Operation Iron Hand

Operation Iron Hand was a joint United States Air Force (USAF) and United States Navy (USN) operation conducted from 1965 to 1973 during the Vietnam War. It was a type of SEAD mission, primarily intended to suppress Soviet-supplied surface-to-air missile (SAM) systems in North Vietnam, although neutralizing radar-directed anti-aircraft artillery (AAA) was important as well. "Iron Hand" refers both to the development of the tactics and equipment, and the numerous individual "Iron Hand missions" that generally accompanied strike packages of the USAF and USN. The "Iron Hand" is a metaphor to the steady hand and nerves of steel it took for pilots to fly directly at the radar-emitting anti-aircraft missile sites while the radar-seeking missiles flew down to destroy the target. The tactics employed on the Iron Hand missions were primarily designed to diminish the threat of SA-2 missiles to a bombing strike force.

History

The People's Army of Vietnam, with the aid of the Soviet Union and China, took defense measures as a response to the American-led Operation Rolling Thunder. On April 5, 1965 an RF-8A aircraft from USS Coral Sea brought back photography of the first positively identified SAM.[1] Soviet installations had a distinctive six-pointed star arrangement that made them easy to identify, and the installations in Vietnam were being built in the same arrangement. Over the next several months more SAM sites were discovered, but permission to mount strikes on these sites was refused. Not until several American planes had been shot down–-the first Navy losses were VA-23 A-4 aircraft from USS Midway in August—was official sanction was given for anti-SAM missions.[1]

Operations

Operation Iron Hand began on August 12, 1965, but the first actual strike against a SAM site was not accomplished until the morning of October 17. Four A-4E aircraft from USS Independence, with an A-6 Intruder pathfinder, found a site near Kép Air Base, northeast of Hanoi, and destroyed it.[1]

For the Navy, the A-4 Skyhawk and A-3 Skywarrior played pivotal roles during Iron Hand anti-SAM missions; the two aircraft were armed with "beam-riding" AGM-45 Shrike anti-radiation missiles, which could be launched against SAM sites.[2] A typical Iron Hand mission involved an F-8 fighter escorting a slower A-4 ahead of the main Alpha strike force of 20 aircraft and would attempt to eliminate enemy SAM sites; first the A-4 would launch the anti-radar Shrike missile at the SAM site and then the F-8 would strafe the site with 20-millimeter cannon fire.[3] Cluster bombs and rocket fire were both very effective tools against dispersed SAM sites.

A more common application of a Navy Iron Hand mission involved an A-4 Skyhawk or A-6 Intruder, armed with Shrikes, which would fly low-level ("above deck"), detectable by SAM search radar while still having ready access to much lower, radar-free altitudes ("hard deck"). The pilot's avionics would detect a SAM radar's acquisition ("lock") onto his aircraft; the pilot would then dive for the hard deck, choose another approach track, suddenly pitch 15 degrees up without re-entering the SAM radar field ("cone") and launch the Shrike into the cone. The Shrike would then acquire the SAM radar's location, fly to it and destroy it, thus disabling SAM missiles associated with the particular radar, allowing American aircraft to conduct their missions unharassed.

An Air Force Iron Hand mission was similar. A group of four fighter/bombers flew in ahead of the strike package to suppress SAMs. One or more would be two-seat F-100F or F-105F Wild Weasels with SAM detection and analysis electronics. Initially, the fighter/bombers had to attack SAM sites with gravity bombs. When F-105F Wild Weasels arrived, they brought the Shrike anti-radiation missile (ARM) for limited stand-off capability. Later, F-105G Wild Weasels could also be armed with the Standard ARM.

Later years

North Vietnamese forces eventually attempted to defeat Iron Hand missions by using SAM radars intermittently or by shutting off the radar entirely if they felt threatened; this worked with the initial iron bomb attacks and with the initial Shrike anti-radiation missile, which could not 'remember' the location of the enemy radar source if the radar was turned off. Later Iron Hand aircraft carried the large, expensive AGM-78 Standard ARM, which was capable of locking in the location of the source even if the radar was turned off.

The Standard Arm (AGM-78) as a deterrent for suppression of North Vietnam's AA defenses was noticeably effective. During the course of six months (in 1970) the A-6B(PAT) aircraft, loaded with the AGM-78 "Standard Arm" anti-radiation missiles, were employed as escorts for various reconnaissance and strike missions. The Iron Hand escorts broadcast their presence and intentions to communications intercept facilities. No ARM missiles were launched on any active AA radars. None of the escorted aircraft were ever taken under fire by any electronically controlled AA systems. None of the escorted aircraft ever sustained any battle damage. Because most of the losses that occurred during the bombing raids into North Vietnam were caused by SAMs, Iron Hand missions continued to be of vital importance throughout the war.

References

  1. ^ a b c Merky, Peter & Polmar, Norman (1986). The Naval Air War in Vietnam. The Nautical & Aviation Publishing Company of America.
  2. ^ Sherwood, John (2004). Afterburner – Naval Aviators and the Vietnam War. New York, New York: New York University Press.
  3. ^ Sherwood, John (1999). Fast Movers – America's Jet Pilots and the Vietnam Experience. New York, New York: The Free Press.
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The Bourne films are a series of action thriller films based on the character Jason Bourne, a CIA assassin suffering from dissociative amnesia who must figure out who he is, created by author Robert Ludlum.

