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USN F-4 Phantom II Vs VPAF MiG-17/19, Vietnam 1965-73

by Peter Davies, Osprey Publishing, 2009

Having already pitted the McDonnell F-4 Phantom IIs of the U.S. Air Force against Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-21s of the Vietnamese People’s Air Force for Osprey Publishing’s “Duel” series, British jet warplane expert Peter Davies follows up with a less likely match in USN F-4 Phantom II Vs VPAF MiG-17/19. From 1965 on, Air Force Phantoms were more likely to encounter MiG-21s than their U.S. Navy colleagues, who had relatively more encounters with the MiG-17.

This should have been no contest, but the Phantom crews had been trained to intercept bombers or engage enemies at long range and were unprepared for the old-school close-in dogfighting that they often had to engage in over North Vietnam.

That state of affairs changed significantly after July 1969, when the U.S. Navy started its Top Gun training program, revising its tactical doctrine and using mock dogfights with aircraft whose performance approximated that of the MiGs to produce a savvier generation of dogfighters.

As with a recent World War I entry in Osprey’s “Duel” series, SE 5a vs Albatros D V, Davies’USN F-4 Phantom II Vs VPAF MiG-17/19 is an interesting study in how tactics and the strategic situation allowed an outdated fighter design to match an intrinsically superior opponent. The new Vietnam-related book, however, is also a study in how acting on lessons learned can dramatically change the outcome of the fight when it goes into Round Two.


Originally published in the April 2010 issue of Vietnam Magazine. To subscribe, click here