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Anti-aircraft operational art inherited and developed from the triumph against B-52 stratofortress for the war of homeland protection

The High Command of the Air Defense Campaign (hereinafter Campaign) in December, 1972, actively seized opportunities and employed a variety of military tactics against B-52 bombers, contributing to repelling the US aerial attacks. Valuable lessons in anti-aircraft operational art drawn from the Campaign have been inherited and developed by Division 363 in the new situation.

The B-52 stratofortress, the product of the then most advanced military science and technology was one of the triad of the US strategic deterents. Being equipped with 15 jamming devices and capable of carrying 30 tonnes of bombs, the B-52 was likened to a center for electronic warfare and an “arsenal plane”. On combat missions, B-52s flew in waves (3 bombers each) and dropped over 100 tonnes of bombs, destroying a vast tract of land in a short time. Consequently, the use of B-52s for the US aerial bombings of North Vietnam, including Hanoi and Hai Phong, was a “maximum effort” in the Vietnam War. In response, North Vietnam mounted the Campaign in December, 1972. The High Command of the Campaign actively grasped the situation to seize opportunities, to devise ingenious operational plans and to employ creative military tactics, thereby repelling the US aerial attacks and gradually “fighting to kick the American troops out, fighting to topple the puppet regime in the South”. During the Campaign, soldiers and people of North Vietnam shot down 81 US warplanes, including 34 B-52s which accounted for 17.6% of  B-52s scrambled for the aerial attacks. The triumph of the Campaign offered ensuing valuable lessons with the  one in anti-aircraft operational art at the forefront.

When it comes to the possible war of homeland protection, both Vietnam and the enemy will undergo changes. The enemy’s aerial attacks will be on a large-scale, high-intensity, relentless, protracted basis aided by hi-tech materiel. In the meantime, changes in characteristics and scale also occur in  systems of targets defended by our air defense divisions that have and will be equipped with new, modern military hardware. This necessitates inheriting and developing anti-aircraft operational art so as to meet the requirements of modern warfare.

The first lesson is to identify directions, targets and key battlefields so as to win major battles, a prime example of which can be seen in the Campaign. One of the successes of the Campaign was to have correctly identified West-Northwest as the primary direction of the US aerial attack on Hanoi, B-52s as main targets and Hanoi as the key battlefield. Nowadays, identifying the primary direction of the enemy’s attacks depends on numerous factors, including natural conditions, disposition of air defense force. This serves as the centrepiece of the building of air defense posture and force concentration towards annihilating the enemy and firmly protecting strategic targets. The secondary directions of the enemy’s attacks should also be identified in case they turn them into the primary directions; the enemy’s air force probably relies on the secondary directions for the dispersal of our forces and air defense firepower. On the 26th of December, 1972, the US  attacks by B-52s were on Hanoi, Hai Phong and Thai Nguyen in a diversionary effort to spread out North Vietnam’s missiles away from Hanoi. Contrary to their expections, North Vietnam vigilantly reinforced missiles and anti-aircraft guns to Hanoi to fight a key battle whereby the triumph of the Campaign ensued.

Identifying the hostile prime targets, which is important to air defense campaigns, decides which military tactics to be employed. Destroying the enemy’s prime targets means repelling their attacks and protecting our strategic targets. The hostile prime targets should include strategic bombers, stealth aircraft, jamming aircraft, airborne early warning aircraft, cruise missiles. As our air defense force is currently equipped with various materiel, they should also identify the hostile prime targets consonant with corresponding materiel. The greatest success of the Campaign was to have identified B-52s as the prime targets and missiles as the primary force against B-52s.

The second lesson is to build the air defense posture in line with requirements of modern people’s war for homeland protection. The triumph against B-52s suggests that the upper hand that the air defense force gained was derived from our system of prepared fortifications. As a result, the task of preparing the posture of air defense in peacetime is both short-term and long-term so that the air defense force can successfuly defend the designated airspace and readily cooperate with other friendly forces in reprelling the enemy’s aerial attacks by hi-tech materiel. The building of the air defense posture should be closely associated with that of all-people national defense and security. The air defense posture should be on a secret, focalised, widespread basis. It should enable the air defense force to successfully defend strategic targets and together with other friendly forces to destroy a great amount of the enemy’s materiel towards repelling the latter’s attacks. As the air defense force tends to be deployed in defense areas of strategic importance, they should develop a masterplan for infrastructure, including systems of transport and communications, positions of radar, missiles and anti-aircraft artillery and so on. This necessitates all-level agencies, from the General Staff to the Air Defense-Air Force Service formulating the masterplan right in peacetime. Vis-à-vis the building of the air defense posture at the strategic level, due attention should be paid to both “static posture” (defending target areas) and “dynamic posture” (defending operational maneuvres by combined forces on battlefields) with much importance attached to the former. Moreover, the State should assign priority to the air defense force in general and anti-aircraft missile units in particular in terms of land fund as positions of missiles require vast tracts of land.

The third lesson is to fight the enemy both in the inner circle and outer circle of the target area. In response to the US aerial attacks in late 1972, North Vietnam’s air defense units organized two joint clusters of missiles and anti-aircraft guns so as to “lock” the inner circle of Hanoi and Hai Phong as the target areas. 2 battalions deployed from Hai Phong to fight the enemy in the outer circle of the target area successfully fulfilled their assigned tasks while shooting down one B-52 which was on the verge of dropping bombs. In modern warfare, fighting the enemy both in the inner circle and outer circle of the target area is a must against the backdrop of their attacks aided by hi-tech weapons.

The fourth lesson is to focus on forging the spirit of “Determination to fight,  determination to win” among cadres and soldiers- a determinant for the victory of any air defense campaign. Pertaining to the war of homeland protection, the air defense force is faced with uphill tasks. Therefore, the central task is to maintain and enhance the Party’s leadership over the military in general, the air defense force in particular. Air defense units should accelerate the popularization of the Party’s military guidelines and policies with emphasis placed on the Resolution of the 12th Party National Congress, the Resolution of the 11th Party Central Committee’s  8th Plenum on the Strategy for Homeland protection in the new situation. At the same time, greater attention should be paid to education about Vietnamese traditions of resistance to foreign aggressions and considerable experience of shooting down B-52s by the air defense force during the Campaign. Political education should redress erroneous mentalities such as overestimating the enemy’s hi-tech weapons while underestimating our materiel or underrating the enemy on the pretext of our previous triumph against B-52s despite less advanced weaponry. Air defense units should focus on building a contingent of cadres and soldiers imbued with patriotism, ready to sacrifice their life for national independence and freedom. Importance should also be attached to the building of Party organizations, especially those at the grassroots level so that they deserve to serve as the nucleus of leadership  over cadres and soldiers. Moreover, a contingent of political cadres who are both “red (political reliability) and professional (knowledge)” should be built to play the core role in the Party work and political work, thereby creating overwhelming synergy against the enemy.

For the purpose of the triumph against the enemy’s aerial  attacks aided by hi-tech materiel, inheriting and developing the anti-aircraft operational art is a must for air defense units.

Sr.Col. Pham Van Tinh, Commander of Division 363

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