The F-102 Delta Dagger (Jan 1969)
The F-102 Delta Dagger first began to re-equip PACAF fighter interceptor squadrons in March 1959. By June 1960 five squadrons had received the F-102; the 4th FIS at Misawa AB, Japan, the 16th FIS at Naha AB, Okinawa, the 40th FIS at Yokota AB, Japan, the 68th FIS at Itazuke AB, Japan, and the 509th FIS at Clark AB, Philippines. It was the last named squadron that bore much of the burden of combat duty in Southeast Asia. The F-102 first arrived in the war zone for air defence duties as early as August 1961 when four aircraft from the 509th FIS deployed to Bangkok’s Don Muang Airport in Thailand under the code name Bell Tone. The 509th FIS also sent four aircraft to Tan Son Nhut on 22 March 1962 following reports of possible North Vietnamese aircraft activity south of the DMZ. The early F-102 rotations to Southeast Asia consisted on routine GCI missions but no threat ever transpired. The F-102 detachments returned to Clark in May 1963. On 5 August 1964, following the escalation of the war after the Gulf of Tonkin Incident, six F-102s of the 16th FIS were sent to Tan Son Nhut and operated as a detachment of Clark’s 405th FW. A further six aircraft from the 509th FIS arrived at Da Nang the same day. F-102 detachments remained in Southeast Asia but by July 1965 the 509th FIS was the last F-102 squadron left in PACAF as all the other squadrons had re-equipped with the F-4C. Despite an inventory of 42 Delta Daggers the 509th FIS had difficulty maintaining the detachments at Bien Hoa, Da Nang, Tan Son Nhut, Udorn and Don Muang, so two F-102 squadrons were transferred from the USA as reinforcements. The 82nd FIS arrived at Naha on 18 February 1966 while the 64th FIS deployed to Clark on 11 June 1966. The 64th joined the 509th FIS in providing detachments to the bases in Southeast Asia.
Although air defence was the F-102’s primary task the aircraft was also used for combat air patrol, Arc Light escort, and even close air support and air interdiction. The F-102s were known to have used their infra-red seekers to search for traffic on the Ho Chi Minh Trail and fire Falcon air-to-air missiles at blips on the radar. The aircraft also used 2.75 inch unguided rockets against ground targets, but without much success. The last F-102 lost in Southeast Asia crashed on 7 January 1969. On 15 December 1969 the 64th FIS was inactivated at Clark leaving the 509th to soldier on until 24 July 1970. The last F-102 squadron in PACAF was the 82nd FIS, which inactivated at Naha on 31 May 1971, thereby bringing to an end the F-102’s 12-year service in PACAF.