No. 9 Squadron RAAF

No. 9 Squadron was a unit of the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF). The squadron was formed in early 1939 and saw active service in World War II as a fleet co-operation unit providing aircrews for seaplanes operating off Royal Australian Navy cruisers. It was disbanded in late 1944, but was re-raised in 1962 and later became an Army co-operation unit, flying helicopters in support of Australian troops during the Vietnam War. The squadron was disbanded in 1989 when the RAAF transferred its battlefield helicopters to the Australian Army's aviation regiments.

No. 9 Squadron RAAF
9 Sqn (AWM 044443)
A No. 9 Squadron Walrus aircraft embarked on an Australian light cruiser in 1939
Active1939–1944
1962–1989
CountryAustralia
BranchRoyal Australian Air Force
EngagementsWorld War II
Vietnam War
Commanders
Notable
commanders
Angus Houston (1987–1989)
Aircraft flown
HelicopterUH-1 Iroquois
S-70A Blackhawk
ReconnaissanceSeagull
Walrus

History

Fleet co-operation

No. 9 Squadron was formed on 1 January 1939 at RAAF Base Richmond by renumbering No. 5 Squadron.[1] On formation, the squadron's first commanding officer was a Royal Air Force officer, Squadron Leader J.A.S. Brown.[2] As Australia's only fleet co-operation squadron No. 9 Squadron operated amphibious aircraft from the Royal Australian Navy's heavy and light cruisers; each cruiser was assigned a single Seagull or Walrus amphibian.[3]

During the Second World War aircraft from No. 9 Squadron saw action with their parent ships in most of the world's oceans, ranging from the Arctic to the South Pacific on vessels such as HMA Ships Hobart, Sydney, Australia, Perth and Canberra.[3][4] The amphibians were used to provide their parent ships with reconnaissance, anti-submarine protection, artillery spotting and general support. While the amphibians provided important support during the early years of the war, as the war progressed the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) enjoyed considerable support from land and carrier based aircraft and the amphibians were no longer necessary. In early January 1943, the squadron was transferred to Bowen, Queensland, from where its aircraft flew patrol operations. During 1944, all remaining RAN cruisers had their catapults removed and No. 9 Squadron was disbanded at RAAF Base Rathmines on 31 December 1944.[5] Casualties during the war amounted to 22 killed,[4] many of whom were lost when the ships they were serving on were sunk.[6]

Army co-operation

RAAF UH-1D of 9 Sqn in Vietnam 1970
A No. 9 Squadron UH-1D in Vietnam, 1970.

No. 9 Squadron was re-formed at RAAF Base Williamtown on 11 June 1962 equipped initially with Walruses before being re-equipped with UH-1 Iroquois helicopters and moving to RAAF Base Fairbairn. While originally formed to provide the RAAF with a search and rescue capability, the squadron's main role rapidly became providing airlift to the Australian Army.[7]

The squadron deployed to South Vietnam in mid-1966 as part of the 1st Australian Task Force (1 ATF) and began flying operations on 30 June 1966.[8] The squadron provided the Task Force with part of its helicopter support, although most of it was provided by the US Army. Problems soon arose between No. 9 Squadron and Army commanders as the Air Board insisted "regulations, framed for peacetime, should apply".[9] This limited the scope of No. 9 Squadron's operations, and according to Owen Eather, prevented the Iroquois helicopters from operating in "'insecure locations' or undertaking roles that were 'offensive'".[9] Eather contends that this "exhibited a lack of awareness by the RAAF of the requirements of the ground force in South Vietnam", and it hampered Army operations to the extent that No. 9 Squadron was temporarily grounded.[9] Alan Stephens, in the official history of the post-war RAAF, asserts however that the latter report is a myth and that squadron records indicate it operated constantly during the period of its supposed grounding between June and September 1966.[10]

During the Battle of Long Tan on 18 August 1966 two No. 9 Squadron Iroquois flown by Flight Lieutenants Cliff Dohle and Frank Riley completed a hazardous mission to resupply D Company, 6 RAR which was heavily outnumbered and running dangerously low on ammunition. The mission proved vital in ensuring the survival of the Australian infantry until a relief force could fight its way through from Nui Dat and was completed despite heavy rain and the risk of ground fire. Following the withdrawal of the Viet Cong a number of helicopters were used to evacuate the Australian casualties from the battlefield.[11] RAAF-Army relations improved considerably following Long Tan. No. 9 Squadron subsequently developed new operational concepts and procedures, achieving consistently high rates of aircraft availability, mission success and a low loss rate. A close professional relationship was also developed with the Special Air Service which saw the squadron provide rapid and precise insertion and extraction of patrols into jungle landing zones at tree top height.[12]

Australian soldiers unloading rations from a 9 Squadron helicopter in 1967
Soldiers from the 7th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment unloading supplies from a No. 9 Squadron helicopter in 1967

While deployed to Vietnam, in 1967 the squadron was re-equipped with updated versions of the Iroquois, and was also reinforced with personnel from the RAN and the Royal New Zealand Air Force.[6] Operations in South Vietnam proved hazardous, with aircrews regularly exposed to ground fire, poor flying conditions, nighttime medevacs and dangerously small jungle landing zones that were sometimes booby trapped with land mines. The unit lost seven Iroquois and two crewmen in action during its deployment.[13] As part of the general Australian withdrawal, No. 9 Squadron departed South Vietnam on 8 December 1971. Upon its return to Australia, No. 9 Squadron was based at RAAF Base Amberley, where it continued to provide airlift to the Australian Army and search and rescue for the civilian community.[14] Between 1982 and 1986, the squadron contributed eight aircraft and aircrew to the Australian helicopter detachment which formed part of the Multinational Force and Observers in the Sinai Peninsula of Egypt.[15]

In 1986, the Australian Government decided to transfer all of the RAAF's battlefield helicopter capability to the Australian Army after a decision that all battlefield helicopters should be controlled directly by the Army – a decision partly based on the Vietnam experience and problems that arose during the first few months of the deployment by having No. 9 Squadron based in Vung Tau under separate command, rather than co-located with 1 ATF at Nui Dat, approximately 50 kilometres (31 mi) north.[16] This had caused a number of problems with support for the task force with the Army initially regarding No. 9 Squadron as being unreliable and unwilling to expose themselves to enemy fire, unlike US Army units.[17]

During February 1988, No. 9 Squadron was re-equipped with S-70A Blackhawk helicopters. Upon converting to the new aircraft the squadron moved to Townsville where it was disbanded on 14 February 1989. The squadron's aircrew and aircraft were then used to form 'A' Squadron of the Australian Army's 5th Aviation Regiment.[15] The squadron's last commanding officer was Wing Commander (later Air Chief Marshal) Angus Houston.[2]

Aircraft operated

No. 9 Squadron operated the following aircraft types:[18]

Notes

  1. ^ Barnes 2000, p. 60.
  2. ^ a b Barnes 2000, p. 64.
  3. ^ a b Barnes 2000, pp. 60–61.
  4. ^ a b "9 Squadron RAAF". Second World War, 1939–1945 units. Australian War Memorial. Retrieved 10 October 2013.
  5. ^ Barnes 2000, p. 61.
  6. ^ a b "No. 9 Squadron". RAAF Museum. Retrieved 12 October 2013.
  7. ^ Barnes 2000, pp. 61–62.
  8. ^ Barnes 2000, p. 62.
  9. ^ a b c Eather 1993, p. 14.
  10. ^ Stephens 1995, p. 295.
  11. ^ Eather 1995, p. 39.
  12. ^ Stephens 2001, pp. 265–268.
  13. ^ Stephens 1995, pp. 297.
  14. ^ Barnes 2000, p. 63.
  15. ^ a b Eather 1995, p. 40.
  16. ^ Stephens 2001, p. 298.
  17. ^ McAulay 1986, pp. 16–17.
  18. ^ Barnes 2000, pp. 60–64.

References

  • Barnes, Norman (2000). The RAAF and the Flying Squadrons. St Leonards, New South Wales: Allen & Unwin. ISBN 1-86508-130-2.
  • Eather, Steve (1995). Flying Squadrons of the Australian Defence Force. Weston Creek, Australian Capital Territory: Aerospace Publications. ISBN 1-875671-15-3.
  • Eather, Owen (January – February 1993). "The Tactical Air Support Group" (PDF). Australian Defence Force Journal (98): 7–22. ISSN 1444-7150.
  • McAulay, Lex (1986). The Battle of Long Tan: The Legend of Anzac Upheld. London: Arrow Books. ISBN 0099525305.
  • Stephens, Alan (1995). Going Solo: The Royal Australian Air Force 1946–1971. Canberra: Australian Government Publishing Service. ISBN 0-644-42803-1.
  • Stephens, Alan (2001). The Royal Australian Air Force. The Australian Centenary History of Defence. Volume II. Melbourne: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-554115-4.

