Forty-nine years ago today, an Navy F-4B Phantom II from the “Freelancers” of Fighter Squadron 21 (VF-21) scored the first US air-to-air victory of the Vietnam War. While operating from the USS Midway (CVA-41), “Sundown 101” crewed by Commander Louis Page and Lieutenant John Smith downed an MiG-17 with an AIM-7 Sparrow missile. The “Freelancers” of VF-21 recorded two MiG kills while deployed aboard the USS Midway during the Vietnam War, with the second kill coming moments later.When VF-21 returned to sea, in March 1965, they were bound for combat. It was during this tour that VF-21 recorded its only aerial victories of the Vietnam War, these coincidentally being the first confirmed kills to be achieved by a US Navy fighter squadron during the course of that long conflict. On 17 June 1965 CDR Louis Page and Lt John Smith dispatched a MiG-17 with an AIM7 Sparrow missile. Moments later, fellow Freelancers Lt Jack Batson, Jr and LCDR Robert Doremus made it a double celebration by adding another MiG-17 to VF-21’s tally, again employing an AIM-7. VF-21 compiled a most impressive combat record by making six further visits to the war zone aboard USS Coral Sea (CVA-43) and USS Ranger (CV-61) between 1966 and 1973 (source VF-21 Freelancers).
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They did this after completing the Royal Navy’s advanced warfare training programme taught at Miramar by two Fleet Air Arm pilots including Dick Lord, whom I had the pleasure of meeting and photographing (he later became a brigadier general in the South African Air Force). Before this programme was introduced the USN pilots were wholly unsuccessful in scoring any kills. Now if this is not a provocative comment I don’t know what is – ‘m going to take a kicking for saying this !!!!! 🙂
i loved this aircraft , i flew it for a aviation airshow weekend and its just amazing to fly , the handling is great and experience to be in it is overwelming. but now i fly the FA/18 e super hornet for the RAAF and i wouldnd fly anything els. the hornet is australias best air to air fighter and it will keep serving the country until it gets replaced by the F35’s.
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