4.5
(2)

From history of the Soviet Naval Aviation in Vietnam

Cam Ranh gulf, separated from South China Sea by the same name peninsula, have the extremely important geographical position discovered by military staffs. In a XIX century the bay was used by the French troops, in the Second World War the Japanese Naval Forces were based there. During the war in Vietnam Americans used that place also. They extremely extended base and built big airfield. From 1965 USAF 12th TFW began to be based there.

In 1972 Americans left Сam Ranh and moved base to Saigon. After joining North and South in 1975 the base passed under the control of the Vietnamese Navy.

Soon Soviet military command shown the interest to this strategic place. The extremely favorable site of this place allowed supervising sea communications between Pacific to Indian oceans. And in case of need – to counteract navigation in this area, specially including movement of the U S 7th Fleet and to isolate the American bases located in Philippines – naval in Subic Bay and aviation in Clark Airfield. Besides, if to place Electronic Reconnaissance and Electronic Countermeasures Unites means on peninsula, it would be possible to keep control of military activity of the probable opponents in nearby zones.

In the end of 1978, the Soviet military delegation went to Hanoi for acquaintance with an infrastructure of base and exploratory talk about possibility to use the base by the Soviet Navy. In the next year, sharing of Сam Ranh base by fleet of the USSR and SRV has been officially fixed by the Governmental Agreement. In 1982, the contract has been concretized. By the additional agreement, it has been stipulated that on base there will be an naval operative squadron and the aviation unit – 169th OGSAP (169 Otdelny Gvargeisky Smeshanny Aviatcionny Polk –Separate Miscellaneous Aviation Regiment of Guards).

Tupolev Tu-142 from 2nd squadron of 169th OGSAP, 1985.

By then development of new base by the Soviet military men went already at full speed. The point of supplying of Soviet Pacific fleet has been organized. Since 1980, anti-submarine Tu-142 Bear-F and reconnaissance Tu-95RtS of TOF’s (Tikhookeanskiy flot – Pacific Fleet) Naval Aviation started to make inhabitable air base. In November 1983, the 1st squadron arrived. It was the marine missile-carrying squadron, equipped with Tupolev Tu-16K-10-26 (Badger-C ) and also some Tu-16 SPS for electronic warfare and electronic counter-measures and Tu-16 ZSCh tankers.

Grumman F-14A Tomcat accompanies pair of Tu-16SPS from
1
st squadron of 169th OGSAP. 1986 approximately. Source: www.acig.org 

At the end of next year 169th OGSAP has replenished by the third squadron – fighters, in which the author of this story served. To complete the picture at once I will add that in 1986 in a structure of regiment was included group of four Mil Mi-14 Haze-C helicopters for search and rescue actions and some other operations. Also as a part of 169th OGSAP was Antonov An-26 Curl transport plane (in Aeroflot painting).

The main part of pilots and technicians of the fighter squadrons passed service in 821st IAP (Istrebitelny Aviacionny Polk – Fighter Aviation Regiment), which was based on Hvalynka airfield in Primorski Territory. Here the squadron also was formed on the basis of this unit. Its regular structure and number of personal seriously differed from usual squadrons, which were a part of a fighter regiment. It was not necessary to persuade anybody to participate in that mission. First, brought up by Communist party, we simply burnt with the desire to get on a first line «struggle against the international imperialism». And, secondly, almost triple increase in a monetary contentment and certain privileges was supposed on business trip, that also was important.

The preparation of the aircraft to transportation started in the autumn 1984. 821st IAP operated by Mikojan MiG-23ML fighters, and new subdivision which should transfer to the base on Cam Ranh, armed with modern MiG-23MLD, equipped with the improved radar and new R-24 medium-range missiles. Twelve fighters have been thrown from Smolensk by the planes Il-76 and An-22 from Military Transport Command. Pair of two-seat training MiG-23UB Floggers-C was necessary to borrow (as it has appeared – irrevocably) in native regiment.

Preparations were surrounded with a top secret and privacy very usual for us those years. Officers of special department (military counterespionage of KGB) carefully instructed decreasing about inadmissibility of disclosure of terms and departure places. The mail address of a new place of service sounded short: Moscow-400, mail box number so… Running forward, I will tell that as our Government obvious tried to hide, it is literally next day after arrival to Сam Ranh, “The Voice of America” radio informed about our occurrence in Vietnamese airfield and has congratulated us. Here it is exact: truth will out!

