By James Mesko
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Additional info for Airmobile: The Helicopter War in Vietnam (Vietnam Studies Group Series 6040)
55 In any case, interdiction belts in the panhandle became tainted by their similarity to Secretary of Defense McNamara’s barrier concept, which sought to replace the bombing of North Vietnam with a physical barrier to infiltration along the northern edge of South Vietnam and across the Ho Chi Minh Trail in Laos. 56 Secretary McNamara’s disillusionment with the bombing of North Vietnam moved in a direction opposite from that of most of his military subordinates. They had strongly disapproved of Rolling Thunder’s gradualism from the outset, but continued to argue for gradually increasing the campaign’s intensity as the best approach they could get from the President.
Sharp rebuked both sides, declared that he was fed up with excuses, and emphasized his expectation that the route package system would be made to work. 54 The resulting arrangements did not permit Air Force interdiction belts in the Navy portion of the North Vietnamese panhandle, and the Air Force ceased to push that idea. General Momyer in Saigon was more interested in bombing the Red River Delta, as was Admiral Sharp. Momyer tended to express his preference for bombing the delta in terms of the greater concentration of enemy supplies there.
By the summer of 1966, two improvements had been made to Iron Hand. The slower F–100Fs were replaced by two-seat F–105F Wild Weasels (like the twoseat F–100Fs, originally trainer aircraft with the space necessary for detection equipment plus an electronic warfare officer* to use it), and the target-marking rockets were replaced by the Navy’s radar-seeking Shrike missiles. The Shrike warhead’s thousands of small steel cubes did not appear to have much success destroying revetted radar equipment but did threaten launch personnel sufficiently for them to shut down radar operations temporarily.