Old "Herc" a pioneer in laser guided bombing, another Blindbat first
Flying machines and the men and women who have flown them are among the more fascinating subjects to track and follow. There are so many different machines, so many different people who have flown them, and the circumstances under which they have been flown have varied so widely, it is sometimes daunting to figure out what to study. We have found the Lockheed C-130 Hercules to be a machine that offers much to learn and more than its share of intrigue. We'll briefly show you why, and then focus your attention once again on the Blindbat C-130As of the Vietnam War, fascinating crews and machines indeed. We will introduce you to the pioneering role played by the Blindbat in laser guided bombing in Vietnam. Not many know that the Blindbat was "zotting" targets in the late 1960s in Vietnam. We'll also pass on a few interesting war stories that highlight the important forward air controller roles played by the Blindbat crews during the late 1960s.
July 13, 2005, air crew photo gallery updated September 25, 2006.
The C-130 "Hercules" was designed as an assault transport, and a mighty assault transport she has been and continues to be.
Modern-day C-130 tactical assault landing. She'll land on and take-off from just about anything. Presented by The C-130 Hercules
C-130 "Tank Drop" right where she's needed. If she doesn't land, she'll dump her load just about anywhere. Presented by The Aviation Zone.
You need only ask those ground forces trapped at a place like Khe Sanh how wonderful it was to see a "Herc" come blazing in under tortuous enemy fire and mounds of dirt and dust.
Marine tanker landing at Khe Sanh, Republic of Vietnam (RVN) in 1966. This is tail number 573 coming to refill fuel bladders at the besieged base. Photo credit: Jim Weir. Presented by C-130 Image Archive, Historical Photos
In her assault transport role, the C-130 has come to be known as the "trash hauler," frankly not the right name for this venerable bird, her crews, and this troop saving role. That said, it is true that your C-130 trash hauling crews were far happier flying pallets of beer than coca-cola to the troops on the front lines. God bless 'em all.
Over time, the "Mighty Herc" has adapted to such a wide variety of missions that one could make it a life's journey to explore them all. We'll touch on some of these, but concentrate on continuing our exploration of the C-130A "Blindbat" mission in the Vietnam War in this report. Why? Because not many know about the missions we are about to describe.
Night Intruders, Original Painting by Keith Ferris, C-130, B-57Bs, EF-10B
In our first report, entitled, “Blind Bat, Yellowbirds, Willy the Whale, on Uncle Ho's trail,” published on December 15, 2004, we introduced our readers to the Blindbat C-130A flareships, and the role they played hunting down truck convoys on the Ho Chi Minh Trail at night along with B-57 "Yellowbird" bombers and an EF-10B "Willy the Whale" electronic warfare aircraft.
The foursome of "Night Intruders," shown in the Keith Ferris art piece above, flew into North Vietnam and Laos searching for enemy supply convoys on the Ho Chi Minh Trail, at night.
Blindbat flare during attack on installation. Photo credit: Bill Tkacs, CMSGT, USAF (Ret.)
Blindbat did most of the spotting, dropped flares to light up that portion of the trail where she found targets, Willy the Whale jammed any fire control radar that might pose a threat to any friendly flights coming in to take care of business, and the Yellowbirds dove in to destroy the targets. This relationship lasted from 1964 through most of 1965, after which the Blindbats teamed up with other kinds of aircraft to do a similar job.
In this, our second report on the Blindbats, we want to highlight two roles the Blindbats took on as the war proceeded through the late 1960s and early 1970s.
We are going to first focus on the pioneering role played by the C-130 Blindbats in the very earliest combat testing of laser guided bombs (LGB). The Blindbats lit up the target with a laser designator coupled to a nigh vision device and F-4D Phantom fighter aircraft equipped with the initial versions of LGBs hosed those targets with greater precision, fewer bombs, and fewer return trips than ever before.
We are then going to describe some missions where the Blindbats played an important role as a forward air controller (FAC). In truth, the Blindbat from the very beginning of the war was a FAC. But as time went on, this FAC role became more complex and more far reaching than most people know.
That the Blindbats existed at all, in any role, is not well known. We commend our initial article to your attention for that reason. That it played such an important FAC role is not widely known either. That it was a pioneer in the introduction of laser guided bombing in the Vietnam War is known only to a precious few.
We are dividing this report into five more sections, to make it easier for you to load and read:
First, we want to convey our respects to the many roles played by the C-130 "Herc" and the crews that flew them.
Second, we will introduce you to the pioneering role played by the Blindbat in laser guided bombing in Vietnam.
Third, we'll pass on a few interesting war stories that highlight the important FAC roles played by the Blindbat crews.
Fourth, we present a personal recollection of the loss of Blind Bat 01 over Laos.
And finally is a photo gallery from contributors showing the Blindbat crews over the years. We invite your photos as you feel approrpriate.
Let's proceed to pay our respects to the C-130 "Herc."