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FAC in SEA: Fast FACs

Reacting to the increasing threat to their supply lines from air power, the communists gradually improved their antiaircraft defenses down the Ho Chi Minh Trail. In addition to heavy-caliber antiaircraft artillery (AAA), the communists deployed SA-2 Guideline surface-to-air missiles (SAMs) southward. As they became available, communist troops started using man-portable, shoulder-fired SA-7 Grail missiles.

By 1967, the threat from communist antiaircraft defenses made it too dangerous for propeller-driven FACs to support the interdiction campaign in the southern part of North Vietnam. Therefore, the Air Force combat tested the concept of using fast jet fighters for FAC and armed reconnaissance missions with North American F-100F Super Sabres in OPERATION COMMANDO SOLO. Armed with 20 mm cannon and two rocket launchers for marking targets and fast enough to survive in a high-threat area, the F-100Fs proved the concept, and operated under the call sign Misty. In 1968, the 8th Tactical Fighter Wing, based at Ubon Royal Thai AB, started using McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantoms -- call sign Wolf -- successfully in the Fast FAC role, and other F-4 units soon followed with their own call signs. Meanwhile, propeller-driven FAC aircraft continued flying missions through the very end of the Southeast Asia War.

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Related Fact Sheets
SA-2 Surface-to-Air Missile
North American F-100F Super Sabre
McDonnell Douglas F-4C Phantom II
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