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A-1 & HH-3 SAR Force
US Air Force Photo    
That Others May Live
Motto of the USAF Aerospace Rescue & Recovery Service


Probably the most satisfying mission to a FAC -- or any flyer -- was to assist in the rescue of a brother airman.

The Air Force had a dedicated search and rescue (SAR) force in Southeast Asia consisting initially of short-ranged HH-43 Huskie helicopters (call sign Pedro).   These later were replaced by specially equipped HH-3 Jolly Green Giant and HH-53 Super Jolly Green Giant helicopters.   Rescue helicopters were escorted by specially-trained pilots flying propeller-driven A-1 Skyraiders (call sign Sandy).   The A-1 was chosen for this mission because of its ruggedness, long endurance, heavy payload (equivalent to a World War II B-17) and ability to stay with the slower helicopters.   As the threat increased later in the war, this escort role was taken over by A-7D Corsair II jets.

When an aircraft was shot down during a close air support mission in South Vietnam, a FAC was usually on scene within a short time.   He relieved the orbiting wingmen of the downed crew when they ran low on fuel and had to return to base or look for a tanker.   The FAC would maintain visual and radio contact with the survivor(s) and act as a relay to the mobilizing SAR effort.   Depending on the location, alert SAR forces could be overhead in as little as 30 minutes.   Time was critical in affecting a successful rescue to deny the enemy a chance to organize their resistance.

When the Jolly Green helicopters and escorting Sandys arrived on scene, the FAC briefed the SAR on-scene commander (Sandy 01) on the situation and then got out of the way.   The Sandy pilots were FACs in their own right, well versed in the coordination of air assets in supporting the rescue effort.


Combat SAR Missions

Click on either photo below to link to a narrative and photographs
of a combat rescue mission in the A Shau Valley of South Vietnam.

  Jolly Green 23
June 9, 1968


HH-3E Jolly 
Green Giant
USAF Photo
Hammer 51
January 24, 1969


F-4C Phantom II
Photo courtesy of the
National Museum of the USAF
 


Link to overview of Combat Rescue in Southeast Asia

Link to Pararescuemen (PJs or Pararescue Jumpers) Page

More on PJs


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