Preservation and packing of planes into containers has passed harmoniously enough, and after sending aircrafts to sea port some days have given to us on gathering, and on November 25, 1984 ‘the big beautiful liner’ Ilyushin Il-62 (NATO code “Classic”) arrived to Hvalynka for our group. Some such liners provided rotation of Soviet naval bases’ stuff on immense open spaces of the World Ocean. To hide from the opponent a transfer of a military contingent on overseas territory, all of us have to change clothes for civil and under the pretext of “experts in agricultural machinery” have left to a new place of service.

Flight passes over neutral waters, visibility was excellent, and all interested persons have well considered Japanese islands shining by lights. The Japanese fighters accompanied almost all part of the route, which is passing near to islands of the Rising Sun, a side. But, if F-15 were on respectful distance, one “Phantom” was not ashamed to be attached under a wing on distance of several meters from it. Probably, in due course, such importunate neighborhood has bothered crew of Il-62, and the liner few times slightly ‘has rocked a wing’. It was enough that the descendant of Samurais literally like a stone has left downwards somewhere on a half of mile, and it did not come close to our side. Taiwanese F-5B “Freedom Fighter” replaced Japanese through any time, but they accompanied us not for long.

In the morning of next day, the liner landed in Cam Ranh airfield. Hot and damp air at once has rushed into an open door, in a head the thought was carried by: and how to breathe here? Besides all of us were in winter clothes (departed from Hvalynka at -25˚C), and sweat from us that is called, slid hailstones. The commanders of 17th Navy Squadron and 169th OGSAP met us. On a greeting of the commander of a Navy Squadron, on a rank of vice-admiral, we on the simplicity (all of us before this trip served in Soviet AF , also have got used army, instead of to naval ranks) have answered , аdressing to him “ Comrade general-lieutenant”, friendly admiral’s face was twisted, as from a strong toothache. But, as a whole, the meeting has passed sincerely.

The first impression from seen on base was not pleased. We expected to see, let and dilapidated, but the American base. However, only perfect roads and a high-quality aerodrome covering, and a typical American tower were reminded of presence here once the Yankee. All the rest has been destroyed long before us. It was necessary to live in the board small houses called, according to local specificity, a bungalow. Actually, they were any not bungalows, and usual hostels of a standard project which were under construction everywhere where the foot of the Soviet soldier went.

The airfield simply amazed in the size. To parallel of three-kilometer long runway there was concrete main taxiway of the same length what we will use as the second runway. On the other side there was one more main taxiway a path, but with an asphalt covering. In addition, there were some more areas for parking aircrafts, considerable in the sizes. Parking area, on which planes of 1st and 2nd Squadrons were based, was simply huge. And the parking area intended for our fighters to name small is difficult. The main taxiway used as spare runway during flights. So, for example, in one of flight days there was a heavy landing of Tu-16 because of a sharp impulse of a tail wind. The plane overrun , and stopped with a nose in sand. At this time there was Tu-95RtS in air, and its crew has obtained the order on approach and landing on main taxiway, with what the crew of this large plane has easily accomplished. By the way, Tu-16 has restored and was returned into operation. The technicians by their own has completely replaced a nose part of the plane.

In case of need, it was possible to take-off from main taxiway. The second main taxiway also quite could be used for landing, at least, by our Floggers.

By the end of December  arrived “Amderma” cargo ship with our planes and equipment. Unloading has been organized in a three-replaceable round-the-clock mode. Besides aircrafts and its armament by the same ship have delivered special motor vehicles, necessary for operation of fighters: ground electrical power units on truck base, fuel, oil and gases servicing vehicles, etc. What our surprise when we have seen was that all our completely not small stuff took very modest place in holds of twin deck’s cargo ship, so it was huge.

At the same time with offloading, assemblage of airplanes has begun. It occurred as follows. After activation, the head section of a fuselage rolled out on a support transportation trolley from the container. Then mechanics connected a ground unit of hydraulic pressure, electrical power and lifting cables. Somebody from technicians sat in a cockpit, and then high-power auto crane raised ‘piece’ of the airplane from a trolley. After that, the landing gear extended on which the airplane put on the ground. Further, the section of fighter was towed to the place of assemblage where it was lift on hydraulic jacks, and wings, stabilizers and another parts were attached.

For performance of assembly jobs two brigades of technicians have been organized. The present competition was developed between them. The well-known Soviet appeal “Give!” (i.e. “Come on” in English) became again actual. And, if for assemblage of the first fighters it was required almost two days (on 12 working hours) by the end of a stage of assemblage each brigade ‘rolled out’ two collected fighters in a day.

Assemblage of MiGs and check of their systems took us about two weeks. Thus certainly, has been at all forgotten ‘tropical hour’ (12:00 PM till 3:00 PM) it was not recommended to be on the open air in view of sun hyperactivity, which and during usual time of the low you will not name, burns from hot metal were considered as business usual. In general, it is literally for some days, our skin from the cyanosis has turned to dark brown.

Assemblages were conducted under steadfast attention of local population as which were military men of the Vietnamese army (other local population near to airfield there weren’t). All was interested with the large quantity of the polyethylene film released after de-preservation of planes, wooden boxes, and all the rest that could be useful in household

I’ll dare to distract a little from the basic narration that the reader could imagine is better conditions in which we have appeared, having arrived on Сam Ranh. The matter is that Vietnam in the middle eightieths was the poorest country exhausted with long-term wars. And, even the Vietnamese National Army (VNA) military units, surrounding us, with all presentation showed it. Badly dressed, more often – hungry, they looked at us as on any inhabitants of heaven. Officers, who arrived on Сam Ranh before us told, that the Vietnamese soldiers fed only in the working days, and for the weekend gave out a bottle of local vodka and sent wherever one wishes. These parties converged on perimeter of our inhabited small town, which fence, since evening of Friday as clusters, covered by ‘winners of Yankee’. In hands, they had bottles with vodka. From different directions reached: “Lenso (Soviets)! Sgus-chyon-ka (condensed milk), tu-shyo-nka (stewed meat), mo-lyo-ko (preserved milk, which stood out to pilots), hlep (bread), konserve (any canned food) – KENAM!” (The same, as at seamen ‘change’ – an exchange). Also, shake these bottles, involving passers-by. Still the clothes used popularity, and, of course, a mechanical clock used the raised demand. Commanders rigidly stopped exchange attempts, but to each column of the sentry will not put, and process, anyhow, proceeded the turn. But, as I have understood, they wished to get these goods not for themselves. Later, visiting Nan Chang city, I saw everything that it was possible to them to exchange, in the local ‘markets’.

Special delight at local residents called, especially – at first, engine ground test. The test platform was improvised, without jet deflector and when the fighter prepared to test, a tail part exhibited in the open gate made in protection, i.e. already on the Vietnamese territory. At the nozzle accumulated curious which just did not get into an afterburning chamber, and any arrangements (gestures, still they well understood Russian curses) did not help. We have disaccustomed quickly and effectively, a sharp conclusion of the engine on the full thrust during test time. Heels were sparkled … Rudely, of course, but after that ‘natives’ they have understood that ‘the engine is a source of the increased danger’, and preferred to be kept from it at a distance, as it was required. All the same did not run up, since them actuation of the ‘Full Reheat’ very pleased, an accompanying roar and the bright sheaf of a flame which are pulled out from the nozzle. Likely, thus the fiery dragon seemed to them.

Engineer staff after flying test of the first supplied too Cam Ranh MiG-23MLD. Second from left – Cap V. Grishyn. At the background the transportation containers for the head section of fuselage is seen. January, 1985 From V. Grishyn archive

Until the end of January, all MiGs have been collected, tested and flight acceptance by our pilots was made without the unified remark and from them and preconditions. Command-in-chief did not expect such speed from us as it has appeared, since under all plans we should deploy by beginning of March. But we did not know about it, and tried as could. After that, the Squadron has started planned job, and our pilots – to study the region of flights

The primary goal of our fighters consisted in the organization of anti-aircraft defense of the base Cam Ranh. In case of the operations began, cover of battle usages of Tu-16 missile carriers at drawing of blow by them on the American base “Subic Bay” was provided also. On the remark of our pilots on impossibility of return of fighters to the home airfield because of shortage of fuel, the answer from naval command has been received short, but capacious inherently: ”The Naval aviation does not take fuel for a way back!”

Periodical inspection of the aircraft. In the cockpit – chief engineer of Sqadron Maj V.Grishyn, on the steps – Cap V.Stasyuk, summer 1986. From V. Grishyn archive

The Squadron has started flights which, basically, were spent by the early morning with the termination of flight  at 11.00 – 12.00 AM, or in the evening, since 17.00 – 18.00 PM. Turbojet engine Tumansky R35F-300, installed on MiG-23MLD, had operational restrictions on temperature of external air +40˚С, and to this limitation tried to adhere. Therefore the flights were planned for time when the temperature still ‘did not read off scale’. It was especially characteristic for ‘the spring-summer-autumn’ period when the heat of 40 (and above) degrees became in due course habitual. Humidity (not above 96 %) was the second essential limitation for engine run, and at times flights cancelled because of excess of this parameter. However, if flights were necessary ‘very – very much’ (for example, after groundings), small excess of temperature of external air was veiled under figure ‘39,9˚С’. Thus, the fighters behaved quite adequately unless the take-off run was a little increased.

Planned flights were spent practically every other day, and very soon, our pilots have well mastered flying area and landing conditions. Approach for landing there was uneasy enough that accident of planes from flight group ‘Russian knights’ has visually shown in 1995. On the distance of 10 miles (17 km) from runway, there was a mountain ridge and the glide path placed considerably above that region, therefore in difficult meteorological conditions pilots could rely only on commands of the approach radar controller. Except a mountain relief on the approach, certain danger represented the fogs, goodness knows where from undertaking at the height of flights. For secure the alternate aerodrome in the Phan Rang could be used. There the group of controllers constantly was on duty. The local population also quite often disturbed to carrying out of flights, putting out of action runway and taxiways lights (simply stole a cable, despite of that it under electric current). Aerodrome maintenance group fired kerosene torches along runway for support of airplanes’ landing, being in air. Here it is valid: the conditions as much as possible approached to the fighting!

Flights passed, basically, over the sea out of visibility of the earth since the Vietnamese party allowed flying over a land only in terminal area, and all the rest – is not less than 15 miles (25 km) from coastal line.

Radio navigational support of flights was the weakest. Land radio navigation station (RSBN), on memoirs of our pilots, has failed practically right after our arrival on Cam Ranh, and before our replacement did not work (too ‘feature’ of our basing, the truth, ‘hand-made’). Pilots flied on a radio compass and commands of ground controller. Direction finder APK-19 (Automatic Radio Compass) from MiG-23MLD on the distance more than 12 miles (20 km) from airfield did not work. Besides, it has been subject to whole ‘bouquet’ of noises – coastal, mountain, night, even more reduce its accuracy. Besides, very often АPK simply refused in work.

Here is how one of our pilots – Andrey Skorick – recollects the sensations from night flights. “I took off somehow at night. The darkness, no moon, only our base is shone and also fishing boats near coastline. I retract the undercarriage, flaps. Everything that is shone – disappears behind me. Sensation as though you have placed in a black bag.

I look upwards – stars, look to the right – to the left – stars too. A roll to the left, I look downwards at the sea – and there stars. Cold sweat to heels has punched me: where – top, where – a bottom? Around only stars. One deal when you know about such effect (sometimes it name ‘a sidereal bag’), and quite another matter – to test it on yourself.

 In general, I have fallen in a seat, as it is possible more low not to see anything behind a side, and have stared only at a gyro horizon. So half of flight also has stayed, yet has not seen coastal lights”.

Very nice dolphin that on a rudder of a MiG’s No 01 tail has drawn by its technician Victor Zhuk – the person not without creative abilities. This dolphin became a firm insignia of our Squadron. It is necessary to notice that in the Soviet years ‘onboard painting’ on our planes, in difference from American, was not welcomed. Regiment’s command has concerned this insignia quite loyally, and here the numerous commissions took out a strict and unequivocal verdict: to paint over immediately! Victor resisted, as could, and not laziness to him was to close a tail at occurrence of the next commission each time. However, he has saved a dolphin before our replacement in 1987! By the way, the dolphin was saved on the tail of MiG No 01 up to the termination of its flight career.

Senior Lts Yuri Likhin and Victor Zhuk (the author of dolphin on the 01 tail) are incpecting the nose landing gear of Flogger-G, 1985. From author’s archive

Operation of planes in the conditions of a damp tropical climate and the American standards of an air field covering has revealed a number of features. More rough concrete has considerably accelerated deterioration tubeless tyres of undercarriage. And, if on home airfield , the tyres were useful during 50-60 landings, in Cam Ranh its were destroyed in 20 – 30 landings and sometimes less. Very soon, we have met the fact that tyres have ended. Process of the maintenance’s organization of our Squadron by spare parts and consumable materials was tightened very much for a long time. Processes of the interdepartmental coordination was stretched for many months, and only by an outcome of summer 1985 questions of our supply were more or less adjusted by spare parts. Moreover, tyres have sent to us so many that we did not know, where them to store! Here it is exact: either a feast or a fast!

