Military Historical Library
"The War in Korea 1950-1953"
Chief Editor N. L. Volkovskiy
Editor I. V. Petrova
OOO Izdatel'stvo Poligon, Saint Petersburg 2000;928 pp.
Chapter 9. Combat Use of Air Forces
2. Combat Use of Air Forces by the USA
The US air forces operating in Korea were organized into the Air Forces of the Far Eastern Zone ((Far Eastern Air Forces or FEAF)) (see Figure 18).
The characteristics of the use of air power by the US were: the mass use of aviation to destroy cities, villages and the elimination of the peaceful citizens of the DPRK, as well as the wide use of incendiary means; the use of bomber aviation at night for the main purpose of low-level raids by B-26 and B-29 aircraft, due to the heavy losses inflicted by OVA Aviation and antiaircraft artillery between 1951-1953; the wide use of fighter-bomber aviation for operations against ground targets in the interests of their ground forces; the use of transport and assault transport aircraft to move personnel and cargo from the USA to Japan and from Japan to South Korea; the use of radio technical means for navigation and bombing.
Combat operations by bomber aviation. US bomber aviation operating in Korea was divided between ground (strategic and tactical bombers) and naval (carrier bombers). During the course of combat operations they were increased in strength due to the transfer of new heavy bomber groups to the Far East. (1)
With a goal of retaining the combat capability of bomber aviation, the American command strove to support the combat strength of its air groups at full strength by means of having each one supported by a reserve air group, which could systematically be sent forward from the US to provide personnel and aircraft. (2)
The primary objectives for combat operations by strategic bombers were the administrative and political centers of the country, the cities, industrial objects, railway nodes, stations and major bridges, and settlements; for tactical bombers, troops in their assembly areas and on the move, crossings, the mobile components of the railways, trucks and carts on their routes of march.
The objects of operations and time for launching a raid by strategic bombers was usually determined by operational orders from the US air forces staff in the Far East. The published combat order was sent to a temporary bomber command staff, which then carried out further planning of combat operations by the strategic bomber groups.
The time required for the temporary bomber command staff to prepare the flight plan was normally from 4-5 hours to 6-8 hours. In the order that covered the main plan it gave the time that the bombers were to arrive at the target or the time to meet up with their fighter escorts. The combat order was normally sent down to subordinate units two days prior to the mission.
The method of operation and the combat order of the American strategic bombers depended upon the activity level of the air defenses of the Korean Peoples' Army and Chinese Volunteers.
For the objects which were protected by heavy air defense, they were hit in one pass by a concentrated heavy strike. The bomber groups participating in the raid flew to the target in general combat order, most often a "column" of squadrons with an interval of 500-1000 meters between them. Examples of such operations include the raids on Pyongyang and Sinuiju. On 7 August 1950 around 40 B-29 bombers carried out a raid on one of the factories, workers' villages, and railway nodes of Pyongyang. The bombers flew to the target in groups of 8-10 aircraft; the interval between these groups was 1-1.5 kilometers. Bombing was conducted from 3,000-3,500 meters using high-explosive bombs of from 100 to 900 kilograms weight; part of the bombs were fitted with time delay fuses set for up to three hours. At 1030 hours on 8 November 1950 around 40 F-51 and F-80 fighters blockaded nearby airfields and carried out barrier patrols around the city of Sinuiju. 30 minutes later individual groups of bombers with 7-10 B-29 aircraft each flew in to the city at intervals of 3-5 minutes at an altitude of 5,000-6,000 meters in a combat order of a "wedge" of flights. All groups of aircraft came in from the same direction and bombed the city in a single pass, with the main method of strike being incendiary bombs and napalm tanks. The bombing covered the entire area of the city. The bombing raid continued for 30 minutes; a total of 86 B-29 bombers participated in this raid. At the end of the raid, nearly the entire city was in flames. Around 1,000 people perished in the conflagration, or nearly 10% of the city's population.
When operating against objects with weak air defense, concentrations of bomber raids would make 2-3 passes in the space of several tens of minutes. In this case the bombers approached the target in separate echelons (waves) of 6-12 aircraft, with time intervals of 2-10 minutes or more.
The nature of echeloned operations by American aviation against cities can be seen the following example. At 0630 hours on 20 September 1950 several small groups of F-51 fighters appeared over Pyongyang that strafed houses and streets from low altitude in an attempt to kill the greatest number of residents. From 0900 to 1300 several groups (5-8 aircraft each) of B-29 bombers came over and dropped high-explosive and incendiary bombs in various areas of the city. After this the city was once again hit by low-flying F-51 fighters, and then more groups of B-29s. The overall complexity of the raids was such that the American aircraft attacked the city over a period of 12 hours.
Echeloned operations by strategic bombers normally were carried out with the combat order of a "column" of flights. Strikes were launched against settlements with the goal of destroying them and eliminating the civilian population, as well as preventing restoration work in various objects. This combat order gave them the ability to increase the effects against selected objects with limited forces and over a relatively long period of time.
During the first year of the war daylight bombing by strategic bombers against major cities and objects was carried out from altitudes of 3,000-6,000 meters. The strikes were performed in normal horizontal flight with the use of optical or radar sights or with the use of the SHORAN radio navigation system. Bombs were dropped, as is correct, upon the signal from the lead flight or squadron in one pass.
Tactical bomber aviation was more frequently used against small settlements located within the tactical defensive depth of the KPA. These operations corresponded with the primary goal of making operations difficult for the troops and the massive elimination of the civilian population and destruction of their settlements. During daylight these strikes were normally carried out by 3-9 aircraft, and at night by single aircraft; on moonlit, nights, either single aircraft or pairs. The altitudes of their operations changed based on the activity of opposing air defense and was inside the limits of 3,000 meters down to 200 meters.
The American command paid a great deal of attention to disrupting the lines of communication that connected the KPA and CPV forces with the rear area. For that goal they used both strategic as well as tactical aviation.
The primary targets for operations by strategic bombers were railway nodes, stations, major bridges, etc. During daylight most of these targets were hit using concentrated strikes, which occasionally ran as high as 80 aircraft participating. With a goal of preventing or disrupting restoration work, they carried out echeloned operations in much smaller groups, but at night they used single aircraft from strategic, and on occasion tactical, aviation.
During the first months of the war, in order to strike a railway station or bridge which could not be covered from the air, they would allocate no more than one B-29 squadron, which would bomb the target by making 2-3 passes, and which flew without close fighter escort. Subsequent operations against objects protected by OVA fighters saw sharp increases in the number of bombers allocated to the strike, as well as the fact that they were accompanied by a significant number of close escort fighters.
Thus, on 7 April 1951 32 B-29 bombers under the cover of 60 F-84 and F-86 fighters carried out a raid against the railway bridge at Sinuiju. All aircraft were divided up into three groups: the first and second groups consisted of up to 8 bombers and 12-16 fighter escorts, and the third group consisted of 16 bombers and 20 fighters. Beside that, there was a forward group of 8 fighters. Ignoring the relatively heavy force, only 16 B-29 bombers reached the target. As a result of the bombing, only two bombs hit the bridge and knocked it out for four days.
During the second half of 1951 and early 1952, in concert with increasing losses from KPA and CPV fighters and antiaircraft artillery, the Americans were forced to increase their operational altitudes to 7,000-8,000 meters, and ultimately convert over to night bomber operations in clear and heavy weather situations.
Bombing from B-29 aircraft when they could see industrial and other objectives was carried out using optical sights from various directions, but against railway bridges the attacks normally came at an angle of 10-35 degrees from the long axis of the bridge. If the objective was covered by clouds, bombing was carried out with the assistance of radar bombsights or the SHORAN radio navigation system.
The most widely used combat order used by B-29 bombers during daylight was the "wedge" of flights for a squadron and the "column" of squadrons for the air group when operating against railway nodes and major stations, and the "column" of flights when operating against railway bridges.
At night, the B-29s operating against lines of communication as single aircraft raids, approaching the target one after the other with intervals of 1-2 minutes between aircraft. Individual railway nodes and major stations were struck by 15-20 aircraft during the raid.
