Tales From The Ho Chi Minh Trail Sam Missiles

Surface To Air Missile Sites in Laos.


Sam Missile near Attapue pic credit; Clive A Hills

Sam’s (Surface to Air Missiles) were used as air defence against American planes in Vietnam and Laos, with a huge degree of success. Flying through the sky at Mach 3 and guided by radar, once the SAM was close enough to its target it  exploded.  If the pursued pilots managed to spot the missile, they had a good chance of getting out of the way.  Many though, were not so lucky.

Pa Am Attapue
Missile Information

By the late 60’s the Vietnamese had Sam sites along the length of the Ho Chi Minh Trail.  These were defense rings around areas or towns they wished to protect from air raids. The electronics officers would sit inside small vehicles, which were effectively radar monitoring operations rooms.  Once the radar had picked up inbound aircraft, they would track them. Then,  locked onto aircraft, the Missile would be fired and left to hone in onto its target.

Can be found in Gnommalad.
Radar Tracking Truck. Pic Ciaran McCann
Transportation Vehicles
Sam Site near Hanoi, shows layout

After a while the Vietnamese became expert in this tracking.  So the Americans then had to come up with a way to stop their planes getting shot down.  The Americans had the electronics capability to jam the radar, but they had to pick up the Sam signal first in order to block it.  That meant that the Sam was already tracking their aircraft, which was often too late to save it and the pilot.

They painted it
Sams on the move.Pic Tri Min Duong.

The Wild Weasels.

The Americans had formed group called the Wild Weasels.  This was basically a pilot, and an electronics weapons operator in the back seat, who would fly ahead of the main flight.  Their aircraft was fitted out with a special radar in its nose cone.  The aircraft, would then seek out and locate Sam Missle sites, attack, and hopefully destroy them.

You can see where these came from

If your riding around Laos there are two such missiles on display.  One is in a government building in Gnommalad, and the other in Pa-Am Attapue.  The missile in Pa-Am Attapue is a complete version of the weapon. Both have been restored and made a feature of their respective displays.

Found a few of these Rocket booster

The Russians shot down a U2 spy plane using one of these missiles, their capabilities were scary.

The Ho Chi Minh Trail Tour -The Road To Freedom 4×4 Truck Tour

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *