Base stationed two squadrons at Phu Cat beginning in March 1966.

From Phu Cat, the wing performed close and direct air support, interdiction, combat airlift, aerial resupply, visual and photographic reconnaissance, un¬conventional warfare, counterinsurgency operations, psychological warfare (including leaflet dropping and aerial broadcasting), forward air con¬trol operations and FAC escort, search and rescue, escort for convoy and defoliation operations, flare drops, civic actions, and humanitarian actions.

In September 1969 the 8th Special Operations Squadron AC-47 "Spooky" gunships were turned over to the South Vietnamese Air Force, they were replaced by AC-119G "Shadow" and then AC-119K "Stinger" aircraft. Also in September, the 14th SOW 361st Tactical Electronics Warfare Squadron (TEWS) (EC-47N/P aircraft) moved from Nha Trang to Phu Cat.

In September 1971 the 14th SOW's squadrons were deactivated in place.

315th Tactical Airlift Squadron

The 315th Air Commando Wing (Troop Carrier), based at Tan Son Nhut Air Base operated UC-123 aircraft at Phu Cat with the 310th Air Commando Squadron starting on 8 March 1966. These aircraft were used in "Operation Ranch Hand" missions to conduct aerial herbicide spraying for vegetation defoliation.

The 310th ACS was re-designated Special Operations Squadron on 1 August 1967, and "A" Flight, 310th Tactical Airlift Squadron as Tactical Airlift units were consolidated in Vietnam during 1970.

On 10 January 1972 the squadron wsa deactivated.

483rd Composite Wing

The 483rd Troop Carrier Wing was activated at Phu Cat AB on 15 October 1966. The name later was changed to the 483rd Tactical Airlift Wing and finally, during 1971, to the 483rd Composite Wing. The 483rd was headquartered at Cam Ranh Air Base and assigned two squadrons of C-7B "Caribou" light transports to Phu Cat for tactical airlift duties.

Operational squadrons at Phu Cat were:
* 459 Tactical Airlift (Tail Code: KE)
* 537 Tactical Airlift (Tail Code: KN)

During their five years' flying for the 483rd, the Caribous carried more than 4.7 million passengers, averaging more than one million a year during 1967, 68 and 69. At the same time the wing averaged more than 100,000 tons of cargo each year. The unique capabilities of the C-7 for short landing and takeoff made Caribou transports absolutely vital to the war effort. On many occasions the C-7s flew emergency airlift missions to airstrips and combat areas that no other aircraft could reach. Most notable were those in support of special forces camps in the central highlands.

The 483rd Composite Wing was inactivated on 15 May 1972.

37th Tactical Fighter Wing

On 1 March 1967, the 37th Tactical Fighter Wing was activated in place at Phu Cat to become the host unit. The 37th TFW received its manpower and equipment from various units transferred from the United States and elsewhere, and tactical operations did not commence until mid-April. The newly-formed wing was assigned to Seventh Air Force.

Its attached squadrons were:

* 416th Tactical Fighter: 15 Apr 1967 - 27 May 1969 (F-100D/F Tail Code: HE)
* Det 1, 612th Tactical Fighter: 8 Jun 1967 - 13 Apr 1969 (F-100D/F Tail Code: HS)

The 416th TFS was deployed from the 3d TFW at Bien Hoa AB, Det 1, 612th TFS from the 35th TFW at Phan Rang AB. On 15 April, the 37TFW began combat operations with strikes by 416TFS (F-100D aircraft) en route from Bien Hoa Air Base to their new home. On 8 June, Det 1., 612th TFS began operations, also after flying a mission en route from their former home at Phan Rang Air Base.

During the rest of 1967, base facilities expanded, population increased, and thousands of combat sorties were flown by the tactical squadrons. The University of Maryland University College opened classes on 15 August. By 28 February 1968, the 37th TFW squadrons completed 18,000 combat hours and 13,000 combat sorties without a major aircraft accident.

In the spring of 1968, these two squadrons were augmented by two additional squadrons deployed from CONUS:

* 174th Tactical Fighter: 14 May 1968 - 11 May 1969 (Iowa ANG) (F-100C/F Tail Code: HA)
* 355th Tactical Fighter: 3 Feb 1968 - 15 May 1969 (F-100D/F Tail Code: HP)

The 174th TFS was federalized Air National Guard personnel and aircraft from the 185th Tactical Fighter Group of the Iowa ANG at Sioux City MAP; the 355th TFS was deployed from the 354th TFW at Myrtle Beach AFB South Carolina. The wing was then composed of four F-100 combat squadrons.

