Virtual Lecture - A ‘fruitful association’: The Royal Australian Air Force and the Vietnam War

16 March 2023

At 12.00pm on Thursday 16 March 2023, Dr Ross Mahoney will explore the Royal Australian Air Force’s role in the Vietnam War and its positive relationship with the US Air Force. The lecture will be live-streamed via Crowdcast.

A contingent of the Royal AUSTRALIAN Air Force arrives at Tan Son Nhut Airport, Saigon, to work with the South Vietnamese and U.S. Air Forces in transporting soldiers and supplies to combat areas in South Viet-nam. August 10, 1964.

Talk Outline

In 1970, the United States Air Force’s (USAF) Contemporary Historical Examination of Current Operations (CHECO) project published an analysis of the air operations of the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) over Vietnam. Established in 1962, Project CHECO produced over 250 reports documenting various aspects of the experience of the air war over Vietnam. The report on the RAAF, authored by James T. Bear, argued that the Australian effort over Southeast Asia led to the development of a ‘fruitful association’ with the USAF. However, while often quoted by historians, the RAAF was not included on the distribution list for this publication when it was published.

Based on this author’s ongoing research into the RAAF’s air operations over South Vietnam, this paper seeks to consider why this so-called fruitful association emerged. The RAAF first deployed to Vietnam in 1964, and the final aircraft left in early 1972. RAAF operations ranged from air strikes using Canberra bombers to the experience of those officers who served with the USAF as Forward Air Controllers. Placing these RAAF operations within their coalition context, this paper considers how Australia integrated its air operations into the larger US military framework in Vietnam. It then considers some of the challenges that confronted the RAAF over Vietnam while highlighting its experience in theatre. The paper will also reflect on the legacy of this ‘fruitful association’ for the RAAF in the years after the Vietnam War. Finally, in considering the above issues, this paper seeks to place the RAAF’s effort into the broader ‘air wars’ narrative of the Vietnam War as opposed to its current place within Australian military historiography.


This virtual lecture will be held on the Museum’s Crowdcast channel on Thursday 16 March at 12.00pm.


This lecture is free to attend via the RAF Museum’s Crowdcast channel but registration is required. Booking is quick and easy.

About Ross Mahoney

Dr Ross Mahoney is an independent scholar specialising in the history of war with particular reference to the use of air power and the history of air warfare. He is currently the Senior Historian within the City Architecture and Heritage Team at Brisbane City Council in Australia. Between 2013 and 2017, he was the Historian at the Royal Air Force Museum in the UK. In Australia, he has worked as a Historian for the Department of Veterans’ Affairs and the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre at The Australian National University based at the Australian War College. His other research interests include transport history and urban history. To date, he has published several chapters and articles, edited two books, and delivered papers on three continents.

About the RAF Museum Research Programme

The RAF Museum’s 2023 programme includes Lunchtime Lectures at the RAF Museum, Cosford; Air Power Lectures, co-organised with the Centre for War and Diplomacy at Lancaster University; and Air Power Seminars, co-organised with the University of Wolverhampton. You can attend these lectures in person or join us online as we live-stream from the venue.