Australia and the Vietnam War

DVA Logo
Print this page Reduce font size Increase font size

Royal Australian Navy (RAN)

9 Sqn RAAF detachment

Lieutenant Andy Craig, RAN from NSW, survived a crash landing while flying with the RANHFV in June 1968 and returned to Vietnam to complete his tour of duty with 9 Squadron. [Image courtesy of Seapower Centre – Australia]

Lieutenant Andy Craig, RAN from NSW, survived a crash landing while flying with the RANHFV in June 1968 and returned to Vietnam to complete his tour of duty with 9 Squadron. [Image courtesy of Seapower Centre – Australia]

In 1967 No. 9 Squadron was operating in direct support of the 1st Australian Task Force at Nui Dat. Late that year the squadron was re-equipped with larger Iroquois helicopters than those with which it had previously operated and its strength doubled to sixteen aircraft. Already heavily committed in Vietnam, Malaysia and at home, the RAAF was short of trained aircrew. The RAN was approached to help temporarily by providing pilots, eight of whom joined the squadron in 1968. As well as the RAN detachment, thirteen Royal New Zealand Air Force pilots also flew with 9 Squadron.

Flying with RAAF aircrews, RAN pilots provided covering fire for MEDEVAC aircraft and were sometimes asked to evacuate wounded soldiers in their single-stretcher helicopters. They escorted gunships in combat assaults and retrieved Special Air Service (SAS) patrols from enemy occupied areas, often performing ‘hot extractions’ when they were in contact with the enemy.

The squadron also conducted ‘people sniffer’ missions in a specially equipped helicopter fitted with sensors. As the helicopter flew low over the jungle canopy, the sensors would analyse air samples, detecting concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO2) gas. This would supposedly indicate a concentration of people or CO2 coming from air vents in underground enemy bunkers in the area.

  • 9 Squadron pilots flew ‘Sniffy’ missions in a specially equipped helicopters designed to detect concentrations of CO2 in the air. [Image courtesy of John Brown, through Seapower Centre – Australia]
  • Lieutenant Anthony Hill of the Royal Australian Navy at the controls of a 9 Squadron helicopter in February 1968.  Hill was the first of eight navy pilots who temporarily joined the squadron that year.  [AWM P01492.027]
  • Members of 9 Squadron RAAF in March 1968.  Royal Australian Navy pilot Anthony Hill is on the right of the group.  The men are signing a photograph which will be sent to British teenagers who have requested squadron autographs.  [AWM VN/68/0034/16]
  • A group photograph of 9 Squadron RAAF in 1968.  Squadron flying crew are at the bottom of the image in the darker khaki uniforms.  At the time Royal Australian Navy and Royal New Zealand Air Force personnel made up nearly a quarter of the squadron’s flying crew.  [AWM P02975.001]
  • Lieutenant Commander Rowley Alan Wadell-Wood of the Royal Australian Navy.  Waddell-Wood received the Distinguished Flying Cross for his service in Vietnam while on secondment with 9 Squadron RAAF.  AWM [P01002.109]

The RAN detachment remained in Vietnam until March-April 1969, enabling the RAAF to consolidate its pilot training program for Vietnam. Many of the RAN pilots also flew missions with the RAN Helicopter Flight (RANHFV) during their time in Vietnam.