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DOUGLAS A-26A IN VIETNAM|
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When the USAF decided to base a squadron of B-26Ks in Thailand in support of the counter insurgency mission, the designation was changed to A-26A. The Thai government did not allow the United States to base bombers at its air bases, so the designation was changed even though the aircraft was not altered in any way and the mission remained the same. The A-26A was used primarily against supply routes in the panhandle area of Laos in Operation Steel Tiger.
The United States began Operation Steel Tiger over the Panhandle and the DMZ on April 3, 1965, to locate and destroy enemy forces and materiel being moved southward at night into South Vietnam. However, since circumstances made it a highly complex matter in regard to the neutrality of Laos, target approval had to come from Washington. Additionally, the U.S. ambassadors in South Vietnam, Laos and Thailand were involved in controlling these U.S. air operations.
Late in 1965, the Communists greatly increased their infiltration along the Ho Chi Minh Trail. It was decided to concentrate airpower upon a small segment of the trail closest to South Vietnam and used most extensively by the enemy. As a result, Tiger Hound was initiated in December 1965, utilizing aircraft from the USAF, Army, Navy, Marines, the VNAF and the Royal Laotian Air Force.
Steel Tiger operations continued down the length of the Panhandle in 1966, with special emphasis upon the Tiger Hound area. Since most of the Communist truck traffic was at night, the USAF developed and began using special equipment to detect the nighttime traffic.
In November 1968 the United States launched an air campaign against the Ho Chi Minh Trail because North Vietnam was sending more troops and supplies than ever along this route to South Vietnam. This new operation, named Commando Hunt, was still in full force as 1968 ended. Commando Hunt operations continued routinely through 1969.
The A-26A was withdrawn from combat in 1969 because the aircraft were becoming difficult to maintain and an increasing number of combat losses. The A-26A's mission was taken over by more advanced and capable aircraft, in particular, the AC-130 gunship.
The National Museum of the United States Air Force has a B-26K (A-26A) on display in its Modern Flight Gallery.
||Counter insurgency aircraft
Armament: Eight .50 cal. nose machine guns, eight wing pylons capable of carrying 8,000 lbs. of mixed ordnance, and 4,000 lbs. of bombs internally
Engines: Two Pratt & Whitney R-2800-52Ws of 2,500 hp (maximum with water injection)
Maximum speed: 323 mph/281 knots
Cruising speed: 310 mph/270 knots
Range: 2,700 statute miles/2,346 nautical miles
Service ceiling: 30,000 ft.
Span: 71 ft. 6 in.
Length: 51 ft. 7 in.
Height: 19 ft.
Weight: 38,314 lbs. maximum
Serial numbers: 64-17640 to 64-17679
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