UPDATED: 28 Dec 04

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No. 2


Royal Australian 

Air Force

Insignia of No. 2  Squadron - The bird in the middle is a Magpie and the reason for 2SQN's Vietnam callsign Magpie.

Canberra A84-247 of No. 2 Squadron at Phan Rang in June of 1970

No. 2 Squadron

No 2 Sqn based at Amberley in Queensland began replacing their Lincoln heavy bombers with the new Australian built Canberra Mk20s in December of 1953, by the end of 1954 they were a fully operational squadron.

 On 1July 1958 they transferred to the newly upgraded RAAF base at Butterworth in Malaysia to become part of the Far East Strategic Reserve and were joined there by No3 and 77 Sabre Squadrons later that same year. Although the Malayan Emergency was not formally declared over for another two years 2 Sqn played only a minor role in that conflict, their main tasks were in training exercises with other units in the area and showing the flag.

In April of 1967 the Sqn was transferred to Phan Rang Airbase Vietnam , assigned to the 35th Tactical Fighter Wing USAF.

Because the distances were comparatively short and they did not need their tip tanks for normal operations bomb racks were quickly manufactured to replace them, this gave the Canberra a bomb load of up to eight bombs of 1,000 Lb weight. The standard bomb bay configuration was for six bombs on two triple carriers but due to problems with bombs hanging up the alternate system of six bombs on individual racks was used.

Operations began on April 23rd, the Squadron was tasked with eight sorties every 24hrs and they were mainly night and radar controlled Combat Skyspot strikes.

The bombs used during the early period came from Bomb Dumps throughout Australia , they had been around since the end of WW II and although old were certainly still good, in all some 27,568 of these used, after that standard USAF weapons were the norm. In order to accommodate the longer USAF bombs modifications to the bomb bay had to be carried out, this then allowed a standard load of 4x750s in bomb bay 2x750s on wing tips

 Canberras were better suited to precision level bombing and in this field achieved outstanding results. They had a Green Satin doppler navigation system, a bomb sight in which the navigator lay down in the nose of the aeroplane and a bombing intervalometer that would give very accurate spacing of bombs. If the primary target was not available they could go to another location or hang around for targets of opportunity often needing only one bomb per target. During bad weather and especially in the monsoon season when dive bombing by USAF planes was not an option they could go in under the clouds, in extreme cases as low as 800ft.

Although minor damage from ground fire or even shrapnel damage from their own bombs was fairly common on the3rd November 1970 A84-231became the first casualty for the Squadron .The aircraft had just delivered a strike and was turning away from the target when it disappeared ,to this day no trace of the crew Flag Officer Michael Herbert  and Pilot Officer Robert Carver or the wreckage has been found.

On March 14 1971 A84-228 had just started itís run in on a target north of Khe Sanh when it was hit by a SAM and both crew members were forced to eject, although suffering some injuries in the ejection Wing Cdr Downing and Flt Lt Pinches evaded capture by the Viet Cong and were eventually rescued by a US Army helicopter 27 hours later.

The Squadron flew itís last operational sortie on30 May 1971and they departed for Darwin on the 4th of June thus ending a 13 year period away from home for the unit.

Note:  Article by Rod Farquhar (Australian Vietnam Veteran)

No. 2 Squadron The first sorties were flow on 23 April.  The unit flew a total of 11,963 sorties during the war.  They lost two aircraft and two crewman.  They departed Vietnam on 4 June 1971. 

Aircraft: The Australian-built Canberra B. Mk 20 tactical bomber.  

All photographs taken in 1967 unless otherwise identified

A84-231 Cockpit.  Aircraft Missing-in-Action 3-11-70  
Birds Eye view of Phan Rang.  No. 2 Squadron is in the top center.
Another view from the air
No. 2 Squadron revetments as seen from the main hangar
Trial fitment of CBU dispenser to a Canberra P.R.

Bomb Preparation and Loading

1000 lb bombs ready for loading
No. 2 Squadron bomb prep area
A days supply of bombs ready for unloading
Installing nose pistols on 500 lb bombs
Installing dets and pistols on 500 lb bombs
Old and new, RAAF bombs 1945 - USAF bombs 1967
Tail pistol 500 lb bomb
Unloading 1,000 lb bombs in the No.2 Squadron area

Canberra A84-235 at Phan Rang in June 1970


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