In spite of the switch by American B-29 bombers to night operations, their losses from the KPA and CPV night fighters (La-11 and MiG-15) did not decrease.
The primary objectives of operations by tactical bombers during daylight were small bridges and crossings, mobile elements, railway tunnels, trucks and troops on the roads. Strikes were normally made in groups of flight to squadron strength. If the target was not destroyed by the operations of the first group, then it would be hit by another group. At the beginning of the war B-26s would attack from dives, as is correct, without fighter escort and make several passes at the target from 1,000-2,500 meters altitude. Thus, on 29 July 1950 a small group of American B-26 light bombers and AD-2 aircraft struck the railway bridge at Pyongyang over the course of three hours. The order of operations was as follows (see Figure 19): a flight (or six) B-26 bombers came over the target at 1,800-2,000 meters in an "arrowhead" combat order, switched to a "column", and making right angle or later somewhat shallower turns (up to 45 degrees) sequentially went into their dives along the long axis of the bridge with the B-26s diving at 45 degrees and the AD-2s diving at up to 60 degrees. They pulled out of their dives at 800-1,000 meters. Each crew made 2 or 3 passes. With reinforced KPA and CPV air defenses the American bombers were forced to change over to operations from horizontal flight and increase their operational altitudes to 3,000-4,000 meters. In this they made their bomb runs in a single pass, which reduced the effectiveness of their operations.
Against railway lines and tunnels, as well as trucks driving on the roads, tactical bombers operated in daylight for the most part by flights or six aircraft, using the combat order of "column" and "arrowhead" of flight or aircraft, but at night the bombers operated singly or in pairs at altitudes of 4,000 down to 100 meters. For bombing, they normally picked the most straightline section of railway or road to strike. With a goal of cutting the railway line for the greatest possible section and making repair work more difficult, the bombers would strike several tunnels at the same time.
But at the same time, operations by bombers against lines of communication were not always highly effective. Thus, the railway bridge at Pyongyang was hit 9 times during August 1950 using a significant number of B-29 bombers against a complete lack of air defense artillery and fighter aviation. But at the same time, the bridge received no damage.
The railway bridge and crossing at Anju were struck no less than 50 times between January and June 1951 by American strategic and tactical bombers. In all these objectives were hit by around 5,000 bombs of 100 kilograms or larger. Nevertheless the bridge and crossing did not receive any serious damage and movement across them was never disrupted for a period of more than 1-2 hours.
One of the important missions of US air forces strategic and tactical aviation was the continuous support to their ground forces. For carrying out this mission, especially during the period of defensive battles, a strong force of aviation was allocated. Thus, during the time of the defensive battles for the Pusan bridgehead in August 1950 up to 70% of all tactical aviation sorties were allocated for support to ground forces. At this time the US air forces (including strategic bombers) were flying 1,000-1,300 sorties per day. In order to support one infantry division defending a sector of 30-35 kilometers it was receiving up to 100 sorties per day. Bombing strikes were launched immediately on the forward edge of the defense as well as in the tactical depth.
During the first months of the war B-29 strategic bombers operated, as is correct, in large groups at altitudes of 1,500 to 3,000-6,000 meters altitude. Thus, on 17 August 1950 nearly 100 B-29 bombers hit the KPA forces north of Uikwan with a goal of cutting off their offensive against Taegu. The approach into the area was made from one direction using squadrons following each other at intervals of up to 10 minutes. Bombing was carried out in one pass from an altitude of 1,500 to 3,000 meters and in a combat order of "wedge" or "kite" of flights.
In some cases the US air forces aviation carried out long continuous operations that were calculated to wear down the KPA and CPV troops and weaken their ability to prolong resistance. To carry out these missions, all types of aviation were used.
Strategic bombers were given objectives or sectors no more than 5 kilometers from the front lines. The bombing pass was made along the front or at a 90 degree angle to it. On occasion they would make two passes, of which the first pass was frequently either for registration or spotting.
The B-26 tactical bombers, supporting friendly ground forces, frequently operated in groups of 20-30 aircraft against the largest concentrations of KPA and CPV troops and military technology. Small groups of tactical bombers normally operated against individual artillery and mortar batteries, tank subunits and truck assets, as well as troops in loading/unloading areas and when in movement.
During operations tactical bombers would make a pass at the target in combat order from above in a 10-20 degree dive. In this position the bombing strikes would be delivered from 1,500-3,000 meters against targets located no more than 1.5-2 kilometers from the front lines. Ignoring that fact, there were many cases in which the Americans struck their own forces.
The method of combat operations and the number of passes against the target were variable and depended upon the opposing air defense forces of the Peoples' Army and the Chinese Volunteers and the makeup of the group of bombers. Small groups of B-26 bombers, not meeting any opposition in the area of the target, would come in one at a time and subsequently dive on the target in 30-40 degree dives, making a total of 3-4 passes during the attack. Groups of 12-15 and more aircraft normally struck the target from horizontal flight, using only 1-2 passes. If the bombers ran into antiaircraft artillery over the target, they would not make a second pass. For determining the most advantageous approach to the target for the bombers, the Americans used the SCR-584 radar, which was part of the forward radar posts deployed with American corps. This system provided guidance for aircraft up to a distance of 25-30 kilometers from the front lines.
The American command paid a great deal of attention to the airfields used by the KPA and CPV aviation. The primary objects of their operations were the runways. For striking an airfield, the main choice of aircraft used was strategic bombers.
The B-29s struck airfields in the DPRK in daylight using groups of 6-12 aircraft. This number of aircraft was considered sufficient to knock out the runway.
Strikes were carried out against both operational airfields and airfields under construction. The destruction of airfields under construction was carried out several days prior to the estimated completion of the airfield, which to a great degree limited the combat capabilities of KPA aviation. Operations against airfields also saw frequent use of B-26 tactical bombers and the naval AD-2 ground attack aircraft. These bombers operated mainly against second-echelon and other airfields less well protected by KPA air defense assets, as well as repeat strikes with a goal of preventing restoration efforts at those airfields which had been put out of action by strategic bombers.
The most widely used combat order by bombers in operations against airfields in the DPRK were: "column", "arrowhead", or "kite" of flights, following one after the other at a distance of 800-1000 meters. In most cases, the flights used either the "wedge" or "diamond" formation with 15-20 meters between aircraft and intervals of 40-50 meters. They approached the airfield from various directions, but the bomb run was made either along the runway or at a 30-40 degree angle to it.
When the KPA and CPV forces strengthened their air defense measures, especially with the increased activity of the OVA fighter aviation, US air forces bombers began to receive fighter cover, which on occasion was several times larger than the number of bombers; tactical bombers and fighter-bombers were used for the suppression of antiaircraft artillery.
Thus, at 1110 hours on 25 March 1951 up to 40 bombers approached the Anju area at an altitude of 5,000-6,000 meters. At 1113 hours, a group of around 60 American fighter aircraft, flying in groups of 6-12 aircraft, began to approach the Sinuiju area. These fighters fought with the OVA fighters in order to permit their bombers to approach their targets in the areas of Tonju, Anju and Hichen.
Ignoring the heavy escort, the American bombers took heavy losses from the OVA fighter aviation, with the result that the American commanded decided from the end of 1951 onward to completely halt use of the B-29 bomber in daylight and switch over to night combat operations.
B-29 night bombers operated against airfields as single aircraft, either independently or together with B-26 bombers. The latter functioned as reconnaissance aircraft, as well as suppression of the antiaircraft artillery covering the airfields. The bombers struck the airfields from altitudes of 5,000-6,000 meters and higher. The selected airfield was struck by groups of 2-3 to 10-12 aircraft, which hit the target at intervals from 2-3 minutes to 1 hour. It follows to point out that night operations against airfields that could be seen on the radar bombsight screens permitted the B-29s to operate above the clouds thanks to their radar bombsights. Beside that, for precise approach to the target and to ensure its destruction, the B-29 and B-26 both made wide use of the SHORAN radio navigation system.
