Hobby Master HA2550 USAF Republic F-105G Thunderchief Wild Weasel Aircraft - 561st Tactical Fighter Squadron "Wild Weasel", Korat Royal Thai Air Force Base, Thailand, 1972 (1:72 Scale)
"That's what war is like, you're heading towards hell, death and damnation and you're in a hurry to get there."
- "Lawrence of Vietnam", Michael M. Peters
The Republic F-105 Thunderchief was a supersonic fighter-bomber used by the United States Air Force. The Mach 2 capable F-105 bore the brunt of strike bombing over North Vietnam during the early years of the Vietnam War. Originally designed and deployed as a single seat aircraft, a two-seat Wild Weasel version was later developed for use in the specialized Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses (SEAD) role against surface-to-air missile sites. It was commonly known as the Thud by its crews.
As a follow-on to the Mach 1 capable F-100, the F-105 was also armed with missiles and a cannon; however, its design was tailored to high-speed low-altitude penetration carrying a single nuclear bomb internally. First flown in 1955, the Thunderchief entered service in 1958. As the largest single-engined fighter ever employed by the USAF, the single-seat F-105 would be adapted to deliver a greater iron bomb load than the four-engined, 10-man strategic bombers of World War II like the B-17, B-24 and B-29. The F-105 would be best remembered as the primary strike bomber over North Vietnam in the early stages of the Vietnam War. Over 20,000 Thunderchief sorties were flown, with 382 aircraft lost (nearly half of the 833 produced) including 62 operational casualties. Although it lacked the agility of the smaller MiG fighters, USAF F-105s demonstrated the effectiveness of guns, and were credited with downing 27.5 enemy aircraft.
During the war, the two-seat F-105F and F-105G Wild Weasel variants became the first dedicated Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses (SEAD) platforms, fighting against the Soviet-built S-75 Dvina / (SA-2 Guideline) surface-to-air missiles. Two Wild Weasel pilots were awarded the Medal of Honor for attacking North Vietnamese surface-to-air missile sites, with one shooting down two MiG-17s the same day. The dangerous missions often required them to be the "first in, last out," suppressing enemy air defenses and keeping them suppressed while strike aircraft accomplished their missions and then left the area.
Although the F-105 weighed 50,000 pounds (22,680 kg), the aircraft could exceed the speed of sound at sea level and Mach 2 at high altitude. It could carry up to 14,000 pounds (6,700 kg) of bombs and missiles. The Thunderchief was later replaced as a strike aircraft over North Vietnam by both the F-4 Phantom II and the swing-wing F-111. However, the "Wild Weasel" variants remained in service until 1984, when they were replaced by a specialized F-4G "Wild Weasel V". The USAF F-4G was subsequently replaced by the USAF F-16CJ Fighting Falcon aircraft, currently employed in the SEAD role.
Pictured here is a 1:72 scale rendition of a F-105G Thunderchief Wild Weasel aircraft that was attached to the 561st Tactical Fighter Squadron "Wild Weasel" then operating during the Vietnam War.
Pre-order! Ship Date: March 2020.
Release Date: ?
Historical Account: "Wild Weasels" - The life of the 561st was resumed when the 23d Tactical Fighter Wing (also known as the Flying Tigers) renumbered its squadrons the 560th, 561st, 562d, and 563d Tactical Fighter Squadrons. The 561st, 562nd and 563rd deployed to SEA in 1965, the 561st being assigned to Takhli Royal Thai Air Force Base in Thailand and Da Nang Air Base in South Vietnam. "Wild Weasel" operations became the squadron's primary mission in mid-1970, when the squadron exchanged its F-105B/D models for Republic F-105G Thunderchiefs. On April 4th, 1972 General Giap launched a three-pronged attack into South Vietnam with 200,000 troops and in April 1972, the 561st was deployed to Korat Royal Thai Air Force Base in Thailand from McConnell Air Force Base, Kansas immediately following a mobility alert. With only 69,000 American troops left on the ground in Vietnam, the US turned heavily towards air power. In his novel "Lawrence of Vietnam" Michael M. Peters, who served with the 561st, wrote "That's what war is like, you're heading towards hell, death and damnation and you're in a hurry to get there."
Throughout Linebacker I and Linebacker II, the 561st flew over 1,900 combat sorties accumulating nearly 6,000 combat hours, and was awarded the Air Force Outstanding Unit Award with Combat "V" for valor, a very rare award. The 561st also received the Vietnam Cross of Gallantry with Palm Unit Citation. Of the 200,000 invading North Vietnamese troops, 40,000 were killed, the North Vietnamese retreated back across the border and General Giap (who had defeated the French at Dien Bien Phu) was defeated by the US Air Force and was relieved of command.
From December 18th to the 29th, 1972 the Christmas bombing (called by the Americans the "Twelve Days of Christmas") forced the North Vietnamese to the negotiating table where they were made to sign the Paris Peace Accords, thus ending the war. A plane from the 561st was the last F-105 shot down in the Vietnam War (F-105G, 63-8359); it was hit by a surface-to-air-missile on 16 November 1972; the crew was rescued. The casualty rate for all Wild Weasel aircraft over the course of the Vietnam War was 63%. Of the 12 F-105G's assigned to the 561st during this time, four were shot down and one was lost to operational accident. One of the surviving aircraft from the original 12 airplanes of the squadron, S/N 63-8320, is on display at the National Museum of the United States Air Force; this plane is credited with three MiG kills in the Vietnam War. Wild Weasels became so effective in the Vietnam War that 90% of North Vietnamese radar sites would turn off if Wild Weasels were in the vicinity.
On July 1st, 1973, the 561st moved to George Air Force Base and joined the 35th Tactical Fighter Wing. The 561st transitioned from the F-105/G when the base received its first shipment of the McDonnell F-4G Phantom II Advanced Wild Weasel in 1978.