Further reading

External links

9 Squadron

9 Squadron or 9th Squadron may refer to:

Aviation squadrons

No. 9 Squadron RAAF, a unit of the Australian Royal Air Force

No. 9 Squadron (India), a unit of the Union of India Air Force

No. 9 Squadron RNZAF, a unit of the New Zealand Royal Air Force

No. 9 Squadron (Pakistan Air Force), also known as the Griffins, a unit of the Pakistan Air Force.

No. IX Squadron RAF, a unit of the United Kingdom Royal Air Force

9th Fighter Squadron (United States), a unit of the United States Air Force

9th Bomb Squadron (United States), a unit of the United States Air Force

9th Special Operations Squadron (United States), a unit of the United States Air Force

9th Space Operations Squadron (United States), a unit of the United States Air Force

9th Airlift Squadron (United States), a unit of the United States Air Force

9th Operational Weather Squadron (United States), a unit of the United States Air Force

Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron 9, a unit of the United States Navy

9 Squadron (Belgian Air Force), a unit of the Belgian Air ComponentGround combat squadrons

9 Parachute Squadron RE, a unit of the United Kingdom Army's Royal Engineers

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Battle of Long Tan

The Battle of Long Tan (18 August 1966) took place in a rubber plantation near Long Tân, in Phước Tuy Province, South Vietnam, during the Vietnam War. The action was fought between Viet Cong (VC) and People's Army of Vietnam (PAVN) units and elements of the 1st Australian Task Force (1 ATF). 1 ATF began arriving between April and June 1966, constructing a base at Nui Dat.

Australian signals intelligence (SIGINT) had tracked the 275th Regiment moving to a position just north of Long Tan. By 16 August, the PAVN were positioned near Long Tan outside the range of the artillery at Nui Dat. On the night of 16/17 August, mortars, recoilless rifles (RCLs) attacked Nui Dat from a position 2 kilometres (1.2 mi) to the east, which damaged the base and wounding 24 and killing 1, until a counter-battery caused it to cease. The next morning B Company, 6th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (6 RAR), departed Nui Dat to locate the firing points and the direction of the VC withdrawal and weapon pits were found including mortars and RCLs. D Company clashed with PAVN around midday August 18th. Facing a larger force, D Company had called down artillery in the monsoon. Heavy fighting ensued as the PAVN/VC attempted to encircle and destroy the Australians. After several hours two UH-1B Iroquois from No. 9 Squadron RAAF arrived overhead to resupply them. Supported by strong artillery fire, D Company held off a regimental assault before a relief force of cavalry and infantry from Nui Dat had reinforced them at night-time. The Australian forces had withdrawn to evacuate their casualties and formed a defensive position overnight. The next day Australian forces had swept the area though the PAVN/VC had withdrawn. The operation ended on 21 August. Although 1 ATF initially thought it had suffered a defeat, it was later thought to have been a victory in setting back the PAVN/VC from moving against Nui Dat.

The PAVN 275th Regiment and VC D445 Battalion held different interpretations of the battle's outcome. The D445 Battalion regarded the battle as a victory, with the initial mortaring intended to draw out 6 RAR units into an ambush. Following the initial ambush and due to the D445 Battalion holding the ground until the next day, this was regarded as political victory as they had secured the areas around Long Tan village itself. The 275th Regiment regard the battle as an operational failure as they were unable to wipe out the entire company, but consider that they gained a political victory by forcing a retreat until the next morning and earning greater support from the people of Phuoc Tuy. Additionally, whether the battle impaired the 275th Regiment is disputed, as they had launched attacks against the ARVN 18th Division a week later. The impact of the battle on the combat capability of the D445 Battalion is also in dispute, as they were redeployed against the 11th Armored Cavalry Task Force a month following the battle.Several subsequent controversies about the battle arose, including fabrication of official events and embellishment of the roles of some senior officers, disputes over casualties, size of the attacking forces, and official histories of the battle which cite purported documents and anecdotal claims which remain uncorroborated. Australian official records of 245 PAVN/VC casualties led to some dissension from soldiers due to accusations body-counts were being inflated for public-relations purposes. Official records from the D445 Battalion and 275th Regiment indicate only 47 were KIA. One North Vietnamese regimental source states 150 were killed at the battle, and the 6 RAR D Company commander stating he "never saw more than 50 bodies". The true nature of the casualties sustained remains elusive, given that body counts were directly used to assess performance in the records of Military Assistance Command, Vietnam (MACV).

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