How good was the North Vietnamese Air Force?

Sep 2012
286
Argentina
I read that most of the aces during VIetnam war were not American but North Vietnamese, and by far. It's funny, how could a country like Vietnam have a much better Air Force with so limited resources? Was it that the North Vietnamese were extremely good at flying their planes, or the Americans made terrible mistakes? I am sure they didn't not even half the quantity of planes that the USA had by that time, and probably a lot worse infrastructure for mantaining those planes, but they literally kicked USAF asses. I just can't understand it.
 

Earl_of_Rochester

Ad Honoris
Feb 2011
13,609
Perambulating in St James' Park
The NVA also had Russian pilots flying the migs, they certainly had caucasian troops on the ground.
 
Mar 2013
3,909
Texas, USA
Additionally, the kill ratio of the Vietnam War was more than just technology and ability, some variables that need to be considered:

- Air to air kills do not just mean dog fights with fighters vs. fighters battling it out like some sort of medieval duel in Top Gun. A MIG on interceptor duty patrolling a sector near Hanoi shooting down a bomber is also an aerial kill. Lots of bombers operating in N. Vietnamese skies, means lots of targets for N. Vietnamese pilots, more aces. Less Vietnamese aircraft means less targets for US pilots, meaning less aces.

- Lack of guns on US fighter aircraft, coupled with poor performance of missiles, means limited number of kills in air-to-air engagements.

- Tactics used by N. Vietnamese of avoiding combat against superior forces while participating in missions that suited their strengths means they have the initiative, versus US aircraft who are ordered to continuously attack N. Vietnamese targets regardless of defenses.

- Use of successful operations to destroy N. Vietnamese fighters, such as Operation Bolo in '67, nullified most of N. Vietnam's air assets.
 
Last edited:
Sep 2012
286
Argentina
I read it in Wikipedia. [ame=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Vietnam_War_flying_aces]List of Vietnam War flying aces - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia[/ame]

The article lists these sources:


Toperczer, Istvan. MiG-21 Units of the Vietnam War.Osprey Combat Aircraft #29. 2008; ISBN 978-1-84176-263-0.
Michel III, Marshall L. Clashes, Air Combat Over North Vietnam 1965-1972. Naval Institute Press 1997. ISBN 978-1-59114-519-6.

And a russian webpage that lists a similar(but not entirely the same) list:
Vietnam Air War


This one is for the aircraft losses:
[ame=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aircraft_losses_of_the_Vietnam_War]Aircraft losses of the Vietnam War - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia[/ame]

It states that US Armed Forces lost 2731 fixed-wing aircraft in combat(Most of them to ainti-aircraft guns though). Almost twice that number for helicopters.

And North Vietnam only lost 116 planes in combat.
 
Aug 2011
7,045
Texas
I read that most of the aces during VIetnam war were not American but North Vietnamese, and by far. It's funny, how could a country like Vietnam have a much better Air Force with so limited resources? Was it that the North Vietnamese were extremely good at flying their planes, or the Americans made terrible mistakes? I am sure they didn't not even half the quantity of planes that the USA had by that time, and probably a lot worse infrastructure for mantaining those planes, but they literally kicked USAF asses. I just can't understand it.
In the beginning this was true, but not so later. And this comes down to dog fighting tactics (Or air to air combat). 1 on 1, the North Vietnamese were the equals of American pilots in the earlier stages of the war. A fact recognized by the air force and remedied as quickly as possible.
Red Flag exercise - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
 
Sep 2012
286
Argentina
In the beginning this was true, but not so later. And this comes down to dog fighting tactics (Or air to air combat). 1 on 1, the North Vietnamese were the equals of American pilots in the earlier stages of the war. A fact recognized by the air force and remedied as quickly as possible.
Red Flag exercise - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Well another article in Wikipedia states that the US Armed Forces lost 723 F-4 Phantom in combat, and NV only lost 20 MIG 21 in air-to-air. How is that 2.2:1?!?! Makes no sense
 

AlpinLuke

Forum Staff
Oct 2011
27,398
Italy, Lago Maggiore
As for I know the NVAF during the war used overall MIG-17, MIG-19, MIG-21. They claimed to have destroyed more than 260 enemy planes.

At the beginning of the war NVAF had some technical advantages on USAF, so to evaluate the ability of NVAF pilots is not that easy and direct.

While the war was going on USAF covered the gap and the level of the American pilots improved.

A note for all:

The "United States Navy Fighter Weapons School" [the "Top Gun"] had created in 1969 just to solve the problem of the lack of experience and the low efficiency of the US pilots during the first years of Vietnam War.
 
Mar 2013
3,909
Texas, USA
Well another article in Wikipedia states that the US Armed Forces lost 723 F-4 Phantom in combat, and NV only lost 20 MIG 21 in air-to-air. How is that 2.2:1?!?! Makes no sense
Cause Wikipedia isn't consistent and often sucks as a source?
 
Sep 2012
286
Argentina
Cause Wikipedia isn't consistent and often sucks as a source?
I don't think there are sources for the North Vietnamese. Only the confirmed kills of the USAF. Maybe that's why they are so low. But anyways there is no way they were higher than the losses from the USA. North Vietnam probably had less planes that the ones USA lost