The Missile Men of North Vietnam

Sa-2camo
S-75 Dvina, known to NATO as the SA-2 Guideline, surface to air missile showing off it’s stationary ground launcher.

The SA-2 Guideline was the bane of existence for US aircrews in the skies over North Vietnam. Air and Space has a very interesting article on the Vietnamese crews that crewed these weapons 40 years ago:

Nguyen Van Pheit joined the North Vietnamese military in 1960. Five years later, as a young lieutenant, he was sent to the Soviet Union along with about 1,000 of his countrymen for SA-2 training. For nine months, they studied and drilled 14 hours a day, seven days a week, learning enough Russian that many became conversant with their instructors. The Soviets regularly served them bacon. Used to a Vietnamese diet rich in rice and vegetables, Phiet initially found the meat unappetizing, but he eventually got used to it. The culmination of his training was launching SA-2s at two unmanned aircraft. Phiet and his crew nailed both of the targets and toasted their hits with champagne.

After graduating from missile school, Phiet was deployed to Hoa Binh Province, southwest of Hanoi, to work on the city’s outer ring of air defense. Like the other SA-2s deployed to defend the North, the six missiles assigned to Phiet were arrayed in a rough circle on mobile, truck-towed launchers, with each missile positioned about a mile from its control and support vehicles.

A typical SA-2 battery relied on a truck-mounted Spoon Rest acquisition radar unit, which provided target location data to a rudimentary computer, and Fan Song guidance radar, which aided in missile guidance as well as target acquisition. To operate each SA-2, a minimum of five primary crewmen, in addition to maintenance and other support personnel, were required: three radar operators, one controller, and a battery commander.

Interesting reading from men who were on the receiving end of American airpower.

What's it feel like to get shot at and missed by a SAM? Ask those guys.
What’s it feel like to get shot at and missed by a SAM? Ask those guys.

2 thoughts on “The Missile Men of North Vietnam”

  1. Yet another black mark on the disgraceful record of Robert McNamara is the restrictions he placed on attacking those SAM sites.

  2. Interesting read. I’ve wondered what a “three ring SAM” was for years, and finally read the definition. Interesting that the North Vietnamese apparently significantly overestimated the effectiveness of their missiles.

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