An official website of the United States government
Here's how you know
A .mil website belongs to an official U.S. Department of Defense organization in the United States.
A lock (lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .mil website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Feature Search

Operation Linebacker provides lessons for long-duration sorties

  • Published
  • By the 36th Wing Public Affairs Office
This month marks the 37th anniversary of Operation Linebacker I - an air operation executed from Andersen Air Force Base aimed at disrupting North Vietnamese supply routes and reinforcement units fighting in the south.

Today, long-endurance air missions like Polar Lightning, in which 13th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron aircrew fly a nearly 10,000 nautical mile round-trip mission to Alaska, face similar hurdles as those sorties flown during Operation Linebacker I in 1972.

"The physical challenges haven't changed for Airmen on long sorties today," said Lt. Col. Jason Armagost, 13th EBS commander. "Intellectual demands on aircrew to plan and execute missions are still there also. What stands out now is the employment of better weapons and stealth technology. This allows for a much more effective allocation of forces to meet political objectives and strategies while placing fewer Airmen at risk."

Operation Linebacker I represents the first time that American aircraft employed precision-guided weapons, specifically laser-guided bombs, to attack critical objectives. Such key targets included the bridge at Thanh Hoa, which had survived previous air operations, and the highway and railroad bridges over the Red River at Hanoi.

"For the guys on the ground, Linebacker I changed the tone of the war," Colonel Armagost said. "Linebacker I helped stop the North Vietnamese Easter offensive and let U.S. forces gain and keep control of the skies."

Andersen's strategic location and bomber presence also had an effect on political relations between the United States and North Vietnam.

"It is widely acknowledged that Linebacker brought the North Vietnamese back to the table at the Paris peace talks and signaled the end of the conflict," Colonel Armagost said.

President Richard Nixon's use of air power to disrupt supply lines and exterminate the enemy on the battlefield stopped the offensive and helped drive back the enemy without a reintroduction of the ground forces previously withdrawn from the south.