Republic Of Korea Air Force (ROKAF)
Information furnished by Jim Givens, Columbia, MO.
On 25 June 1950 the ROKAF had 64 rated pilots. The ROKAF Wing, based at Yoido Air Base, consisted of 8 L-4 and 4 L-5 liaison-type aircraft and 10 T-6 advance trainers.
The pilots of the ROKAF fought valiantly during the first three days of the war. Operating from Yoido Air Base (K-16) near Seoul the ROKAF flew 123 bombing sorties, dropping 500 hand grenades and 274 Korean-made 15-kilogram bombs by hand and from improvised bomb racks on the invading North Korean forces. In addition, they flew 165 reconnaissance and liaison sorties during those three days.
As their munitions were used up, on 28 June 1950 the remaining ROKAF aircraft withdrew from their original air bases near Seoul. During the first month of the war the ROKAF lost approximately half of its original aircraft, being reduced to 2 L-4s, 2 L-5s, and 7 T-6s.
On 26 June 1950 the US agreed to give 10 F-51 fighters to the ROK Air Force. The US Far East Air Force formed “Bout One”, an improvised training group commanded by Major Dean Hess, which consisted of 10 pilots, 4 ground officers and 100 enlisted men from the US Air Force. Ten ROK pilots, led by Colonel Lee Gun Suk, flew to Itazuke Air Base, Japan, received about half an hour of orientation, and flew the F-51s to Taegu Air Base, Korea, on 2 July 1950. At Taegu Air Base the ROKAF Wing flew joint training and ground attack missions with their USAF instructors. They flew their first combat missions on 3 July 1950.
During the war the ROKAF grew enormously, forming training, fighter, and reconnaissance and liaison units. By the end of the war the ROKAF included a full F-51 fighter wing, a training wing, and an aerial reconnaissance unit. In addition, the ROK Army included a reconnaissance and liaison unit.
When the ceasefire was signed on 27 July 1953 the ROKAF, headquartered at Taegu, consisted of 118 aircraft and 11,500 personnel. The 118 aircraft comprised 78 F-51s, 1 C-47, 17 T-6s, 6 L-16s, 6 L-5s, and 10 L-4s. F-51 pilots of the ROKAF flew about 8,500 combat missions during the war. Of the 115 ROK pilots who flew F-51 combat missions during the war, 39 flew 100 or more missions and 17 died in action.
The following is a simplified summary, ignoring minor nomenclature changes, of the growth and organizational changes of the ROK Air Force during the Korean War.
• F-51 Unit (3 July 1950 – 1 December 1950) Formed at Taegu Air Base on 3 July 1950 with 10 F-51s. Operated at various South and North Korean airfields until forced to withdraw by the November 1950 Chinese offensive.
• “Baekgu” Unit (3 April 1951 – 31 May 1951) The “Baekgu” Unit consisted of a detachment of ROKAF pilots flying F-51 Mustangs. It was supported, advised, and instructed by the USAF 6146th Air Base Unit. From 3 April 1951 to 31 May 1951 its Korean and American pilots flew 261 combat sorties in support of ROK Army units.
• 10th Air Combat Squadron (12 June 1951 – ceasefire) Formed on 12 June 1951. Became part of 10th Fighter Group on 1 August 1951.
• 10th Fighter Group (1 August 1951 – ceasefire) Operated as part of the newly activated 1st Fighter Wing from 1 August 1951 through 15 February 1953. Conducted independent anti-guerilla operations in support of the ROK Army during August and September of 1951. Began conducting independent interdiction and close air support missions during October 1951 and continued them throughout the war. On 15 February 1953 the 10th Fighter Group became part of the newly activated 10th Fighter Wing for the rest of the war.
Aerial Reconnaissance Units
• Reconnaissance Unit (1 July 1950 – 30 May 1951) Formed at Taejon Air Base on 1 July 1950 with 3 L-4s, 2 L-5s, and 2 T-6s. Generally, a detachment operated with each ROK Army corps. The ROK Army aviation unit formed in mid-May 1951 took over these responsibilities, and the ROKAF aircraft were re-assigned to other ROK units.
• T-6 Unit (3 July 1950 – May 1951) Formed at Taegu Air Base on 3 July 1950 with half a dozen T-6s. The ROKAF T-6s were armed with 7.7mm machine-guns and operated in support of the ROKAF’s F-51s. They were used for armed reconnaissance and forward air control. In May 1951 this unit was disbanded, and its T-6s were divided among the ROKAF’s F-51 units where they continued to be used for reconnaissance and liaison missions as well as for advanced flight training.
• 21st Aerial Reconnaissance Squadron (12 June 1951 – ceasefire)
• F-51 Unit (December 1950 – June 1951) Withdrew to Cheju Air Base in December 1950 and concentrated on pilot training. The “Beaekgu” Unit was a detachment of this unit that flew combat missions from forward Korean air bases.
• (June 1951 – June 1952) There was no separate unit specifically for training. Training was conducted by rear elements of the 1st Fighter Wing.
• 15th Aviation Training Wing (18 June 1952 – ceasefire) The 15th Aviation Training Wing was activated on 18 June 1952 to oversee and conduct pilot training for the ROKAF.
• 1st Fighter Wing (15 February 1953 – ceasefire)
Army Aviation Unit (mid-May 1951 – ceasefire)
• In mid-May 1951 the ROK Army formed an aviation unit that took over responsibility for liaison and reconnaissance missions for ROK Army units. This unit operated L-4 and L-5 aircraft, as well as at least one L-17 used for VIP transport.
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