Cold War Era

How Mi-6 Helicopters helped to protect VPAF MiG-17 fleet from U.S. Air Strikes

The MiG-17s were dispersed out into the country side, carried by large Mil Mi-6 helicopters to the dispersal sites and carried back to the airfields when missions were to be flown

In the spring of 1966 U.S. aircraft targeted for the first time Vietnamese People’s Air Force (VPAF) airbases. Previously considered off-limits by Washington (and later in the war the bases were not allowed to be attacked), the attacks on the MiG airfields at Dong Hoi and Vinh forced a rethink of North Vietnam’s air strategy against a numerically superior American military.


As JP Santiago explains in an interesting article appeared on his website Tails Through Time, to provide rapid repair of the airfields, over 70,000 steel-reinforced concrete plates were stockpiled at the airfields. Large amounts of bamboo stems were also stockpiled to be used in airfield repairs. Camouflaged revetments were created and some were even disguised as huts along with the construction of underground command centers for the base staff. As told by Zoltan Buza and Istvan Toperczer in Wings of Fame, Volume 8, article “MiG-17 Over Vietnam,” to protect the VPAF’s small MiG-17 force, the aircraft were dispersed out into the country side, carried by large Mil Mi-6 helicopters to the dispersal sites and carried back to the airfields when missions were to be flown. Later in the war, fuel and ammunition were also dispersed at these sites as it was found an Mi-6 could carry a fully-fueled and armed MiG-17 to the airfields from as far away as 30 miles. Underground shelters were built into the mountains near the bases where the aircraft were prepared for their missions against incoming American strike packages. An Mi-6 would then carry the fighter as an underslung load to the nearest airbase where it would take off, fly the mission and then return to base to be carried back to the underground shelters miles away by the helicopters.

In areas where the terrain prevented construction of underground shelters for the MiG force, the fighters were dispersed into villages and agricultural co-operatives as well.

Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

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