Tactical bombers allocated for operations against airfields in daylight operating in groups of 8-30 aircraft only in those cases when they had to inflict destruction on aircraft, items of airfield equipment, or to prevent construction (restoration) work on the flying field itself. In conjunction with the growth in the opposition from OVA fighter aviation and KPA and CPV antiaircraft artillery, American tactical bombers were forced to operate against airfields only in combination with fighter aircraft that both provided fighter escort to the bombers as well as suppressed the antiaircraft artillery.
From the second half of 1951 onward tactical bombers were forced to also change over to night combat operations and only against those airfields that were poorly defended by antiaircraft artillery, using the SHORAN radio navigation system to attack them. Night operations were carried out by single aircraft from an altitude of 1,500 to 2,000 meters.
Operations by American bombers against runways subsequently took on greater significance and the weak protection provided by antiaircraft artillery and OVA fighters were only occasionally effective. Thus, in 1951 the results of daylight strikes by American bombers against airfields of the Peoples' Army saw 10-12% of the bombs dropped hit the developed runway, taxiways, and protection for the aircraft around the airfields. Strikes on airfields at night, with a handful of exceptions, were less effective, but at the same time they interfered with restoration work that was conducted at night.
To support combat operations by bomber aviation, the American command organized systematic reconnaissance flights, which were carried out by specially assigned reconnaissance units and subunits, as well as bombers and fighters en route to carrying out their combat missions. By paying such a great deal of attention to aerial reconnaissance, and having sufficient forces and assets to carry it out, the American command organized and conducted not only preliminary and verification reconnaissance, but when necessary - and immediately needed - pre-strike reconnaissance.
Along with this, the Americans conducted weather reconnaissance for which one squadron of 10 RB-29s was assigned to perform. This weather reconnaissance was divided up into preliminary and immediate reconnaissance. Meteorological reconnaissance was primarily conducted by single aircraft. Immediate weather reconnaissance of the target area and the flight route to the target was conducted on average 30-60 minutes prior to the strike. The intensity at which immediate weather reconnaissance was conducted was primarily based upon the activity of combat aviation. On average this type of reconnaissance was conducted by 1 to 6 sorties per day.
When carrying out combat missions in areas where there was a possibility of encountering OVA fighters, American bomber operations were supported by fighters.
The basic methods of fighter support to American bombers were: close escort, covering the bombers in the area of their operations, and blockading OVA fighter airfields.
The method of support and the number of forces allocated to carry them out were based upon the overall air situation, the established mission and the number of enemy bombers.
Close fighter escort was carried out for the main reason of supporting the bombers in areas where they could encounter OVA fighters. Covering the bombers in the area of their operations was considered as one of the primary methods of support. Fighters allocated for this purpose independently flew to an area where they were ordered to arrive 3-5 minutes prior to the bombers or simultaneously with them. In the target area the fighters would patrol close to the bombers and below them, supporting the latter from attack by OVA fighters.
If the strategic bombers ran into strong opposition from KPA and CPV antiaircraft artillery, F-80 and F-84 fighter-bombers were allocated to suppress them; these independently flew to the target area in small groups and arrived 2-5 minutes before the attack in order to attempt to suppress the antiaircraft batteries during the arrival of the strategic bombers.
In order to support their bombers, the American command also undertook blockading measures against the OVA fighter airfields in the area of combat operations by bomber aviation. Blockading the airfields was carried out independently as well as in combination with other methods of support to bomber operations listed above. To blockade one airfield 1-2 squadrons of jet fighters were allocated. The time of the blockade in most cases varied between 10 and 20 minutes.
Each bombing raid carried out by B-29 bomber crews saw the use of active and passive radar jamming, for which they carried metallic ribbon, and some individual aircraft carried special transmitters with a goal of more completely suppressing the KPA and CPV radar assets. The line and time to turn on these radar jamming transmitters and drop the metallic ribbons was determined by the USAF FEAF staff.
In order to bring the bombers into the target area when the area was located 300-400 kilometers deep in the rear area, the Americans used the SHORAN radio navigation system.
Engineer-aviation and material-technical support for combat operations by bomber aviation was supported by the temporary creation of a USAF aviation technical support command for the Far East. This command was assigned the task of fully supporting the transfer, supply and repair of the material component of all aviation units of the FEAF.
Strategic and tactical bombers of the US air forces in Korea used radar for operations during heavy weather conditions and at night both in the operational and the tactical depth. Together with this strategic bombers were also equipped with radar jamming sets.
Combat operations by fighter aviation. During the course of combat operations in conjunction with the possession by OVA air forces of the most modern (MiG-15) fighter aircraft, in 1951 the American command was forced to increase the numbers of its fighter aviation and improve their quality. (3) Together with their increase in numbers the American command created a second set of pilots with the goal of increasing the duration of combat operations by fighter aircraft and providing combat experience to a large number of pilots.
Beside American aviation, the interventionist side in Korea also included fighter squadrons from Australia and the Union of South Africa along with one aviation wing from South Korea.
The qualitative increase in their aviation came from the fact that from the middle of 1952 onward the main fighter aircraft in air combat operations were the F-86 fighter and the F-84 fighter-bomber; for night combat operations, they used the F-94. The F-86 fighters were combined into fighter aviation wings, designated to combat the OVA fighters in the air. The F-84 fighters were issued to the fighter-bomber wings, which were specially trained to work against ground targets.
The primary tasks of US fighter and fighter-bomber aviation during combat operations in Korea were to maintain air supremacy; combat support to other branches of aviation; isolation of the region of combat operations; and support to friendly ground troops.
Retaining air supremacy was achieved via air combat with OVA fighters and fighter-bomber operations against their airfields. The American command felt that at the start of the war, when they were opposed by small numbers of aircraft flown by incompletely trained OVA pilots this task could be carried out by F-51, F-80 and F-84 aircraft. But at the same time, ultimately when the OVA fighter aviation became very active together with their use of the MiG-15 fighter, the American command was sure that the American aviation then in Korea was no longer able to cope with them as it had with the status of the previous conditions of OVA fighter opposition. Therefore in 1951 the Americans were forced to transfer two aviation wings to Korea equipped with the more modern F-86 fighters, manned by well-trained pilots who had combat experience from Europe during the Second World War.
Initially the F-86 fighters were used as a fighter "screen" and operated in large groups, which were normally use to barricade the probable directions of approach of OVA fighter aviation. Large groups of American fighters, operating as part of the "screen", were easily acquired on radar and that gave the OVA fighters the opportunity to make a surprise strike against the "screen," easily pass through the "screen", and then successfully repel the raids by bomber aviation. Together with this the Americans were forced to shorten the depths at which they were operating with their bombers and reduce the number of groups in the "screen" by increasing the number of aircraft in each group. The reduction in depth of combat operations by bombers gave the Americans the chance to send the fighter "screen" 70-120 kilometers ahead of the area of the bomber raids. The "screen" was composed of individual groups of 4-8 aircraft that were echeloned from 6,000 to 14,000 meters altitude and flew at intervals of 5-30 minutes apart, approaching from the southwest over a broad front towards their patrol area (between the Chongchongan and Yalu Rivers). The barrier group averaged 6-9 fighter flights, but on occasion the "screen" could mount up to 100 or more aircraft.
Echelonment in time of approach by small groups of the "screen" meant that the American fighters could spend up to 90 minutes in the area of combat operations, continuously bringing reinforcements for the air battle and making operations for the KPA and CPV radar operators very difficult in determining the location of fighter-bombers and guiding their own fighters to them.
From April 1953 onward, in conjunction with the growth in the opposing OVA fighter aviation flying groups of 8-12 MiG-15 fighters, the Americans began to allocate groups of 8-12 or more fighters to the "screen".
They strove to make their first attack by diving out of the clouds or out of the sun to achieve surprise. If the F-86 fighters were operating in squadron strength (12-16 fighters) the first attack would seldom involve the entire element; in most cases, the squadron would break into small groups and carry out combat by fours or even pairs. In order to attack OVA fighters the Americans strove to get into their rear hemisphere and attack them from a deflection angle from 0 / 4 to 1 / 4 and very, very seldom from a deflection angle of 3 / 4. In all cases they strove to retain altitude superiority as well as numerical superiority.
