Posted by Jack Heslin on 13:30:36 04/07/23
History does not repeat, it does not rhyme but it does inform.
If, in fact, the Ukraine anti-aircraft missile systems have been seriously degraded, it marks a serious shift in the conflict.
During the early stages of the Vietnam War, the use of American aircraft against targets in North Vietnam was only marginally effective. The target lists for air strikes against North Vietnam were controlled by political leaders who often used those strikes to send a message to the North Vietnamese leadership rather than to cripple the military and industrial complex supporting the war effort.
The early campaign from 1965 to 1968 was a sustained bombing campaign known as Rolling Thunder. The North Vietnamese, with the help of the Soviet Union and China, were able to build one of the most effective anti-aircraft defense systems in the world at that time. Although they did not have the most advanced system from the Soviet Union, their integration of SAM missiles and radar controlled anti-aircraft guns was a formidable defensive system which enabled them to shoot down hundreds of American aircraft.
The air campaign was stopped in October of 1968 by American President Lyndon Johnson in the hope of achieving a negotiated settlement to the Vietnam War. When President Richard Nixon came into office in 1969, he resumed the air campaign which was called Linebacker 1 and later, Linebacker II.
After the North Vietnamese invasion of South Vietnam, in the Spring of 1972, known as the Easter Offensive, was defeated by the South Vietnamese and American forces, President Nixon unleashed the American Strategic B-52 bombers on the North Vietnamese infrastructure and military targets.
The excellent book by Marshall L. Michael, THE 11 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS: America s Last Vietnam Battle provides an in-depth look at the campaign.
Initially, the B-52s suffered heavy losses because of the effective anti-aircraft fire from the North Vietnamese and the poor tactics used by the attacking aircraft. When the American Airforce leadership changed the tactics used by the B-52s the loss rate was greatly reduced. Because of an inability of the North Vietnamese to replace their missiles, their anti-aircraft defense systems became less and less effective to the point that the B-52s were able to deliver devastating strikes against the North Vietnamese with little opposition from air defense systems. It was reported that there were over 700 B-52 sorties during the campaign with 16 of the big bombers lost to enemy fire.
The attacks created catastrophic damage to the North Vietnamese infrastructure.
In January of 1973 the North Vietnamese resumed peace negotiations and signed the Paris Peace Accords on January 17, 1973.
Unfortunately for the South Vietnamese, the American political leadership did not exploit the military success of the bombing campaign. It is likely that they could have insisted that all North Vietnamese military personnel had to withdraw from South Vietnam and some peace keeping force brought in to guarantee the peace after the Paris Peace Accords were signed. The American political leadership wanted the American POW s returned as quickly as possible and was unwilling to continue negotiations from a position of strength.
If the current situation in Ukraine, as is now being reported by some, is that their air defense systems have been greatly reduced, it is likely that the Russian Air Force will be able to attack the Ukraine infrastructure with heavy bombers carrying massive loads of bombs in ways it has not been able to do up to now. The devastation will be catastrophic.
If this scenario unfolds in the coming days and weeks, it will be truly game over. Furthermore, it is unlikely that the Russian leadership will negotiate away their gains and it is unlikely that they will cease the bombing until they have achieved their stated military / political objectives of the Special Military Operation.