The hot damp climate provoked corrosion occurrence, and, sometimes in such places which technicians did not guess at those time. Therefore, the majority of the checks connected with maintenance of the flight validity of planes, consisted in struggle against corrosion. But not always good luck was on our party.

The most serious failure, only thanks to vigilance of engineer-in-cheif Major Valery Grishyn not led to flight incident. That happened in one of the flight days in 1986. All went as usually. On start has taxied out the next MiG-23MLD. Takeoff clearance from tower, full reheats, and fighter has begun takeoff run. The pilot has noticed signal of two green lights –‘FORSAGE’ (Afterburning) and “MAKSIMAL” (max. thrust without afterburning) on an information display, though they should not burn simultaneously. The pilot has reported to tower about it, the senior engineer Major V.Grishyn was on duty and he immediately gave command to abort takeoff and return fighter for inspection. I will notice that time the previously mentioned has taken much less time, than you read about it (how professionals worked).

After taxiing-in, MiG have towed off on place for engine’s ground test, have connected test units and have begun engine check under the usual program. I have sat in the cockpit and have started the engine. Short warming up of engine and the ascent on modes on which fault was shown. All as regularly, the engine obeys, only I noticed some not usual difference between revolving of high pressure and low-pressure compressor. In addition, green lights blinked instead of burning constantly. And suddenly ….Unprecedented force blow and a roar accompanying it have reached because of a back. An airplane shook so, as if it not the 33000 lb (15 ton) weight, and the bird’s feather. Throttle control lever has put on ‘STOP’. (Later the flight data recorder has then shown, what it was possible to react faster then anti-surge system). The sight in a periscope to check where is the tail, on a place or not and on a annuciator “Fire” (thank God, we don’t burn). Fast from the cockpit!

Cap I. Mikhelevich before operation of the engine fixing in the fuselage. November, 1986. From author’s archive

Technicians have started to run together from all our parking area, even from tower which was in several kilometers and on other side of runway. Someone has come tearing along by car, and the fire crew has flown up. “We thought, here the tail has fallen off, and the engine has taken flight to devils, such roar stood” – someone has told. Fortunately, the fighter was whole. Simply we did not face before with surging on full reheat yet. Such roar nobody heard.

So, we’ll look inside the engine with use of endoscope. 2nd stage of the compressor is OK, 3rd, 4th also, but 5th … the fifth stage not exist ! And the 6th, the 7th, and so on – too. Some fragments of blades more similar to bits, in some sectors – it is pure in general, only recesses of blades locks. The turbine is literally honeycombed; the live place is not present.

Control operations after engine mounting. From left to right mechanics Startcev and Zhukov, and group chief Cap Mikhelevich. November, 1986. From author’s archive

Breakage of a bolt of fastening of low pressure compressor’s outlet guide vanes has appeared a cause of the malfunction originally looking ‘quite peacefully’ (abnormal actuations of some units of boards were not such a rarity). Having broken, the bolt’s head has got to a gas flow duct where initiated numerous destructions. Subsequently, at fulfilment of inspections by the alert service bulletin, one more breakage (fortunately, the bolt head has fallen off during inspection) has been found out, the engine should be sent to factory.

I think, it is not necessary to explain that would occur in flight, in case Major Grishyn did not return the fighter back. I will notice also that half broken engine worked nevertheless to the last while it compulsorily have not switched off. Whether this acknowledgement of survivability of its design?

Intensity of flights depended on several factors. So, for example, in the beginning of 1986 there was an adverse conditions with fuel presence. It was allocated about 66000 lb (30 tons) of fuel for flight day, therefore high-grade flights was impossible because we need about 130 000 lb (60 – 70 tons). The commander, who was at that time on airfield, to cancel one training flight of Tu-95RtS from the planned table of flights, at the expense of which we could fulfill high-grade flight day. After the second large warehouse was build the problem with fuel disappeared. Periodically there were complexities with deliveries of spare parts, after not all quantity of failures and faults because of change of service conditions of airplanes has decreased at all. The elementary sharpness allowing from two-three faulty units to assembly one, but serviceable often gained. Sometimes to a course there were also available materials from which quite tolerable diaphragmes, gaskets and so forth as they say turned out, want is whetstone of wit. We joked often that if corrosion ‘will eat’ a wing of some plane, we will quickly cut it from a wood, and nobody will notice nothing!

