3/17 ARC Crest.Gif





Silver Spurs
A Troop, 3/17th Air Cav


161 Recce Sqn.
Call sign "Possum"

During mid to late 1970, an Australian unit was working with A Troop which was flying OH-13 "Sioux" Scout ships. This admirable unit was transistioning to turbine-powered helicopters and our newly acquired OH-58A "Kiowas."

161st Kiowa.Gif
161 Recce Sqn -- Photo taken in 1971
Courtesy of Mike Rohde

Unfortunately, I had forgotten the name of the unit which was attached! With help from one of our Australian brothers - Alan Pratt - and their Australian net servers, I believe we have the answer. Below are copies of the emails which Alan forwarded to me from one of their Vet servers.


    Roger Young


Subject: Re: Can anyone help?


Frank Benfield has responded to your request and I can confirm that the unit in question is 161 (Independent) Reconnaissance Flight. Our pilots were attached to A Troop, 3/17th Air Cav for about a month at a time during 1969-71. In 1971 some of our pilots and maintenance personnel did conversion training on the OH-58A's for about a week.

    2Lt Mal Smith was attached from 1 - 30 Nov 69,
    Lt Dave Earley was attached from 6 Jun - 4 Aug 70 and
    Lt Digby Macworth from 7 Mar - 8 Apr 71.

161 (Indep) Recce Flt was based at Nui Dat from March 67 until Sep/Oct '71 when it moved back to Vung Tau.

In July 1971 the unit took delivery of the first of eight OH-58A's on loan from the US Army. The last of these aircraft was returned in March 1972.

The first OH-58A Kiowa's arrived in the unit on 24 July 71 and began operational service on the 28th after being painted with Australian markings.

If there is any further information needed please do not hesitate to contact me.


    Len Avery



Members of the Fleet Air Arm may have been attached to A Troop, 3/17 Air Cav but they certainly didn't fly Bell 47 Sioux's in Vietnam, that honour was left to the pilots of 161 Recce Flt and 161 (Indep) Recce Flt.


    Len Avery


3 officers.Jpg
Pictured at right is Dave Earley - 'Possum' 22 & Silver Spur 22 - Scout Platoon,
of the 161 Recce Sqn. (Australian) - TDY to A Troop, 8 Jun '70 - 4 Aug '70 and 14-18 Oct '70.

Photo courtesy of Charles R. Womble - Silver Spur 26, Lift Platoon Leader.

Earley's Patch.Gif
Courtesy of Dave Earley



The Unit involved was 161 or at least parts of it. Various pilots and ground crew served with this American Unit and some others during 161's time, 1965-72, in Vietnam. The period mentioned sounds like the transition training that many of us did to the OH58-A or Bell Jetranger military equivalent. 161 leased about 8 of these from the US Army's 5th Aviation detachment during the latter stages of the War. As the OH13 "Sioux" were rotated home for their E Servicings they were not replaced, rather the OH58-A "Kiowas " took over.

You could ask the bloke involved to contact me and Len Avery if he wants some specific info. I was one of those who did the training on the OH58s. Incidentally, the Aussie Army still operates a variant of the OH58-A today which makes the RAAF claims about the longevity of their "Pigs", the F111 a bit thin. But then the RAAF has always been a bit loose with the facts of Army Aviation!!!!! Jealousy is a powerful factor blinding the Crab heirarchy. <:-))

Frank Benfield



I noticed only 3 names from 161 Recce Sqn. I'm pretty sure a bloke named Graeme Wright was also attached to 3/17 at that time. Possibly also a Peter Bysouth (still on active duty with the Australian Army as a Colonel).

Mal Smith is now head of Pacific Helicopters in Papua New Guinea. I don't know either of the other 2 names. If you like, I can try to track down whoever was there.

The 161 Recce Squadron recently moved to Darwin, having been at Holsworth from the time it left Vietnam until a couple years ago.

There were three main Australian helicopter groups in Vietnam. One was 161 Independent Recce Flight of the Australian Army which had Bell Sioux's and Cessna 180's. They were the ones attached to 3/17th.

Another was 9 Squadron, Royal Australian Air Force (UH-1D's and H's) which had a couple Royal Australian Navy pilots on attachment at any given time. They were based at Vung Tau.

