While you surely know about iconic Vietnam-era planes like the F-4 Phantom II or the UH-1 Huey helicopter, you probably haven't heard much about aircraft like the Black Spot, Skyknight, or the Dragonfly. Although they aren't as well-known, these fascinating warplanes played crucial roles during operations in Southeast Asia.
Hiller OH-23 Raven
The OH-23 was used as a scout helicopter during a time when the U.S. military was still figuring out how to best utilize helicopters on the battlefield. Ravens would scout ahead of friendly units, but were underpowered for Vietnam's terrain and their skid guns (when they worked) weren't adequate either. Nearly 100 of these lightweight helicopters were lost before the Army replaced them with the vastly improved OH-6 Cayuse in 1966.
Grumman HU-16 Albatross
This flying boat made its combat debut during the Korean War, saving some 1,000 downed pilots and aircrew. By the time the Vietnam War erupted, the Albatross was still in the air, conducting combat search and rescue missions and occasionally inserting/extracting special operations forces. Equipped with jet-assisted takeoff (JATO) rockets, the HU-16 could take off from seas over eight feet.
Douglas EKA-3B Skywarrior
The A-3 (right) was, by far, the heaviest aircraft to operate from an aircraft carrier during its day, earning it the nickname "The Whale." A-3s laid mines and dropped bombs during the early stages of the Vietnam War, but were later modified to the multirole EKA-3B. This plane could carry refuel other Naval aircraft, but the Whale still had plenty of room to spare for electronic jamming equipment, which it used to jam enemy radars when not topping off other warplanes.
Douglas EB-66 Destroyer
When Douglas designed the B-66 Destroyer (a derivative of the A-3 Skywarror), it was intended for a high-altitude nuclear strike role. During the Vietnam War, the warplane had traded its weapons for antennae and countermeasure equipment. The EB-66 Destroyer collected signals intelligence on enemy anti-aircraft systems and would accompany F-105 strikes, jamming enemy radar.
North American RA-5C Vigilante
The A-5 Vigilante entered service as a supersonic carrier-based bomber, but with advancements in ballistic missile technology, the platform adapted to the fast reconnaissance role. After U.S. planes conducted a strike, enemy anti-aircraft guns, surface-to-air missiles, and enemy MiGs were waiting on Vigilante crews to follow up with a bomb damage assessment, and 18 RA-5s were shot down during the Vietnam War.