As to combat training, it was top-level. Actually daily the regiment carried out operational tasks: regularly Tu-95RtS and Tu-142 on a 12-hour active service. Usually the aircraft took-off at 6:00 a.m. and landed at 6:00 p.m. They controlled huge area on a southern Pacific, watching the submarines and aircraft carriers of the probable opponent. To remain not noticed, they had to make the flights at low altitude (50 m)). Crews of these ‘sky ships’ traced movement of the American submarines. Is recollected the analysis of flights with which the commander of a regiment has arranged after one of crews has lost a contact to one such boat. They long monitored it, but then the boat has disappeared from screens of onboard radars. In some hours later they have again found out a boat, but identification of target has shown that it already other boat – Chinese. Noise then was much!

Our squadron carried battle watch constantly day-long or under additional instructions – at night. Normally there were four crews , two in readiness No.2 i.e. pilots sitting in a room near aircraft, and two more – in strengthening. Planes armed two R-24 (AA-7 Apex) medium range AAM and pair R-60 (AA-8 Aphid) dogfight AAM. According to rules, the fighters should take off in 4 minutes after command obtaining, but, normally, that time was about 3 minutes. More often, our pilots had to intercept Lockheed P-3С Orion, which appeared near base every time when the 17th operative Navy Squadron arrived to Cam Ranh port. There was a task in view to training intercept and tracking of the American planes, thus it was obligatory to fix their board and serial numbers. Pilots quite often approached closely to Orion or passed directly before a nose at ASW planes, that demonstrate ‘who is the owner of the hise’

There were rises of forces on duty against fighters, starting from American USS Midway (CV-41), USS Ranger (CV-61) and other visitors around peninsula. Somehow, the pair of our fighters mounted against six of McDonnell Douglas F-4. But more often as the probable opponents were Grumman F-14 Tomcat – enough formidable opponent acted, considering its long-range AIM-54 AAM and high characteristics of AN/AWG-9 fire-control system, on range in times surpassing characteristics of ours Sapphir-23 weapon radar and R-24 missiles. Except that (and it too one of features of basing on Cam Ranh), guidance implemented with the help far not the advanced surveillance radar P-37, which below 600 ft (200 m), on memoirs of our pilots, didn’t ‘see’ the target. Probably, knowing it, Tomcat’s pilots conditionally ‘attacked’ our fighters from altitudes, is significant smaller, and on ranges, exceeding range of detection of onboard Sapphire. On the long distances, the conditional superiority was for Americans. Nevertheless, if there was a capability to show the training in dogfight, our fighters (and pilots, first of all) could set ‘heat’ to Americans that periodically occurred. I remember, the pair of fighters on conditional interception of pair Tomcats has been somehow raised. Take-off of the first airplane ‘was not usual. No, it has taken off in time, but we saw that during taxiing to runway the aircraft had jumped up. MiG has taken off, and we have run to look, about what he ‘has stumbled’. It has appeared that on a taxiway the full huge boa was warming. Our MiG has crossed on it.

Senior Lts Mikhail Luk’yanov and Nikolay Lonshakov in front of MiG-23MLD. From M. Luk’yanov archive

While we considered a reptile and cleaned a taxiway from it, the pair of fighters has already landed. Our pilots left cockpits with displeasure. On their ground more skilled pilots whom, probably, in advance it became known about unsuccessful interception of Americans expected. Fairly, speaking, I did not press in details, but the kind at our young pilots was guilty. The following pair of our pilots have taken off. They were pilots, that is called, “from the God”. Possibly, they were accompanied by good luck as they have returned happy, and with a wide smile showed by palms as they came into Tomcats’ tails.

And, here that Americans wrote about experience of interaction with our fighters. From the report on activity of squadron VF-2 Bounty Hunters: “In February 1989 the Squadron left beautiful San Diego once again for an extended deployment to the Western Pacific and Indian Oceans aboard USS RANGER (CV-61) … Also including was highly motivating encounter with MiG-23 Floggers off Cam Rahn Bay, Vietnam. The Bounty Hunters led the Air Wing in the intercept and escort of Flogger G’s and K’s, exposing a record number of aircrew to this real-world tactical threat aircraft. All in all everyone received invaluable fighter training that others only dream about” (the author allocates it).