All three of Ludlum's novels were adapted for the screen, featuring Matt Damon as the title character in each. Doug Liman directed The Bourne Identity (2002) and Paul Greengrass directed The Bourne Supremacy (2004), The Bourne Ultimatum (2007) and Jason Bourne (2016). Tony Gilroy co-wrote each film except for Jason Bourne and directed The Bourne Legacy (2012).

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Iron Hand

Iron Hand may refer to:

"Iron Hand" (song), 1991 Dire Straits song

"Iron Hand", a song by Battle Beast from their album Steel

Iron Hand, a crust punk band from Connecticut, USA

Iron Palm, a body of training techniques in various Chinese martial arts

Operation Iron Hand, a US military operation conducted during the Vietnam War

Iron hand (prosthesis), a kind of prosthetic limb popular in Europe in the 15th-19th centuries

Götz von Berlichingen (c. 1480–1562), German Imperial Knight and mercenary, possessed of one of the more famous iron hands.

List of allied military operations of the Vietnam War (G–L)

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S-75 Dvina

The S-75 (Russian: С-75; NATO reporting name SA-2 Guideline) is a Soviet-designed, high-altitude air defence system, built around a surface-to-air missile with command guidance. Following its first deployment in 1957 it became one of the most widely deployed air defence systems in history. It scored the first destruction of an enemy aircraft by a surface-to-air missile, with the shooting down of a Taiwanese Martin RB-57D Canberra over China on 7 October 1959 that was hit by a salvo of three V-750 (1D) missiles at an altitude of 20 km (65,600 ft). This success was credited to Chinese fighter aircraft at the time in order to keep the S-75 program secret.This system first gained international fame when an S-75 battery, using the newer, longer-range and higher-altitude V-750VN (13D) missile was deployed in the 1960 U-2 incident, when it shot down the U-2 of Francis Gary Powers overflying the Soviet Union on May 1, 1960. The system was also deployed in Cuba during the Cuban Missile Crisis, when it shot down another U-2 (piloted by Rudolf Anderson) overflying Cuba on October 27, 1962, almost precipitating a nuclear war. North Vietnamese forces used the S-75 extensively during the Vietnam War to defend Hanoi and Haiphong. It has also been locally produced in the People's Republic of China under the names HQ-1 and HQ-2.

Surface-to-air missile

A surface-to-air missile (SAM), or ground-to-air missile (GTAM ), is a missile designed to be launched from the ground to destroy aircraft or other missiles. It is one type of antiaircraft system; in modern armed forces, missiles have replaced most other forms of dedicated antiaircraft weapons, with anti-aircraft guns pushed into specialized roles.

The first serious attempts at SAM development took place during World War II, although no operational systems were introduced. Further development in the 1940s and 1950s led to the first operational systems being introduced by most major forces during the second half of the 1950s. Smaller systems, suitable for close-range work, evolved through the 1960s and 1970s, to modern systems that are man-portable. Shipborne systems followed the evolution of land-based models, starting with long-range weapons and steadily evolving toward smaller designs to provide a layered defence that have pushed gun-based systems into the shortest-range roles.

The American Nike Ajax was the first operational guided missile SAM system, and the Soviet Union's S-75 Dvina was the most-produced SAM. Widely used modern examples include the Patriot and S-300 wide-area systems, SM-6 naval missiles, and short-range man-portable systems like the Stinger and Strela-3.

Wild Weasel

Wild Weasel is a code name given by the United States Armed Forces, specifically the US Air Force, to an aircraft, of any type, equipped with radar-seeking missiles and tasked with destroying the radar and SAM installations of enemy air defense systems.

"The first Wild Weasel success came soon after the first Wild Weasel mission 20 December 1965 when Captains Al Lamb and Jack Donovan took out a site during a Rolling Thunder strike on the railyard at Yen Bai, some 75 miles northwest of Hanoi."The Wild Weasel concept was developed by the United States Air Force in 1965, after the introduction of Soviet SAM missiles and their downing of U.S. strike aircraft over the skies of North Vietnam. The program was headed by General Kenneth Dempster.

Wild Weasel tactics and techniques began their development in 1965 following the commencement of Operation Rolling Thunder during the Vietnam War, and were later adapted by other nations during following conflicts, as well as being integrated into the Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses (SEAD), a plan used by U.S. air forces to establish immediate air supremacy prior to possible full-scale conflict. Initially known by the operational code "Iron Hand" when first authorized on 12 August 1965, the term "Wild Weasel" derives from Project Wild Weasel, the USAF development program for a dedicated SAM-detection and suppression aircraft. (The technique {or a specific part} was also called an "Iron Hand" mission, though technically the Iron Hand part refers only to a suppression attack that paves the way for the main strike.) Originally named "Project Ferret", denoting a predatory animal that goes into its prey's den to kill it (hence: "to ferret out"), the name was changed to differentiate it from the code-name "Ferret" that had been used during World War II for radar counter-measures bombers.

In brief, the task of a Wild Weasel aircraft is to bait enemy anti-aircraft defenses into targeting it with their radars, whereupon the radar waves are traced back to their source, allowing the Weasel or its teammates to precisely target it for destruction. A simple analogy is playing the game of "flashlight tag" in the dark; a flashlight is usually the only reliable means of identifying someone in order to "tag" (destroy) them, but the light immediately renders the bearer able to be identified and attacked as well. The result is a hectic game of cat-and-mouse in which the radar "flashlights" are rapidly cycled on and off in an attempt to identify and kill the target before the target is able to home in on the emitted radar "light" and destroy the site.

The modern term used in the U.S. Armed Forces for this mission profile is "Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses", or SEAD.

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