Possums & Bird Dogs: Australian Army Aviation's 161 Reconnaissance Flight in South Vietnam

By Peter Nolan | Go to book overview

Prologue

The story of Army Aviation begins before the days of the First World War, a conflict in which Army pilots flew their vulnerable little aeroplanes in dizzying duels with their opponents and lived and died according to a code of chivalry unseen in later wars. The aeroplane’s potential as a weapon of war was not then fully appreciated, but it was already apparent that an observer could see much further, and in much more detail, from the basket of a tethered balloon. The cockpit of an aircraft was an even better vantage point as it could be moved as required to extend the view or to gain a sharper focus. In this way, airborne visual reconnaissance techniques were born.

Technological advances brought new capabilities. Airborne radio communications enabled reconnaissance pilots to provide immediate information on the movements of enemy forces to commanders on the ground. They could observe the impact of artillery shells and quickly bring the big guns on to target. The advent of airborne photography permitted hard evidence to be provided to sceptical command staff. A hundred and one uses were soon found for aircraft in support of tactical, liaison and logistic support operations, and the introduction of light observation helicopters in the early 1950s marked the beginning of a new era. A helicopter could operate from a small landing zone instead of the airstrip required by its fixed wing

-xvii-

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