Birth of the Zorros
When the 56th Air Commando Wing began
operating out of Nakhon Phanom in the summer
of 1966, it was soon obvious that something had
to be done about the supply traffic on the Ho Chi
Minh Trail, which had increased in tempo as U.S.
involvement in the war had increased. The 56th
Wing’s legendary commander, COL Harry C.
“Heinie” Aderholt, prevailed on the Air Force to
let him add a squadron of AT-28Ds. That fall, the
606th was activated with 30 pilots and ten AT-28D-
5s, the more-capable upgrade created by Fairchild
Aircraft from ex-Navy T-28Bs. Jack Drummond
heard about the operation soon after. “I flew the
first detachment of pilots up from Bangkok to NKP.
When they told me what was up, I knew this was
the mission for me, because I knew everything there
was to know about the target. It would be a chance
to finally shoot back at all those guys who had been
shooting at me. I went to Hurlburt for T- 28 training,
and it only took four months till I was back.”
There were never more than 10 AT-28Ds
available to the 606th at any given time, yet they
led the entire Air Force in SEA for success over
the Trail. As Drummond recalled, “The big thing
the 606th had to overcome was the USAF wanted
all-jets and we weren’t. The T-28s and A-26s
were responsible for 70-75% of trucks killed on
the Trail before the introduction of the AC-130.
Seventh AF got so embarrassed that they stopped
differentiating between jets and props in their
monthly report, and just issued one combined
The age of the airplanes being used became
something of a joke as Drummond remembered,
“The command structure was that every mission
into Laos had to be approved by the U.S.
Ambassador to Laos, who coordinated with the
commander of 7th Air Force. He signed himself
‘Sopwith Camel Company’ as reference to our old
T-28D: North American
converted 321 T-28Ds
from T-28As, some of
which were bought on
the civilian market, for
the ground attack COIN
role, between 1960-1969.
Powered by the R1820,
with two . 50 caliber guns
in pods and four ordnance
pylons underwing, T-28Ds
were supplied to the
PHOTOS COURTESY OF MIR ZAFRIZ, ROBERT F. DORR, MORMILLO
VNAF, ;ai, Laotian and
Cambodian Air Forces and
used as fighter-bombers.
;e 200 T-28D-5s had
a wing modified to carry
ammo for the gun inside,
with three pylons under
each wing. Seventy-two
T-28B and T-28C trainers
were modified by Fairchild
as AT-28Ds. Five T-28Ds
operated by the Honduran
Air Force participated in
the 1969 “Soccer War.”
YAT-28E Turbo Trojan: Shortcomings
demonstrated by T- 28 operations in Vietnam led
the Air Force to consider upgrading the T- 28. North
American produced the YAT-28E Turbo Trojan, powered by a 2,445-hp Lycoming Y T-55L- 9 turboprop.
;e redesigned nose made the aircraft 3 feet longer
than a standard T- 28; it was further modified with
a strengthened wing with 12 pylons. ;e prototype
crashed March 27, 1963. Two further YAT-28Es were
evaluated in 1964. ;e Air Force decided modification to that standard would be too expensive and the
program was canceled in 1965.
T-28S Fennec: In 1959, the French Air Force purchased 148 T-28As for use in Algeria. Pacific Airmotive
produced a single pattern aircraft similar to the T-28D.
;e T-28S is visually di;erent from the T-28D by the
addition of an air scoop immediately forward of the windshield. Sud Aviation in France carried out conversions
with French instrumentation, sand filters, armor protection, underwing pods with two 7.62mm machine guns
each. Following use in Algeria, Fennecs were operated by
the Moroccan Air Force; nine were sold to the Haitian Air
Force. Argentina purchased 62 French Fennecs in 1967 for
the Navy and Air Force, as the T-28P. Nine were sold to
F A s
T-CH-1: (no photo available) ;e last development of
the T- 28 involved modification of 50 A models of the
Chinese Nationalist Air Force with a 1,450-shp Lycoming
T-53-L-701 turboprop driving a three-blade propeller.
;e T-CH-1 entered Chinese service in 1981 as a trainer,
with performance comparable to the T-28B and was the
most powerful turboprop trainer in the world.