The primary combat element of the American fighter units was the pair. The leader of the pair was usually a pilot who had completed at least 30 missions. The combat order of the pair was either a staggered "front" in which they could search for the enemy, or a staggered "arrowhead" which was their main method for conducting air combat. Close combat order was used during the flight to the area of combat operations when there was a lack of the danger of an attack from OVA fighters.
The attack was normally commenced by the pair leader, and the wingman would cover his leader. If it was necessary that the attack be strengthened, then the wingman would also participate. If the wingman was cut off and lost sight of his leader, the latter would designated a meeting place where they could once again move to carry out the mission. If the pair was attacked by OVA fighters, the American pilots would strive to break out of the attack using tight turns or a high-speed dive.
A flight of F-86 fighters, consisting of two pairs, was considered by the Americans to be their primary firepower unit in air combat. The flight normally flew in the "line" combat order or in an "arrowhead" with an interval between the pairs of 300-400 meters with the distance between the combat order in the "arrowhead" of 200-300 meters and with the trail pair 200-400 meters above the lead pair. The flight leader was normally a pilot who had completed 50-60 combat missions.
OVA fighters were normally attacked by the pair of the flight leader and his wingman, with the trail pair providing cover for the operations from 300-400 meters above them. On occasion, the trail pair would follow the lead pair into combat. When attacking a dispersed pair of OVA fighters, the flight leader would occasionally order the trail pair to go after the second fighter. If the flight ran into two pairs of fighters, echeloned in altitude, the attack would focus on the pair closest to them in altitude. When meeting a group composed of three or more pairs, the attack would focus, as is correct, on the trailing pair of fighters; the flight leader would make the attack and the trail pair would provide cover.
When one of the pairs was attacked by MiG-15bis fighters from abeam or astern, that pair would make a sharp turn into the attacking fighters or a banking turn. The second pair of American fighters would likewise follow the lead pair with the concept of getting on the tails of the attacking fighters. When attacked by MiG-15bis fighters the American pair in the rear echelon of the flight would drop down suddenly, avoiding the attacking aircraft, and then as the lower pair would find themselves in an advantageous position to make an attack. If the attack was prosecuted by an entire enemy flight, they, as is correct, would make a sharp turn into their attackers, continue past them to get out from under their attack or see if one of the American pairs could get on the tails of the MiG-15bis fighters. When the OVA fighters overshot the American aircraft, they would subsequently make a course reversal and move to get on the tails of the MiG-15bis aircraft and attack them.
An F-86 fighter squadron normally flew with 12 or 16 fighter aircraft. Its combat order consisted of three or four flights. Frequently they would fly along their route of approach in a "wedge" formation but when patrolling they would switch to the "arrowhead" of flights, as is correct, with the sun at their backs.
The basic principle of air combat by squadron against the MiG-15 fighters used by the Americans was considered to be attacking with one or two flights, with the rest of the available flights used to fly cover. When the first or second flight was attacked by MiG-15 fighters, the third flight would move out to repel their attack. The attacked flights, by making various maneuvers, would strive to get out of the battle. When the trailing flight was attacked, the first flight would strive to repel that attack. Groups of 24-48 fighters normally flew in the "wedge," "arrowhead," or "front" combat order.
For the duration of the entire war American fighter-bombers actively worked against OVA airfields with the goal of destroying aircraft, blasting the runways and wiping out troops. The primary method of operation by fighter-bombers against airfields was the concentrated strike. Their combat order consisted of the strike group, designed to attack targets which had been acquired, and a covering group, which supported the operations of the strike group.
The strike group was divided into two echelons. The primary task of the first echelon was to blockade the airfield and suppress the antiaircraft artillery assets. The second echelon was designated for the destruction of the material component of the airfield, as well as knocking out the runway and airfield equipment.
The strike group made its attack pass at their targets, as is correct, in the combat order of "front" or "arrowhead"; the strike was made from a dive beginning at 1,500 to 1,000 meters. After dropping their bombs and strafing the target, the fighter-bombers would come out of their dives at top speed, change their direction of flight, and head back to their territory, or carry out a maneuver so they could conduct a second attack. The aircraft would assemble after the strike over a key orientation point or on a course following the strike leader.
The blockading of OVA airfields by American fighters was conducted for the main reason that their bombers or fighter-bombers were active in the area. To this end they allocated groups of 6-8 or more F-86 fighters. Echeloned at altitudes up to 8,000 meters, these fighters opposed OVA fighters taking off.
Thus, on 13 May 1952 a group of F-86 fighters consisting of 12 aircraft with an interval between flights of 2 minutes provided cover for a 12-20 F-86 aircraft to dive down from 4,000 meters to drop a total of 12 254-kg high-explosive bombs on the flying field portion of the airfield. Bomb dispersion was up to 3 kilometers. The covering group was echeloned from 8,000 to 10,000 meters (see Figure 20).
The tasks for combat support to other branches of aviation operating against objects on the battlefield and in the operational depth of the defense were carried out by American fighters using various methods. The most widely used of these was close escort for bombers and fighter-bombers to the target and back.
The number and consist of the groups used for close escort depended upon the numbers and consist of the bomber and fighter-bomber groups being escorted, as well as the level of opposition from OVA fighter aviation. At the start of the war in Korea the largest groups of bombers were escorted by fighters at a ration of 1:1. With the introduction of jet fighter aircraft by the KPA and CPV the number of close escort fighters was significantly increased and on occasion approached 5 fighters for every 1 bomber or fighter-bomber and 8-12 fighters for 1 reconnaissance aircraft.
The fighters met up with the bombers or reconnaissance aircraft they were escorting near the front line or in a previously designated area or over their own airfields. When moving to the target and back the fighters kept within visual contact of the aircraft they were escorting, flying behind and above them by 2,000 to 5,000 meters, echeloned in 2-3 groups by altitude. On occasion the close escort would be deployed not only by groups, but by individual flights echeloned one after the other at intervals of 400 to 700 meters. If the escorted aircraft broke into small groups or single flights then the fighters would likewise be allocated to keep visual contact with them, following each group as assigned above and 1-2 kilometers behind them.
The close escort fighter group was divided up into an escort group and a strike group. During strikes by OVA fighters the Americans would strive to repel the initial attack with the forces of the strike group, and when necessary call in part of the forces of the strike group to reinforce the close escort group.
In order to isolate the area of combat operations from the approach of the avenging forces of the Peoples' Army and Chinese Volunteers, the American fighter-bombers attempted to disrupt the passage of trains, as well as prevent road convoys using highways and dirt roads. The primary objective of these operations were the operating staff, right of way and railway passages over trestles, bridges and crossings, infantry columns, artillery, tanks and trucks.
At the beginning of the war the American fighter-bombers operated against all objectives in groups of 4-8 aircraft, at low altitude, and without close air cover from fighters. Bombing strikes were launched from a glide or a dive at an angle of 40-50 degrees and using several passes.
During the course of the war the tactics of fighter-bomber combat operations changed, based upon the active opposition from the air defense assets of the Peoples' Army and the Chinese Volunteers. They began to launch strikes in groups of one or more squadrons under cover by friendly fighters. The altitudes at which they made their passes were increased to 2,000-3,000 meters, the dive angle now approached 60 degrees, and the time over the target was reduced. Beside that, the fighter-bombers had to use anti-antiaircraft maneuvers in altitude, speed and direction.
The American command developed numerous plans and attempted to carry out several operations to prevent supply and to isolate the area of combat operations. One of the largest of these was carried out in 1953 under the codename "Operation Suffocate."
During the course of this operation American fighter-bombers were most active in their operations against railways and road lines of communication. Thus, from 9 to 15 January 1953 fighter-bombers made five concentrated strikes on the railway bridges over the Chongchon and Taedongan Rivers. On occasion 200-250 fighter-bomber aircraft would participate in these strikes. Beside that, in order to disorganize rail and highway traffic, fighter-bombers would also make use of the "free hunt" method of operations during heavy weather.
