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Blinding the Enemy: EB-66 Electronic Warfare over North Vietnam

The first electronic warfare B-66 version sent to Southeast Asia was the RB-66C (later called the EB-66C). (U.S. Air Force photo)

The first electronic warfare B-66 version sent to Southeast Asia was the RB-66C (later called the EB-66C). (U.S. Air Force photo)

EB-66s at their base in Thailand. These aircraft and their crews were always small in number and in high demand. (U.S. Air Force photo)

EB-66s at their base in Thailand. These aircraft and their crews were always small in number and in high demand. (U.S. Air Force photo)

EB-66 being refueled in mid-air. The short probe on the EB-66’s nose fit into the KC-135’s hose basket. (U.S. Air Force photo)

EB-66 being refueled in mid-air. The short probe on the EB-66’s nose fit into the KC-135’s hose basket. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Some EB-66s flew “buddy bombing” or “pathfinder” missions during bad weather. They aimed with their radar bombsight and signaled to the F-105s when to bomb (F-105s could not aim through clouds). (U.S. Air Force photo)

Some EB-66s flew “buddy bombing” or “pathfinder” missions during bad weather. They aimed with their radar bombsight and signaled to the F-105s when to bomb (F-105s could not aim through clouds). (U.S. Air Force photo)

RB-66C crew at Takhli in early 1966 (the RB-66C was later designated the EB-66C). The typical RB-66C crew consisted of the pilot/aircraft commander, navigator, flight engineer, and four electronic warfare officers (EWOs). (U.S. Air Force photo)

RB-66C crew at Takhli in early 1966 (the RB-66C was later designated the EB-66C). The typical RB-66C crew consisted of the pilot/aircraft commander, navigator, flight engineer, and four electronic warfare officers (EWOs). (U.S. Air Force photo)

Unarmed EB-66s were vulnerable to enemy MiGs, who specifically targeted them. Pictured here are B-66 pilot Maj. Kibby Taylor (right) and navigator Capt. Jack McGinn. Their aircraft was attacked by two MiGs on a mission in November 1966. They narrowly escaped, and their fighter escort shot down both of the MiGs. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Unarmed EB-66s were vulnerable to enemy MiGs, who specifically targeted them. Pictured here are B-66 pilot Maj. Kibby Taylor (right) and navigator Capt. Jack McGinn. Their aircraft was attacked by two MiGs on a mission in November 1966. They narrowly escaped, and their fighter escort shot down both of the MiGs. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Personnel of the 42nd Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron at Takhli in 1970. Aircrew are on the ground and maintenance personnel are on the aircraft. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Personnel of the 42nd Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron at Takhli in 1970. Aircrew are on the ground and maintenance personnel are on the aircraft. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Wet from the traditional last-mission hose down, Maj. Dick Williams (left) and Maj. Thomas Stack celebrate completing their tour. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Wet from the traditional last-mission hose down, Maj. Dick Williams (left) and Maj. Thomas Stack celebrate completing their tour. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Unarmed Douglas EB-66 electronic warfare aircraft detected and jammed enemy air defense radars. Though small in number, EB-66s and their crews remained in high demand as part of the total strike package in bombing missions against North Vietnam.

The North Vietnamese used radar signals to detect incoming aircraft, guide their MiG fighters, and aim surface-to-air missiles (SAMs) and antiaircraft guns. U.S. Air Force EB-66s conducted "electronic warfare" against these radars to render them useless.

The first USAF electronic warfare B-66s went to Southeast Asia in the spring of 1965. EB-66 crews detected and gathered information about enemy radar locations and frequencies. They also used jamming equipment to interrupt enemy radar signals.

USAF bombing missions deep into North Vietnam always required EB-66 support, even though there were relatively few EB-66s. Moreover, the B-66 was out of production, so repair and shortages of spare parts made it difficult to keep aircraft flying.

Losses further reduced the number of available aircraft. EB-66s were so successful that the enemy specifically targeted them. MiG fighters shot down one EB-66 and SAMs shot down five. Eleven more EB-66s were lost to accidents.

Despite these problems, EB-66 crews continued flying and providing essential support to strike aircraft to the end of the war in 1973.

Click here to learn more about B-66 Jammers during the Southeast Asia War.

Rescue of Bat 21

Click here to return to the North Vietnam: Rolling Thunder Overview.

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