F-100 Super Sabre Units of the Vietnam War

F-100 Super Sabre Units of the Vietnam War cover


Osprey's examination of the F-100 Super Sabre Units' participation in the Vietnam War (1955-1975). While the F-105 Thunderchief and F-4 Phantom flew the majority of the fighter-bomber missions over North Vietnam, the Thunderchief's service predecessor, the F-100 Super Sabre stayed on to fight the air war in South Vietnam until June 1971. Although it was designed as an air defence fighter, and was later given nuclear capability as the mainstay of Tactical Air Command's deterrent posture, it was the F-100's toughness, adaptability and reliability that made it ideally suited to the incessant 'taxi-rank' close support and counter-insurgency missions in Vietnam. The jet's four 20 mm cannon and external loads of bombs, rockets and fire-bombs defeated many enemy incursions, with US troops in contact expressing a preference for the accuracy and skill of F-100 pilots to save them in situations where ordnance had to be dropped very close to their own lines. Many courageous deeds were performed, although 242 F-100s and 87aircrew were lost in action. Used at the start of Operation Rolling Thunder in March 1965 as an escort for F-105 strikes, the Super Sabre fought MiGs and one pilot made a credible claim for a MiG-17 destroyed, but the more capable F-4 Phantom II soon replaced it in this role. The air-to-ground war was fought by F-100C/D/F pilots from 21 TAC and Air National Guard squadrons at six bases in South Vietnam and Thailand. From September 1965, a number of two-seat F-100Fs were equipped to detect and pinpoint SA-2 missile sites, and they led F-105s in to destroy them in hazardous missions that founded the suppression of enemy air defences (SEAD) techniques developed for F-105F and F-4C 'Wild Weasel' aircraft later in the war. Other F-100Fs replaced fragile piston-engined forward air control (FAC) aircraft, providing more survivable high-speed airborne management of strike missions. Maj George Day, awarded the Medal of Honor in 1973, was the first leader of this 'Misty FAC' unit. The aircraft's strengths and eccentricities will be examined through analysis of its performance and the anecdotes of those who flew and serviced it.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1
A very brief account of the design philosophy and development of the aircraft from the F-100A day fighter driven by Korean War needs, through the F-100C which provided Tactical Air Command's contribution to the nuclear deterrent, to the improved F-100D, the workhorse for Tactical Air Command world-wide and its war-horse in South Vietnam. Early deployments to Don Muang Airport, Thailand, in April 1961 in response to Pathet Lao incursion are followed by squadron-size deployments to Takhli RTAFB in 1962 and the first combat missions from Da Nang, South Vietnam, in June 1964.

Chapter 2
In response to the Gulf of Tonkin incident, more F-100Ds fly escort missions from Da Nang for reconnaissance flights over Laos and South Vietnam. Combat air patrols over the Gulf of Tonkin bring many near-engagements with MiGs, while the first loss on an attack mission in Laos occurs in August 1964. Super Sabres begin Operation Barrel Roll missions, including hazardous attacks on anti-aircraft sites, and fly fighter cover and flak suppression for F-105 strikes in Operation Flaming Dart. In November 1965 Operation Rolling Thunder involves three squadrons of F-100s as MiGCAP and flak suppression elements. F-100D pilot Lt Hayden Lockhart becomes the first USAF prisoner of war in Hanoi. Attacks on the Than Hoa and Ham Rong Bridges involve five flights of F-100s and a probable MiG kill for Capt Kilgus. F-4C Phantom IIs arrive and replace F-100s in the MiGCAP role.

Chapter 3
Four airbases are built or expanded in South Vietnam to house three tactical fighter wings equipped with F-100s for the 'in-country' war, leaving only five F-100 squadrons in the USA. Intensive close-support missions are flown, including challenging night missions over the Ho Chi Minh trails. Pilots pride themselves on their accuracy and the frequency of their missions. The chapter will discuss the F-100's flying and fighting characteristics and the conditions and support networks at the relevant airbases.

Chapter 4
The conversion of F-100F airframes provided the USAF with its first Wild Weasels, pioneering SEAD techniques that are still in use and developing the equipment to defeat enemy radars and radar-guided missiles and guns. Training is carried out in great secrecy and four modified F-100Fs begin to operate from Korat RTAFB with F-105 bombers, destroying heavily defended SAM sites close to Hanoi. Missions continue until July 1966.

Chapter 5
'Misty' FAC
The Commando Sabre detachment at Phu Cat AB provides high-speed FAC for air strikes from 1967 to May 1970, flying some of the most dangerous missions of the war and suffering heavy losses. They also fly combat air patrols for rescue missions searching for aircrew shot down in hostile territory. Once again the F-100 and its crews develop and introduce new battle techniques that are still part of today's aerial warfare tactics.

F-100 deployments to Southeast Asia: units, dates and bases, with commanding officers listed.

F-100 specifications, performance and armament details

F-100 combat losses.

Product details

Published Aug 23 2011
Format Paperback
Edition 1st
Extent 96
ISBN 9781849084468
Imprint Osprey Publishing
Illustrations 41 b/w; 49 col
Dimensions 10 x 7 inches
Series Combat Aircraft
Short code COM 89
Publisher Bloomsbury Publishing

About the contributors


Peter E. Davies

Peter E. Davies has specialized in the aircraft of…


Rolando Ugolini


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