The other group was a Royal Australian Navy Flight Detachment comprising pilots, crewmen and mechanics who were thrown in together with a bunch of US Army personnel to form the 135th Aviation Company of the 1st Aviation Brigade. They had UH-1C gunships and UH-1D and H-model slicks -- all US Army inventory. Their callsign was "EMU" -- not so much for the large, flightless Australian bird but rather an acronym for "experimental military unit".

Let me know if you would like me to try to contact any former "Possums" who were attached to "Silver Spurs".

Best regards,
Dan Tyler
formerly "Gentleman Dan" a.k.a. "North Flag Yellow-One"
C/229 AHB, 1 ACD, 1970-71




I saw your letter to the Web page of the Spurs about Aussies who served with the 3rd/17th. For info, there were quite a few, usually doing one month each before rotating with the next candidate. Mal Smith was with them when they were equipped with the OH-6A. I went just as they got the OH-58, a very unpopular change which tripled their loss rate until they stopped trying to do with a 58 what they had done with the OH6.

I wanted time in each type and was lucky enough to get 75 hrs UH-1, 25 hrs front seat AH-1G (including trips in the one equipped with a 20mm cannon under the left sponson, [see photo below] and 110 hrs PIC scout. I finagled 6 weeks in June/July '70 including the Cambodia incursion, plus a return for a few days prior to end of tour .

I do not recall there being any intent to "train" Aust pilots. Rather it was a neat "deal" that someone cooked up which we all took every advantage of. Our FW drivers had the same arrangement with the Big Daddies, an Otter Transportation Company down south somewhere.

You mentioned Pete Bysouth. I can't remember Pete doing an exchange but I did take him on a mission near Courtney Rubber on the northern edge of the Aust AO with the Spurs as an observer in my 58. He will recall his physical pain when the very real limitations of the older style helmets became evident. The mini gun out his side had him rocking back and forth in agony because of the lack of noise attenuation.

Digby Macworth was a 161 pilot who was a Pom and went back that way shortly after VN I think. Others that were with 3/17 were Peter Rogers (B troop), Tom Partridge, Reg Ellwood (Kiwi Army with 161, had the tip of his nose shot off with 3/17 as a scout), and several others I'm sure. If ANYONE looked like missing out it would have been a major disappointment.

Mal Smith had a bird ingestion induced engine failure with subsequent auto, chopped the boom off. Yanks threatened to not allow "foreign" pilots to fly PIC. I had an observer shot through the hip while a feeder delinker was being changed during a hot rearm on a 58.. same reaction initially.

On my wall are my Cav Hat, Spur patches (actually it says Possum Silver Spur 22), and a plaque from the observers I flew with. We had some fun. It was probably the most enjoyable part of my tour in SVN.


Dave Earley -- Chief Pilot/Ops Manager for Aeropower




June '08
Possum Web Site: 161 Possums Home Page




"Super" Snake!

Super Snake1.Gif

One of the first of its kind, if not the first of its kind, the Silver Spur Snake above was outfitted with a Vulcan cannon mounted under its left wing. The Vulcan was installed for the '70 Cambodian incursion because the rockets failed to penetrate the reinforced enemy bunkers. On its initial testing the ferocious muzzle blasts put holes in the side of the fuselage next to the gunner and the latches on the canopy failed. Plating was installed to protect the fuselage, the vital flight controls and wiring harness on the left side of the fuselage. Canopy locks were also altered.

Super Snake 2.Gif

This is the business end of the T171 Vulcan cannon which fires a mixed load of 20mm rounds (incendiary, high explosive, armor piercing, tracer) at rates up to 6,000 rounds-per-minute! The Vulcan was also used on F-4's, F-104's, F-105's & B-58's. This particular Cobra was named, Pistol Pete and the last three digits of its tail number are 075. -- Roger Young -- Silver Spur webmaster

Photos Courtesy of Larry "Chance" Hughes -- FAC Pilot, 19 TASS, Rash Fac -- Quan Loi 1970

[Please see A Troop History - 1 Jan '70 through 31 Dec '70 for more Quan Loi photos from Larry]