Support to friendly ground forces was carried out by launching assault bombing strikes against troop and military technology concentrations on the battlefield and in the near rear area. In order to carry out these strikes, the aircraft used were the F-80 and F-84 fighter-bombers.
When operating over the battlefield ground attack and bomber strikes were carried out against artillery and mortar firing positions, tanks and troops in their combat order, and areas of concentration. Beside that, the fighter-bombers were widely used to destroy bunkers, command posts, and observation posts.
At the beginning of the war, for operations against objectives on the battlefield, based on their nature and their size, the Americans used groups of 4 to 32 aircraft. This, combined with a lack of fighter opposition from the KPA, no escorts were allocated to cover the fighter-bombers. They normally operated in echelonment and frequently in the intervals between concentrated bomber strikes.
The fighter-bombers flew to the target in a flight order of "front". When operating as part of an aviation group, the combat order chosen was "column" of flights in the squadron; flight to the target and back was carried out at altitudes of 4,000 to 8,000 meters.
With the strengthened opposition from KPA and CPV troop defenses, ground attack operations by American fighter-bombers against objects on the battlefield correspondingly turned to groups of from 70 to 200 aircraft.
Flights to the area of operations by large groups of fighter-bombers, consisting of several aviation groups, was carried out at 6,000-7,000 meters altitude. When operating as part of a single aviation group its basic flight to the target was carried out in a "column" of squadrons. 5 to 7 minutes prior to arriving at the target the combat order of squadrons would break up via an increase in distance and interval. Depending upon the layout of the target to be struck, the flights would make their passes in either right or left "arrowhead" formations. About 2 minutes before they would make their passes, the fighter-bombers would drop down to 2,500-3,000 meters altitude. Each squadron, as is correct, worked against a single target.
From April 1953 onward, when the Americans were operating in those regions that were covered by OVA fighter aviation, they used the F-86 fighter-bomber, which after dropping its bombs could then successfully turn to conduct air combat with the MiG-15bis fighter.
On occasion, with the goal of launching a surprise attack on a ground target the F-86 fighter-bombers would approach the target as part of the fighter "screen" which was composed of F-86 fighters. After that, when the F-86 fighter "screen" went into combat with the OVA fighters, they would head to attack the target. Bombing was carried out in a 30-50 degree dive from 3,000-4,000 meters.
For guiding the fighter-bombers to the target, and for adjustment of fire, wide use was made of the T-6 aircraft. These aircraft were organized as part of a tactical aviation control and guidance group.
Prior to takeoff to carry out combat missions, the crews of the guidance aircraft were given the callsign of the fighter-bomber group leader from the tactical aviation command center. Once they spotted the target, the crews of the guidance aircraft would drop down to 200-600 meters altitude, determine the nature and precise layout of the target and send this data by radio to the tactical aviation control center.
Guidance to the target was carried out either by radio or by diving on the target.
The basic characteristics of tactical combat operations by American fighters were: a significant echelonment of fighters in depth and altitude, which made it much more difficult to determine the composition and makeup of the groups while in the air; covering the operations of other types of aviation by allocating fighter "screens" at a significant distance from the fighter-bombers and bombers being covered; conducting air combat in small groups, seldom exceeding squadron strength; wide use of fighter-bombers to provide immediate aviation support to their own troops and the isolation of the area of combat operations.
The American command paid a great deal of attention to the transfer of fighter-bomber units from the USA and Japan by air over a distance of around 10,000 kilometers.
The first group crossing of the Pacific Ocean by jet aircraft took place in June 1952. The 31st Fighter Wing, consisting of 59 F-84 fighters, was sent from California to Japan over the course of ten days. The crossing by the 27th Fighter Wing, consisting of 75 F-84 fighters, took place in October of that same year and required eight days. During the time of the crossing the aircraft of both fighter wings refueled in the air by using tankers 1,600 kilometers from California.
Combat operations by reconnaissance aviation. Depending upon the mission to be accomplished, strategic and tactical aerial reconnaissance would be conducted. These types of aerial reconnaissance were used simultaneously and frequently were conducted around the clock, independent of weather conditions.
During the first months of the war aerial reconnaissance of all types was primarily conducted by single reconnaissance aircraft accompanied by two fighters at medium level altitudes. With the increase in opposing air defense means by the KPA and CPV, daylight reconnaissance switched to high altitude and under the cover of fighters, the strength of which reached 12-16 aircraft to cover one reconnaissance aircraft.
Strategic reconnaissance was conducted by RB-29 aircraft at altitudes of 7,000 to 9,000 meters and was either preliminary, immediate or verification.
Preliminary aerial reconnaissance was conducted from the moment that a mission was established and up to start of combat operations. It was established with the goal of collecting data about the objects for the proposed attack, the status of opposing air defenses in the area of combat operations, and on the flight route to the objective. This type of reconnaissance was conducted throughout all depths in Korea.
Immediate aerial reconnaissance (pre-reconnaissance) was normally established by all bomber groups flying the mission and for the most part was conducted by detachments of strategic aviation crews. Pre-reconnaissance was performed to amend the determination of air defense means and weather conditions to the target and in the area of combat operations, as well as to check on the target itself. It was carried out in the target area 15-40 minutes prior to the arrival of the first echelon of bombers. Immediate reconnaissance was conducted visually from medium and high altitudes. The data obtained by the crew was immediately passed over the aircraft's onboard radio.
Verification aerial reconnaissance was normally conducted to determine the results of bomber operations. To this end, one crew in a bomber squadron was frequently assigned this task. They, as is correct, carried out the mission from the overall combat order of the bomber squadron. In a number of cases verification reconnaissance was conducted several hours after the bombing strike. In order to carry out the mission of verification aerial reconnaissance, the missions were frequently carried out not just by RB-29 aircraft, but RB-26 aircraft as well.
Tactical aerial reconnaissance was carried for the most part by RF-51, RF-80, and RB-26 aircraft from altitudes of 1,000 to 5,000 meters. These aircraft carried out reconnaissance of the combat order of forces, defensive fortifications, the rear area and lines of communication, airfields, and other objects within a depth of up to 220 kilometers from the front line. Reconnaissance was conducted day and night, and the main method used was aerial photography. Beside reconnaissance of troops and lines of communications, the RB-26 aircraft carried out around the clock weather reconnaissance over the entire theater of combat operations.
Tactical aerial reconnaissance at night was primarily carried out by RB-26 reconnaissance aircraft, who carried out the search for targets along previously designated routes. For night reconnaissance of objects in the rear areas of the DPRK the RB-29 aircraft was chosen. The primary method of night reconnaissance was likewise the use of aerial photography along with visual reconnaissance, the main purpose of which was to observe transport movement along the lines of communication.
Photography of objects located near the front lines was carried with the help of illumination from another aircraft, which would drop illumination bombs on the signal of the pilot of the reconnaissance aircraft.
Reconnaissance of airfields was normally carried out in the morning or evening after to sunset, in order to determine whether or not there had been any changes in the makeup of the numbers of OVA aviation.
Observation of the battlefield by the T-6 forward observer aircraft was continuous during the periods of daylight, where they would send their reconnaissance data and information over the radio. This data concentrated on the center of ongoing operations, from which they would select items that interested them. It follows to stress that observation of the battlefield by the crews of these aircraft was done under the conditions of a lack of OVA fighter aviation.
In its methods and nature the use of reconnaissance assets for American aerial reconnaissance could be divided into radar, visual and photographic.
Radar means of reconnaissance were used to uncover the locations of radar assets as well as to acquire OVA aircraft in the air. Aerial photo reconnaissance was the most widely used type of aerial reconnaissance, the data from which was widely sued both by the aviation command as well as the ground forces command.
