When the air war ramped up in early 1965, the US experienced a lot more threat from the North Vietnamese Air Force then expected.
There was a big need for some Air Defence capacity and so the TAC was ordered to deliver a number of their F-104C Starfighters to fill up this need.
The 479th TFW dispatched 28 F-104Cs to Da Nang Air Base (South Vietnam) in April 1965 being used to perform combat air patrols (CAPs) over the Gulf of Tonkin (see map beneath) to protect EC-121 Warning Star aircraft, nicknamed "College Eye" and/or "Disco". Beneath a photo taken at Da Nang in July 1965 showing an F-104 just returning from a mission.
These EC-121 aircraft were radar warning system versions of the wellknown Lockheed Constellation four-piston airliner. During the CAP missions always a SAC (Strategic Air Command) Boeing KC-135 tanker stood by to refuel the F-104s in the air during their patrols. A patrol consisted of 2 pairs of 2 Starfighters each time.
Always 2 on patrol and two in refuelling and standby mode. These Starfighters were operated by the three different squadrons over a period of 3 to 4 months each.
The effect of F-104 deployment upon North Vietnam and Chinese MiG operations was immediate and dramatic. North Vietnamese MiGs soon learned to avoid contact with USAF strikes being covered by F-104s. During the entire deployment of the 476th only two fleeting encounters between F-104Cs and enemy fighters occurred.
Lateron when no real air-to-air interceptions took place (probably because the Vietnamese did not want to engage the F-104) they changed their focus to more air to ground missions. In total the Wing flew 506 combat missions and resulting in 1707 flying hours, from Da Nang in 1965. During that period 5 aircraft were lost and one aircraft was involved in a landing accident but could be repaired.
|Da Nang location from the air during the mid sixties period||Vietnam map|
Working at Da Nang AB
Da Nang was quite a busy airbase with lots of US aircraft stationed or just making fuelstops and it was also vulnerable for hostile threaths.
For example on the night of 1 July 1965, when Da Nang Air Base was attacked by a local VC sapper squad accompanied by personnel from the Third Battalion, 18th Regiment, 325th People's Army of Vietnam Division (PAVN). Several aircraft including some F-102 Delta Daggers were destroyed....The 104s were all safe.
Life at Da Nang was not a luxury life... the ground crew had to live in a simple but convenient camp (as seen beneath). Pilots had a bit better location to sleep, prepare and stay standby.
Most of the work was performed on the hot flightline where the aircraft were protected by barriers made of stones.
Only minor maintenance could be given to the aircraft by the ground personnell.
There was just not enough space for IP maintenance cycles, which was done at CCK AB, Taiwan, maintenance facilities.
However servicing the radar and fire controlsystem was regularly done on the flightline.
|F-104C 57-930 receiving radar maintenance on the flightline. (Photo copyright, thanks to Mike Evans, Techn Sgt USAF)|
|F-104C 57-930 receiving radar maintenance on the flightline with Mike Evans who worked at Da Nang in 1965. (Photo copyright, thanks to Mike Evans, Techn Sgt USAF)|
|At Da Nang also a electronic shop could be found were instruments, radars, radar systems, fire control systems and some avionics could be fixed or serviced. Here the shop is seen with in the background a Lockheed C-130 Hercules aircraft. (Photo copyright, thanks to Mike Evans, Techn Sgt USAF)|
Sofar the story on the Da Nang environment. Other pages reveal more about the pilots and the aircraft used during the period they served at this airbase.