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Notice given 28 May 2002

349  Senator Evans: To ask the Minister for Defence—For each of the events listed below, can the Minister confirm: (a) the veracity of the events; (b) the fact that members of the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) took part in these events during the presence of the RAAF Contingent at Ubon, Thailand, from 25 June 1965 until 31 August 1968; and (c) whether these events undertaken by the RAAF were, in fact, a ‘direct supporting role’ of the United States Air Force’s Vietnam War effort conducted from within Thailand during the period concerned:

  • RAAF Fire/Crash Rescue Crews performed ‘crash rescue’ operations on ‘combat damaged’ United States Air Force (USAF) F4 aircraft returning from Vietnam and Laos. (USAF Letter 18/7/66; 8TFW to OC Ubon)
  • RAAF Motor Transport drivers refueled USAF ‘combat aircraft’ for flights into Vietnam and Laos. (Department of Defense Letter 27/12/87)
  • RAAF Surface Finishers helped in repairing of damaged USAF aircraft, that sustained ‘combat damage’ in Vietnam or Laos. (RAAF Unit History Sheets AFO 18/F/5; 1965)
  • The USAF’s 8th-Tactical Fighter Wing (8TFW) and 79 Squadron conducted ‘Combat Flight Training Operations’ together, for the benefit of young inexperienced USAF replacement pilots conducting ‘combat missions’ into Vietnam and Laos. These operations were defined by letters of agreement. (8TFW History Apr-Jun 1968 & Dep Air Letter 68/5/Air(18))
  • The Air Defence Posture for Ubon Royal Thai Air Force Base (RTAFB) was not accomplished by the USAF’s 8TFW. The RAAF stationed at Ubon RTAFB, and equipped with F 86 fighter aircraft, had the responsibility for the Air Defence Alert Posture. (8TFW History Jul-Dec 1966; Maxwell AFB)
  • The RAAF was placed on ‘Alert 5’ Air Defence Alert duties by the 7th Air Force (7AF) wef. 25.6.65 and at times ‘increased alert posture’ as required. (meeting USAF RAAF 12.6.65: Signal Ubon to DCAS 5/7/65 and June 1966)
  • That ‘Command Control’ was given to the USAF and that the Deputy Commander 7/13th Air Force (USAF), and the designated TACC Battle Commanders were delegated authority to: (a) order scrambles (USAF and RAAF only) including mandatory scrambles, when required for accomplishment of Active Air Defence missions; and (b) order engagement of the first hostile airborne object. (HQ PACAF 7 AF Regulation 23-15 1 Oct 1966)
  • The RAAF was part of the tactical control force in Thailand that remained assigned to the tactical air support group in Vietnam because this group was charged with the operation of the South East Asia Integrated Tactical Air Control System. The RAAF Sabres at Ubon, Thailand, came into this system by a combined agreement for air defence executed by the RTAF, the USAF and the RAAF. (History PACAF Jul-Dec 1965)
  • The implementation of the USAF 7th AF O Plan 427-66 (wef 1.7.66) combined the air defence systems of Thailand and Vietnam as components of a Single Integrated Air Defence System. (7AF O Plan 427-66)
  • The RAAF 79 Squadron was included as ‘augmentation forces - Thailand’ under the USAF 7AF O Plan 427-66. (7AF O Plan 427-66)
  • The RAAF provided RAAF Airfield Defence Guards (ADGs) for external perimeter fence ‘ground defence duties’ (they patrolled out to 40 kilometres from the base). The USAF provided a USAF Air Police Squadron for internal perimeter fence duties (they were not allowed to patrol outside the base). Attacks using standoff weapons such as rockets and mortars accounted for 96 per cent of ground attacks on main operating bases during the war. This outside patrol role by RAAF ADGs was to counter this threat.
  • RAAF aircraft were being employed in the defence of an air base from which offensive operations were being mounted against North Vietnam could be considered by North Vietnam and Communist China as being similar to participation in the actual offensive operation. (Defence Committee 1965)
  • RAAF ADGs entered Laos covertly and illegally collecting intelligence information regarding bombing targets in Laos and passed this to USAF authorities in contravention of the 1954 and 1961 Geneva Accords that made Laos a neutral country. (July 1962 agreement signed recognising Laos neutrality) (Aust. Military Attache, Bangkok; SEAReview evidence)
  • The RAAF, as required, maintained and performed these allotted duties until released from duty by the Commander USAF 7th Air Force, Headquarters at Tan Son Nhut, Vietnam, wef. 27 July 1968. (File 566/2/311)