During the course of combat operations the intensity of American reconnaissance by aviation gradually increased, and by February 1951 amounted to 15-30 sorties per day. Ultimately the number of daily sorties by reconnaissance aircraft reached 50, of which 25% of these were flown at night. During increased activity of combat operations the number of daily reconnaissance sorties could and did approach 70 in some situations.
The Americans also made reasonably wide use of combat aviation for aerial reconnaissance. Thus, for example, in March and April 1953 nearly 30% of the overall number of sorties by the combat elements of the 5th US Air Force were flown for reconnaissance.
During the time of combat operations in Korea American aviation flew about 30,000 sorties on aerial reconnaissance missions, which averaged out to 30 sorties per day for the entire period.
Organization of cooperation between the air forces and the ground forces: command, control and communications. Aviation support to offensive operations was divided up into aviation preparations and aviation support, carried out for the most part by tactical but also occasionally by strategic aviation.
Immediate aviation preparations were carried out simultaneously with artillery preparatory fires and lasted from 1 to 3 hours. Strikes were focused on the breakthrough sectors, which could not be suppressed by field artillery. Area of the bomb strike was hit with up to 120 metric tons of bombs per square kilometer.
Aviation support to the offensive corresponded with ground attack aviation and bombing strikes against the KPA and CPV troops.
In all cases, the use of aviation was massive.
Based upon their experiences from the Second World War, the American command created a joint operations center, manned by staff officers from the 8th US Army and 5th US Air Force, which ensured cooperating between these two armies. (See Figure 21.)
The staff officers from the 5th US Air Force at the joint operations center composed the group controlling combat operations by aviation.
Checks on combat operations and immediate command and control of combat sorties was carried out with the use of a special Air Force radar unit: the 502nd Tactical Aviation Control Group and the 2nd Marine Aviation Control and Guidance Group, which supported command and control of air operations with the aid of radar assets, radar observation of the aerial situation, and centralized control of all air defense assets in South Korea.
In order to support command and control and cooperation between aviation and ground forces with the staff of the 5th Air Force, the following were created: a tactical aviation control center, a tactical aviation guidance center, zones of operation for each corps of the 8th US Army, tactical aviation guidance posts, and aerial observation and warning posts along the coasts of South Korea at a distance from the front lines in the area.
The designated organs of command and control and the observation posts deployed a network of radar stations to acquire aerial targets. The radar acquisition zones covered all of the territory of South Korea and 150-200 kilometers out to sea around the coasts of both North and South Korea.
The tactical aviation command and control center was the primary organ controlling the operations of tactical aviation, which were supported with continuous communications by radio and landline with their base airfields, and with the centers and tactical aviation guidance control posts. Command and control of aviation was conducted based on observation of aircraft using the AN/CPS-5, AN/MPS-5, AN/CPS-4, AN/CPS-1, and other radar stations.
Upon the receipt of a combat order the command and control center would send it to the centers and guidance posts, informing them of when and where the aircraft would pass into their zones, where they were planning to head on their sorties, what means they would contain and who would be responsible for their control. Simultaneously the center would send the combat order to their base airfields along with the designated type and number of aircraft to fly, time of flight and mission.
The tactical aviation command and control center frequently sent out periodic information on the activities of friendly aviation and OVA aviation, movement of forces, changes in the front lines, etc.
In order to coordinate the activities of air defense assets of the American troops in Korea, the command and control center controlled the activities of a network of ground radar stations, identified the nationality of aircraft acquired, sent commands to fighters when OVA aircraft were identified, and provided guidance to its own fighters, informed the air defense command posts on the approach of OVA aircraft to protected objects, and set the order and time of opening fire against raids by KPA and CPV aircraft.
The tactical aviation guidance center normally deployed in the area of the army corps staffs, 30-40 kilometers from the front lines. It carried out observation of the air with the goal of identifying all aircraft in the zone of operations of its own radar assets, controlled the flight of tactical aviation into a given area, supported cooperation between aviation and ground forces, controlled fighters in intercepting OVA aircraft and provided information on activities by their crews within the army corps sector and in the air situation.
Observation of the air by each guidance center corresponded with a depth of 150-250 kilometers. In controlling aircraft, the guidance center provided them navigational assistance and when necessary reoriented them onto different operational objectives; supported them with direct communications from the headquarters of the combined armed formations, passed information to the tactical aviation command and control center on the ground situation, and sent them observations on the immediate aviation support to troops.
The guidance posts in infantry divisions and independent regiments were located with the combat order of the ground forces. They guided aircraft to ground targets and designated the lines for bomb safety, the entrance of combat aircraft into the areas to meet the guidance aircraft, transmitted individual orders and displacements to the air crews, pass information to the combined arms staffs on planned aviation sorties in the operational zone of the division and transmitted observations on the aviation support to units of the division to higher headquarters.
With a goal of supporting the acquisition, identification and guidance of aircraft in mountainous terrain, the Americans deployed forward acquisition and guidance posts as personified by either the AN/CPS-1C or AN/CPS-1 radar stations, or on occasion the AN/CPS-10. The forward posts would bring their aircraft in against previously discovered targets and control their combat operations, including sending them the command to drop bombs.
When organizing the operations of bombers and fighter-bombers over the battlefield, the commander of the aviation group, as is correct, would establish the order of communications with the tactical aviation command and control center and with the ground guidance stations. After takeoff and climb to altitude, the group commander would communicate with the command and control center and using a code report his callsign, identification number, and mission received, and when approaching the front line establish communications with the guidance station. By using data from the guidance station, the group commander would then advise the rest of his pilots the order of the attack on the target and the order of using the means of destruction. Communications between the group commander and the tactical aviation command and control center were only terminated after the group landed upon the return from their mission.
In the views of the Americans themselves, the development and maintenance of a system of command and control for tactical aviation in Korea was extremely difficult. It demanded careful organization, a high level of training for the organs of command and control, and a large number of radar assets.
Ground radio communications by the US air forces command with air wings was carried out by the tactical aviation guidance posts with the central post about its guidance using VHF radio, from the tactical aviation central guidance post to the joint operations center using HF radio, and from the tactical aviation central guidance posts and the airfields using either HF or VHF radio.
These radio channels were used to provide for flight operations, the transmission of essential commands connected with aerial operations, and the transmission of observations on the strike related to the assigned mission, allocation of forces, area of operations and time to launch the strike.
Radio communications with US air forces aircraft were conducted using fixed frequencies in the 116-151 Mhz band on eight different channels. Each group used different frequencies, with the exception of channels for general use and channels for communications between groups. Each of these channels was identified by some sort of word, a characteristic flower or another quality (name). Beside that, each channel had a second name generally used by all aviation which corresponded with the nominal general frequency and the letter used to identify the button for it on the radio control panel: A, B, C, etc. US air forces pilots made practical use of both general-purpose channels when carrying out internal communications of the groups and the overall general-purpose channel when communicating between different groups.
In the fighter-bomber aviation groups frequencies for all channels were identical except for the primary combat communications channel frequencies. Night fighters fluctuated between channel 1 and channel 5. When escorting B-29 bombers they used channel 5. Channel 6 was used for conversations between the fighter-bombers of all air groups from the moment they contacted the ground guidance post.
Identification of radio channels in all groups was basically identical. The most strictly controlled were the first five channels, with channels 6, 7 and 8 subject to some variation.
The disposition of channels in B-29 bomber units was like this; it was assumed that they used them in this manner: Channel A - 116.1 Mhz (used by fighters of all air groups); Channel B - 126.18 Mhz, Channel C - 137.88 Mhz, Channel D - 121.5 Mhz (emergency frequency); Channel E - 139.92 Mhz; Channel F - 135.9 Mhz (Channel 6 was used by the 4th Fighter Group; it was also their reserve combat channel); Channel G - 136.8 Mhz (Channel 7 was used by all fighter-bomber groups); and Channel H - 134.1 MHz (Channel 8 was used by the 4th Fighter Group as a reserve combat channel). As can be seen the disposition of frequencies on the radio station channels in bomber aviation was done in consideration of the necessity to provide radio communications with radio beacons, actuating radio stations, and guidance and control radio stations.
It was established during the course of combat operations that the amount of telegraphic ((morse)) communications in bomber aviation using HF changed. Up until 1952, after takeoff every bomber would establish its morse radio communications with a ground station. In 1953 communications with ground radio stations was only established by the group leader upon reaching the coast of Korea.
Several radio communications channels were observed in selected instances to change frequency. During the time of frequency change, callsigns for the aviation groups remained unchanged.
Aircraft radio callsigns used in voice communications could be divided into air group callsigns, flight callsigns, branch callsigns, and individual aircraft callsigns.
Air group callsigns were disseminated based on the determination that every air group have their own unique callsign, e.g. a group callsign. The callsigns were also specified for independent squadron operations as well. Some air groups had separate callsigns for carrying out training flights and combat missions.
Flight callsigns were disseminated based on the determination of one callsign per flight. Characteristically these callsigns were selected for each flight of a squadron based on the relationships of words, e.g. one squadron would use animal names, another flowers, and a third automobiles; or, they would use words (in some air groups) based on some assigned letters. Beside that, the place of the aircraft in the flight was represented by numerical callsigns, where the callsign for a specific aircraft would consist of numbers and letters. There was a numerical index for callsigns for the air groups and flights, given to each aircraft. Separate (independent) callsigns were only given to single aircraft and assembled flights.
The index for night fighters consisted of a number that indicated the nature of the mission it was flying. These indices permitted each aircraft to use either the air group or squadron callsign, but not a flight callsign, as for example, it may duplicate the digital index of an aircraft flying in daylight operations.
The guidance radio stations and check stations used a voice callsign consisting of a word. Voice callsigns were changed regularly, every two or three months. The callsigns would be changed simultaneously with the radar guidance posts as well as with aircraft (group and flight). During the callsign change, the new words were not used (except in isolated incidents). For that reason the change of callsigns concluded and came into use when they were disseminated throughout all of the air groups and flights.
The morse callsigns used by bomber aviation changed daily. Every day the callsigns for the ground radio nets for air formations (division on up) and higher were changed.
With a goal of providing disinformation to the KPA and CPV radio intercept posts, and simultaneously making it more difficult for them to obtain the necessary data from aircraft radio transmissions, the American air forces command would make surprise changes in radio callsigns and daily changes to the callsigns used on the morse radio communications by bomber aviation; they would assign fighter-bombers similar callsigns to those normally used by fighter aviation; reconnaissance aircraft would use the callsign for one of a flight of escort fighters; all groups would use the same callsign; radio traffic would be reduced; coded radio messages would be sent using jargon and slang, and finally, there would be a change in radio traffic in bomber aviation.
Reductions in radio traffic varied up to complete cessation of radio usage during flights by duty aircraft. They only entered into radio traffic upon meeting OVA fighters. Only the lead crews would communicate over the combat control channel with ground radio stations, and the wingmen would only come up on the nets in case they spotted enemy aircraft or when they no longer could maintain visual observation of the situation. Radio transmissions were normally kept short, which made radio intercept more difficult.
During the course of combat operations in Korea the American air forces command took a number of measures to ensure the security of their radio transmissions. With this goal in mind, codes were widely used. When transmitting over the radio the following items were normally encoded: the mission being accomplished; the flight altitude; amount of remaining fuel; area of operations; as well as a number of commands in combat and information which it was essential be kept secret.
The codes of missions to accomplish corresponded with numbers that varied for each air group. The coding system used was generally for all of the air groups. Each mission was encoded by using several numerical values. For example, "weather reconnaissance" missions were coded 80-84. Night fighters used numerical groups which encoded their mission, and these were also used for the callsign for the aircraft in radio communications. With a goal of concealing some of the missions, these numbers were changed every 2.5-3 months. These changes took place simultaneously with the callsign changes. Beside that, individual flights also saw a change in the mission number. For each flight that took place in Korea, the US air forces, as is correct, set a conditional altitude, the value of which was signified by the use of a codeword. The relative establishment of the conditional altitude was based on the operational altitude of the aircraft flying the mission. Each thousand feet of altitude was signified by a 1 and sent over the radio with either a plus (+) if above the conditional altitude and with a minus (-) if the aircraft was below it.
The amount of fuel in the aircraft was encoded using conditional words. Each hundred pounds of a differentiation in the level of fuel onboard received a codeword, and was given a plus (+) if more than that level or a minus (-) if below it. Beside that, other conditional terms were established to encode fuel levels, which were varied and always less than 1,500 pounds; on occasion, that level of fuel at which the aircraft was forced to return to its base was also encoded.
The encoding of the areas of operations by US air forces aircraft in Korea was seen as a method of conditionally designating an area, as well as a method of encoding the grid coordinates on that chart. Weather reconnaissance normally used codenames for individual points which corresponded to letters of the alphabet and which were symbolized by using words beginning with those letters. This method was occasionally used by other aircraft, such as fighters and fighter-bombers, when conducting reconnaissance, but the conditional names were changed for every flight.
Without looking at the measures taken to secure radio transmissions by the aviation command, the KPA and CPV succeeded in timely determination of their meaning and took measures to repel enemy air raids.
Use of military transport aviation. From the beginning of the war in Korea the command of the American air forces gradually increased the numbers of military transport aviation involved. With that goal in mind, air wings and independent squadrons of American military transport aviation were transferred from the continental US, islands in the Pacific Ocean, and Europe to Japan.
By the end of August 1950 the number of military transport aviation aircraft available to FEAF had been increased to 400-430 aircraft. Beside that, in order to support transfer of aircraft along the USA - Japan air routes, the USAF command concluded a contract with civilian aviation companies, who allocated some 70 civilian transports to assist in this goal.
The primary missions of the Military Air Transport Service (MATS) in the Far East were the transport of personnel, material components, and supplies from the continental US to Japan, evacuation of the seriously wounded from Japan to the USA, and transfer of immediate shipment cargoes. In order to carry out these tasks, more than 200-250 aircraft were assigned to them. In some isolated cases MATS transport aircraft were used to transport troops, combat technology and supplies directly into the combat area.
The average monthly load on the USA - Japan air route was the transfer of 7,625 personnel and 1,720 tons of cargo. For their part, American civil aviation transports carried more than 55% of the cargo and 63% of the passengers. The rest of the cargo and personnel were carried on MATS aircraft. Aircraft flights from the USA to Japan took from 33 to 45 flying hours.
Military transport aviation also carried out the missions of moving American military unit and subunit personnel (including airborne assaults) from Japan to Korea as well as combat technology and supplies to the area of combat operations, and also evacuating troops and combat technology. Beside that, it was used to transfer personnel and various cargoes from rear area bases in Japan to airfields in Korea. Thus, during the period of time of the Inchon assault landings in September 1950 the 187th Airborne Regimental Combat Team was moved over the course of two days from Japan to Kimpo airfield in Korea. Along with this, military transport aviation also dropped supplies to ground forces units and other arms of service, who were nearly impossible to supply with any other means of transport or impossible to reach, withdrew forces from encirclement areas, and evacuated the wounded and sick on the return flights from Korea to Japan.
Military transport aviation units transferred an average of 42,000 personnel and 25,000 tons of cargo from Japan to Korea and around Korea itself every month, with about 6% of the supplies dropped to troops via parachute.
The use of American military transport aviation in Korea, where they did not encounter any opposition from OVA fighters, took on a one-sided nature.
The use of helicopters. Along with combat aviation, the Americans made wide use of helicopters to carry out various missions on land and at sea in Korea.
Helicopters were used to transfer small groups of assault troops, observe the battlefield, correct artillery fire both from field artillery as well as naval fire, transfer troops into the rear areas of the KPA and CPV troops and pick them up after conducting their missions, conduct liaison between the headquarters of ground forces and ground and naval forces, laying telephone lines up to 25 kilometers in length, especially in hard to reach areas, taking aerial photographs of coastal and beach objects, etc.
Beside that, helicopters were used to save aircraft crews that were shot down in combat or managed to make a forced landing on the front lines or in the sea, evacuate wounded from the combat area to rear evacuation points and hospitals that was difficult to accomplish with other types of transport, and to remove troops from encircled areas.
