Project CHECO Southeast Asia Report. USAF Search and Rescue, November 1967 - June 1969
Author(s)Overton, James B.
Contributor(s)PACIFIC AIR FORCES HICKAM AFB HI CHECO DIV
KeywordsMilitary Operations, Strategy and Tactics
Escape, Rescue and Survival
*SEARCH AND RESCUE
*AIR FORCE OPERATIONS
CHECO(CONTEMPORARY HISTORICAL EVALUATION OF COMBAT OPERATIONS)
AIRCREW RECOVERY MISSIONS
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AbstractWhen hostilities began in Southeast Asia, the Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Service was not fully prepared to enter into armed conflict. The assumption that wartime Search and Rescue (SAR) was an extension of peacetime SAR was in error. This was quickly recognized during the early days of the conflict. In 1964, the only rotary wing aircraft available to be deployed to SEA was the HH-43B assigned to the Local Base Rescue (LBR) units. The amphibious HU-16 and the HC-54 were the only fixed-wing aircraft available. Both these aircraft had a limited rescue and recovery capability. HC-54s, made available as command and control aircraft, were also limited in mission capability. The Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Service was forced to take helicopter aircraft from other Air Force missions to provide a partially adequate SAR capability in SEA. Even then it took three years to fully develop and position the required forces. In October 1965, six CH-3C helicopters, modified for combat rescue service, were deployed to SEA. After deployment and additional modifications, they were redesignated the HH-3E (Jolly Green Giant), and became increasingly responsible for the out-country Aircrew Recovery (ACR) mission in Laos, North Vietnam, and the Gulf of Tonkin. Twelve HH-43F (Pedros) were also configured for combat recoveries to augment the HH-43B which had been performing the out-country ACR mission since deployment in October 1964. By January 1967, HH-43 out-country missions had ended. The HC-54s were replaced by the HC-130H/P, a far more suitable aircraft for command and control. Quick access to a downed aircrew member was a crucial element in a successful recovery, but significantly faster helicopters were years away in development. Therefore, longer endurance was vitally necessary to enable the rescue craft to loiter on orbit nearer the areas in which aircraft were likely to be lost.
Project CHECO was established in 1962 to document and analyze air operations in Southeast Asia. Over the years the meaning of the acronym changed several times to reflect the escalation of operations: Current Historical Evaluation of Counterinsurgency Operations, Contemporary Historical Evaluation of Combat Operations and Contemporary Historical Examination of Current Operations. Project CHECO and other U.S. Air Force Historical study programs provided the Air Force with timely and lasting corporate insights into operational, conceptual and doctrinal lessons from the war in SEA.