As of 3 January 1969, approximately 90 aircraft were assigned to Phu Cat AB. Those included the F-100s of the tactical fighter squadrons, HH-43B/R rescue helicopters, AC-47 gunships, C-7A airlifters, EC-47N/P electronic warfare planes, UC-123B/K Ranch Hands, and RF-101C and RF-4C Phantom II photo reconnaissance planes.

1969 also marked the transition from F-100 to F-4 combat aircraft at Phu Cat. The Iowa ANG personnel and aircraft returned to CONUS in May 1969. As 355th TFS personnel completed their TDY that same month the personnel and aircraft returned to Myrtle Beach AFB. They were replaced by Air National Guardsmen from New Jersey and Washington DC, who were manning Myrtle Beach at the time. These newly deployed personnel were sent to Tuy Hoa Air Base along with their F-100 D/F aircraft.

In the spring of 1969, the 416th TFS and it's F-100s were transferred to Tuy Hoa Air Base, while Det 1., 612th TFS was returned to the 35th TFW, now at Phan Rang Air Base. Two F-4D squadrons were transferred from Da Nang Air Base replaced them:

* 480th Tactical Fighter: 15 Apr 1969 - 31 Mar 1970 (F-4D Tail Code: HK)
* 389th Tactical Fighter: 15 Jun 1969 - 31 Mar 1970 (F-4D Tail Code: HB)

The 389th and 480th were transferred with personnel and aircraft from Da Nang Air Base.

12th Tactical Fighter Wing

As the United States withdrawals from Vietnam continued during 1970, it resulted in the inactivation of 37th TFW at Phu Cat AB on 31 March. The wing assets remained and were re-designated as the 12th Tactical Fighter Wing when the 12th TFW was moved without personnel or equipment from Cam Ranh Air Base on 1 April 1970, to replace the 37th Tactical Fighter Wing and its units.

Its attached squadrons were:
* 389th Tactical Fighter: 31 Mar 1970 - 15 Oct 1971 (F-4D Tail Code: HB)
* 480th Tactical Fighter: 31 Mar 1970 - 17 Nov 1971 (F-4D Tail Code: HK)

Affecting all units and personnel was the increase in communist mortar and rocket attacks on the base. Until 1970 the base was relatively secure from stand-off and sapper attack because of the number of South Korean (ROK) and US Army units patrolling the area, and because of the 1041th Security Police Squadron(T) and later the 37th & 12th SPS Cobra Flight aggressive recon patrols outside the immediate base perimeter. As those forces were either withdrawn or downsized, security patrols were decreased.

On 8 October, the 389th TFS flew its last scheduled combat sortie in Southeast Asia. On 15 October, the 389th TFS was deactivated in place and a name only transfer without equipment and personnel was made of the squadron to Mountain Home AFB, Idaho.

On 20 October, the 48Oth TFS flew its last combat mission, which was also the last combat sortie for 12th TFW. The final mission was against portions of the Ho Chi Minh trail network in the tri-border area of South Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia and consisted of four F-4Ds with 12 MK-82 LD bombs each.

Thus the combat missions flown from Phu Cat AB ended as they began ...interdiction and/or close air support.

On 26 October 1971, the deployment of 389th TFS aircraft to Holloman AFB, New Mexico started when the first cell of six F-4Ds departed Phu Cat AB at 0645 local time, with the second cell of six leaving 30 minutes later. Crews for the deployment were selected from F-4 units throughout Southeast Asia. There were 13 12th TFW crew members included in the deployments.

480th TFS F-4Ds were originally scheduled to also be redeployed to Holloman AFB; however, it was decided to distribute them within Southeast Asia. The last two F-4Ds of 12TFW departed Phu Cat AB on 2 November for Clark AB, Philippines. Other wing F-4Ds were sent to Ubon AB (four) and Udon AB (six), Thailand; Da Nang AB (one); Clark AB (five); and the remaining to the Inspection and Repair as Necessary facilities (IRAN) at Ching Chuan Kang Air Base Taiwan (five).

With the departure of the aircraft, the 12th TFW was deactivated in place on 30 November 1971.

6259th Air Base Squadron

The 12th Tactical Fighter Wing was deactivated on 17 November. The 6259th Air Base Squadron and a USAF Dispensary were activated at Phu Cat AB on 18 November to provide services to the Air Force personnel remaining at the base.