The above cited missions were carried out by subunits of helicopters that were part of the USAF, the Army, the Marine Corps, and the Navy.
From the end of 1951 onward FEAF included the 3rd Air Rescue Squadron that had, beside 57 rescue aircraft (SA-16, SB-17 and SB-29) 14-20 H-5 helicopters capable of carrying three men.
One aviation detachment from this squadron carried out missions to save crews that had made landings in the areas occupied by KPA and CPV troops, and another detachment was used to save crews who came down in friendly territory or in the sea.
An assault transport helicopter battalion (formed of the 6th and 13th Assault Transport Companies) was part of the 8th US Army (each company had 21 H-19 helicopters with a carrying capacity of 10 men each). Beside that, the ground forces formations and units had H-5, H-13 and H-23 helicopters, each of which could carry 2-3 men. In accordance with its organizational and tabular structure, each infantry division would have 10-11 helicopters and each regiment one helicopter.
From August 1951 onward the Marine Corps had one squadron of assault transport helicopters (HMR-161) with a complement of 15 HRS-1 helicopters.
The US 7th Fleet, operating close to the east and west coasts of Korea, used up to ten flights from the 1st Helicopter Detachment (HU-1). The flights were based on ships and were operationally subordinated to the ship commanders. These flights were equipped with the H-5 helicopter. In this air force the helicopters were mainly used for rescue work.
The use of helicopters in Korea was determined for the most part by the air and ground situation in the area or on the way to the area. Helicopters flew along routes where KPA and CPV forces were thin, using the terrain and a large flight envelope (from 5 to 400 meters altitude) for protection. For covering and supporting the operations of helicopters, especially when carrying out rescue work, a significant amount of fighter aviation was allocated to the task.
For conducting search and rescue operations of crews, helicopter subunits of various branches of service were used, but in the main this work was the responsibility of the helicopters and rescue aircraft from the 3rd ARS, which was part of FEAF. When this took place it was only within strictly limited areas of operations. The USAF air rescue detachments operated more than 100 kilometers from the front lines, but the ground forces helicopters could only go in to a depth of up to 8 kilometers.
For the most rapid flight when called, air rescue helicopters flew from landing stands located from 800 to 8,000 meters from the front lines.
In the area where the crews of shot-down aircraft were found, two H-5 helicopters were normally dispatched to pick them up; one of them made the landing and picked up the pilot, and the second one, remaining in reserve, observed the operations of the helicopter on the ground. In the case of broken terrain the pilot being rescued was taken onboard the helicopter by either a rope ladder or by the use of a winch.
When conducting search and rescue work helicopters, as is correct, would be covered by F-86 fighters, which during the time the helicopter was on the ground had the additional mission of not permitting KPA or CPV forces to approach the helicopter. In isolated incidents the rescue service helicopters would operate without fighter cover, crossing the lines at altitudes of 25 to 1,800-2,000 meters.
The ground forces helicopters were used to evacuate wounded from the battlefield to nearby hospitals. For this purpose mobile surgical hospitals would create landing pads for the helicopters. The helicopter pilots did not have special medical training, but nevertheless they frequently were forced to provide first aid to the severely wounded in place.
When the aerial assault jumped into Munsan on 23-24 March 1951, the wounded soldiers of the air assault were removed from the area by helicopters of the 3rd ARS of the 314th Air Transport Division. In all, between 23-25 March 178 wounded and injured soldiers were removed from the area. The helicopters flew 77 sorties.
During the course of combat operations helicopters were also used to transfer troops with the goal of strengthening units and formations in the first echelon with reserves brought up from the depths. Beside that, helicopters were used for reorganizing artillery and other equipment of the American forces. And finally, helicopters provided supplies and ammunition to troops that were encircled or otherwise in a heavy situation.
Thus, in December 1950 the helicopters of the 40th Marine Detachment brought up a great deal of supplies to units of X US Corps, which was surrounded in the Hagaruri area.
There were instances when the helicopters of the 3rd ARS were used to observe and guide combat aircraft to their targets, as well as for adjusting artillery fire.
Helicopters serving as part of the army provided help in isolated incidents in laying landline communications in hard-to-reach areas and for transferring small radio stations and providing them with personnel. This significantly increased the mobility of communications assets and the speed of their deployment. Landline communications were laid out to a Marine company that made an assault landing on 20 September 1951 on the cape southwest of Kaesong. On occasion, helicopters were used to acquire and destroy small groups of KPA and CPV forces attempting to cross the front lines. In these cases the helicopters mounted machine guns.
The use of helicopters to evacuate the wounded in Korea, in the assertions of the American command, cut the fatality rate among wounded from 45 to 25 per 1000 wounded, and over a year and a half of combat operations helicopters evacuated around 11,000 personnel from the battlefield. Just the 3rd ARS alone, from the start of combat operations in Korea through 1 April 1951, had evacuated 995 personnel of which 427 were beyond the front lines.
It follows to stress that even in conditions when the Americans had nearly total air dominance the use of helicopters was accompanied by serious difficulties, which forced them to conceal helicopter flights and provide them a large amount of force for covering support. The success by the Americans in using helicopters in Korea came to a significant degree from the fact that they did not have to deal with the requisite confrontation with OVA aviation.
Brief conclusions. The American command committed nearly 35% of its regular air forces to combat operations in Korea. Its allocation of transfers of forces during the course of the war created advantageous conditions for the use of aviation. But at the same time the UN forces could not, even with absolute air supremacy of the air forces in the air, achieve their established goals during the course of the war.
The primary effort of American aviation was used to support their ground forces. Together with that aviation was widely used to destroy industrial and administrative centers of the country, its cities and settlements.
The tactics and methods of operations of American aviation changed based upon the activity of KPA and CPV aviation and air defense assets. As a measure of the growth and improvement of these assets, the American command stopped using bomber aviation on objects in the rear during daylight and switched to night operations in first clear and later heavy weather conditions. They were forced to increase the altitude of their bomber operations to 7,000-8,000 meters, strengthen support operations by fighters, and take a number of other measures focused on reducing the effectiveness of OVA air defense artillery and fighter aviation.
The mass use of bomber when achieving combat and specialized support and with strong fighter cover let the Americans make strikes against objects deep in the rear area and lines of communication, and to support their troops on the battlefield, especially during the offensive and the retreat.
American bombers made wide use of radar, supporting their approach to the target and bombing in heavy weather conditions and at night, as well as the bombers making use of radar jamming sets against gun aiming radar, as well as letting the bombers operate with various incendiary means.
The use of fighter aviation saw them pay a great deal of attention to echelonment of fighters in altitude and depth, allowing them to allocate their forces to combat over a long time, as well as to cover their own aviation in the area of combat operations and especially along the distant approaches to the selected area using the "screen". In order to implement this maneuver they required good reconnaissance of all types and reliable operation of the system of the air observation and warning service and its advisory network.
Experience from combat operations in Korea showed that American aviation suffered from a number of shortcomings.
First and foremost among them was the fact that the insufficient flight and tactical data on the B-26 and B-29, as well as other piston-engined aircraft required at that time, meant that they had a great deal of difficulty in overcoming the opposition of the KPA and CPV air defense assets. A particular weak spot was the insufficient level of training of the air crews, with up to 70% of them recalled from the reserves, with the consequences that fighters were able to frequently knock them out of the air due to a lack of superior numbers.
The war in Korea served to support the decisive significance of the morale factor during the course and outcome of armed combat. The large American army, including aviation, could not manage to overcome the opposition from the KPA and CPV, even though they were inferior to the Americans in technical equipment, but retained their high morale-combat qualities.
1.1 The makeup and overall growth in the number of US bomber aviation aircraft participating in combat operations in Korea is shown in Appendices 33 and 34.
2.2 In 1951-1952 air groups were reorganized as air wings.
3.3 The makeup of fighter aviation, types of aircraft and the overall increase in numbers is presented in Appendices 34-35.
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