Colonel V. Volchkov took the commander position of our regiment by the end of 1985. Intensity of battle study has sharply increased. It did not pass a week, which the regiment did not fulfil one of two typical problems: a conclusion from under blow (sometimes even with real lifting of all warplanes with full armament in air) and the ground personnel protection from attacks. For realisation of the last problem it was required ‘to dug the sand’, to build the trenches. The problem for pilots and technicians, frankly speaking, uncharacteristic, but as it has appeared, not vain. In 1986 around peninsula, gangs Khmer Rouge were seriously intensified, therefore in the entrenchments we felt more confidently.

Not to break the schedule of daily activity, alarms spent, basically, on Saturdays or at night. The analysis of one of such training, made by Col Volchkov, it was very much remembered. The commander rigidly demanded that taxiing-out and take-off during trainings were carried out in a mode of full radio silence. After several trainings the plane behind plane taxi on the start and back to the parking areas with a complete silence in an air. Perfectly! As well as the commander demanded.

One training passes with an estimation ‘perfectly’, another … And here the commander has decided to switch channels of command radio (a scent, likely). Silence, silence, silence in air, and … “tighten, still-still … well where you climb, delay a little, Sergey! …”. For simplification of interaction and external observance of requirements, crews have agreed with transition to other communication channel. That’s has not passed … Subsequently crews have mastered, of course, a radio silence mode for tops, would not be Volchkov if that would not achieve.

Aviation settlement general view. At the background – parking area of the 1st and 2nd Squadrons and communication hub, 1985. From author’s archive

From the point of view of a life, of course, was very hard transferred remoteness from native and information hunger. Letters went to us about one month, brought their once a week transport An-12 from Hanoi. Newspapers fortnight, and that – and monthly prescription were delivered from the country by passing Il-62. TV has adjusted only by the end of 1985. The signal was, of course, rather weak, but we were glad also to it. From radio stations – only The Voice of America, as though specially arranged transmitter near to base confidently was accepted. However, to listen to it was forbidden, but at night, under a pillow (that nobody heard) we caught last information on events in the country and the world on the sly. Sincerely believing that our country – the best, all time I was surprised to that heard, and perceived heard, as the perverted lies and slander on my loved Motherland. After passing of the years, already after collapsed of the Soviet Union I have understood that in auditions of The Voice of America was more truth, than lie. But it was much later …

In free time almost all of pilots and technicians took a great interest in reading, thanks to God there was the finest library. Majority was on friendly terms with sports: jogs before sunrise, athletic exercises (for this purpose has built athletic fields near houses). Still games in table tennis, chess etc. In the evenings, we looked the films in the improvised cinema. A screen hung up on one of walls of a building and looked (more often on the twentieth-thirtieth consecutive time) one and those films – the film library was very modest.

We have been fascinated by the tropical sea of years on twenty forward. In addition, we have well studied inhabitants of this sea – a large quantity of every possible fishes, sea serpents, octopuses, lobsters… In the spring huge turtles came to beach to postpone the eggs, it was about in 300 meters from hostels. They were waited already by fans of exotic food . We did not know about the Red Book existence. Who knew what they there are brought? Vietnamese have complained in the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of our countries. It has appeared that we broke the law. Nevertheless, many had time to eat by then tortoise soup from tortoise eggs and fried eggs.

To great our pleasure, we have said goodbye to Vietnam in February 1987. Our MiGs have continued service on the Air base till the beginning of 1990 and then have been taken out of there. Fighters have come practically to an unusable condition during the service in Cam Ranh. Corrosion has ruined many assemblies and components of airframe.

As I remember, some airplanes have thrown (I can not find another words) to decay in airfield near Artem city, Prymorsky region. What happened to the others – I don’t know. These airplanes were not necessary to Air Force. I think that all of then were scrapped. Too many fighters were built in Soviet Union.

The contract to use the base would end in 2004, because the mechanism of automatic prolongation has been registered in document for each 10 years. Nevertheless, in 2001, the Russian Government recognized the further preservation of base inexpedient, and on May 15, 2002, the last person have been taken out from Cam Ranh to Vladivostok by the ferry. However, they were already employees of the Navy, The aircrafts and all air force personnel left Cam Ranh earlier, in 1992. So has ended the history of the largest naval and aviation’s base outside of the USSR.

Great thanks to test pilot Igor Babenko from Ukraine who provided some years ago invaluable assistance in the literary translation of this story into English!!!

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