The 537TAS (C-7A aircraft) was inactivated at Phu Cat AB and the aircraft turned over to the South Vietnamese Air Force (SVNAF) 429th Transportation Squadron (TS) being formed at Phu Cat AB.

Phu Cat AB, RVN, was officially turned over to the Vietnamese Air Force on 1 January 1972. However, US Air Force personnel remained on the base as instructors to South Vietnamese Air Force C-7A (airlift) and A-37B (tactical fighter) units.

USAF personnel remained at Phu Cat until February 1973 when the 6259th ABS was inactivated after the signing of the Paris Peace Accords.

USAF Aircraft at Phu Cat Air Base

Phu Cat Unit Emblem Gallery

Capture of Phu Cat Air Base

In early 1975 North Vietnam realized the time was right to achieve its goal of re-uniting Vietnam under communist rule, launched a series of small ground attacks to test U.S. reaction.

On 8 January the North Vietnamese Politburo ordered a major People's Army of Vietnam (PAVN) offensive to "liberate" South Vietnam by NVA cross-border invasion. The NVA general staff plan for the invasion of South Vietnam called for 20 divisions, because, by 1975, the Soviet-supplied North Vietnamese Army was the fifth largest in the world. It anticipated a two year struggle for victory.

By 14 March, South Vietnamese President Nguyen Van Thieu decided to abandon the Central Highlands region and two northern provinces of South Vietnam and ordered a general withdrawal of ARVN forces from those areas. Instead of an orderly withdrawal, it turned into a general retreat, with masses of military and civilians fleeing, clogging roads and creating chaos.

By 6 March 1975 Route 19 between Pleiku and Qui Nhon was cut in several places by NVA forces. That forced retreating ARVN and refugees columns onto undeveloped roads leading out of the highlands. VNAF 6th Air Division planes from Phu Cat Air Base dropped supplies to the columns and provided fire support to slow the NVA advance.

During evacuation of Pleiku throughout the night of 14 March, VNAF C-130s shuttled in and out of Pleiku moving equipment and people to Phu Cat Air Base. When VNAF 6th AD commander arrived at Phu Cat Air Base from Pleiku he was designated the senior military commander for the area. Thus the base became a focal point for South Vietnamese ground and air combat operations.

The A-37Bs at Phu Cat AB and Phan Rang AB flew an all-out effort. The two A-37B units put up the best fight of the war. Pilots in some cases loaded their own aircraft.

VNAF troops fought as soldiers in defending the airfield at Phu Cat after ARVN soldiers pulled out. Targets struck by the A-37Bs were so close to the airfield that pilots hardly had time to get the gear up before dropping bombs.

As the area became untenable, aircraft were evacuated to Bien Hoa and Phan Rang. Phu Cat Air Base and Qui Nhon fell to NVA forces on 31 March 1975.

ee also

* Republic of Vietnam Air Force
* United States Air Force In South Vietnam
* United States Pacific Air Forces
* Seventh Air Force


* Endicott, Judy G. (1999) Active Air Force wings as of 1 October 1995; USAF active flying, space, and missile squadrons as of 1 October 1995. Maxwell AFB, Alabama: Office of Air Force History. CD-ROM.
* Martin, Patrick (1994). Tail Code: The Complete History of USAF Tactical Aircraft Tail Code Markings. Schiffer Military Aviation History. ISBN 0887405134.
* 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 0764321587
* Ravenstein, Charles A. (1984). Air Force Combat Wings Lineage and Honors Histories 1947-1977. Maxwell AFB, Alabama: Office of Air Force History. ISBN 0912799129.
* [ USAF Historical Research Division/Organizational History Branch - 35th Fighter Wing, 366th Wing]
* [ VNAF - The South Vietnamese Air Force 1951-1975]
* [ USAAS-USAAC-USAAF-USAF Aircraft Serial Numbers--1908 to present]

External links

* [ The 355th TFS at Phu Cat Air Base in 1968]
* [ C-7A Caribou Association - John Stymerski's Phu Cat Photos']
* [ Pictures of Vietnam - Phu Cat]
* [ 1967-68 Pictures of Vietnam - Phu Cat]
* [ Phu Cat Air Base, 1966-1968 (Video)]
* [ 1968 Phu Cat Vietnam Air Force Photos (Video)]

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