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UPDATED: 28 Dec 04

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161st

Independent 

Reconnaissance Flight

 

 


161 Independent Reconnaissance Flight

Australian Army Aviation Corps

The First Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment arrived in Vietnam in 1965 and were under the operational control of the US Army’s 173rd Airborne Brigade at Bien Hoa. The Australian Army decided to deploy its own aviation element with 1RAR so the 161st Independent Reconnaissance Flight was formed and deployed in September.

Initial equipment consisted of two Sioux light observation helicopters and two Cessna 180 fixed wing liaison aircraft with a large contingent of RAAF technicians.

In mid 1966 1RAR was replaced by the First Australian Task Force (two battalions plus supporting units) and 161 IRF shifted to Vung Tau but this move was only temporary and they soon joined the Task Force at Nui Dat.

To enable them to carry out the much larger scale of operations the unit’s strength was increased to six Sioux and three Cessnas with the loan of an O-1 Bird Dog, ground crew were also increased in numbers. Their radio callsign Possums was to become their nickname for the duration.   

In the latter part of 1969 the Cessna’s were replaced by the PC-6 Turbo Porter a purpose built Army coop and utility aircraft 

Early 1971 saw the replacement of the Sioux with the Bell OH-58 Kiowa, initially eight being leased from the US Army, these aircraft were a major step up from the Sioux the last of which  did not leave til December. By this time it was known that the role of 1 Australian Task Force would soon be over and 161 Flight returned to Vung Tau in preparation for it’s return to Australia . The Kiowa’s were handed back to the US Army, the Porters dismantled and packed in shipping crates for HMAS Sydney and the remaining Sioux flown out in C-130 Hercules

Probably due to the fact that they were mostly unarmed and the nature of the missions they undertook the Flight lost 12 aircraft of various types and three pilots.

 

Note:  Article by Rod Farquhar (Australia Vietnam Veteran)


   
   
   
   
   
   
   


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