Military Review English Edition September-October 2014 - Page 56

1973 and continued these over the necessary duration, perhaps it could have enabled the FANK’s—and the government’s—survival after the Paris Peace Accords. However, the U.S. Congress progressively closed the aid spigot that funded the ammunition and other supplies. In December 1974, Congress enacted an effective ceiling of $275 million on military aid for 1975, which included $200 million in appropriated funds and authority to use up to $75 million worth of materiel already in Defense Department stocks. This represented about $75 million less than the previous year’s program.18 By spring 1975, U.S. funding dried up; in April the FANK succumbed as it used its last rounds and flight hours in fighting the Khmer communists. A bright spot for Cambodia was the Khmer National Air Force. From its almost virtual destruction on the ground by an NVA sapper attack in January 1971, the resurrected air force grew in competence and capability until its demise in 1975.19 The U.S. Military Equipment Delivery Team, Cambodia, designed the force structure of the Khmer National Air Force mainly for counterinsurgency missions: close air support, resupply, and command and control. With an operational strength of 10,000 in January 1975, the Khmer National Air Force had 131 aircraft, of which 101 were operationally ready. That month it flew a remarkable 7,20 8 sorties, as compared to 5,134 sorties in January 1974. Its operational ready rate for the T-28 aircraft was 79 percent, compared to the U.S. Air Force standard of 71 percent.20 Reports from the U.S. defense attaché judged the caliber of the A Cambodian soldier grimaces as he prepares to fire a rocket into a suspected Viet Cong position in the Cambodian town of Saang, 23 April1970. Cambodian pilots as quickly approaching the skill level of their The U.S. investment in Cambodia from 1970 to Thai and South Vietnamese counterparts.21 When 1975 was unsuccessful for several reasons that includits end came on 17 April 1975, the Khmer National ed poor policies and administration as well as termiAir Force was the last effective fighting force in nating support when Cambodian forces were not yet Cambodia, and its determined resistance contrasted ready to defend their nation. If the United States had sharply with the South Vietnamese air force’s alprovided adequately funded, staffed, designed, and most total capitulation. Reasons for its effectiveness administered U.S. military aid programs starting in included good leadership and greater access to U.S. AP Photo/Mark Godfrey/Nash American embassy, the FANK still had not remedied its fundamental logistical weaknesses.15 The army remained road-bound because it had no ration system and could not operate away from village markets.16 While its tactics had improved slightly, a proper supply system still was lacking. One example of this supply issue was ammunition. The FANK fired about as much artillery ammunition as the entire South Vietnamese army—which was at least five times as large and was defending a much larger territory against an enemy that was better armed and several times bigger than the Khmer Communist army. Even an inexpert correspondent could see that the Cambodian commanders habitually used firepower to compensate for tactical and leadership deficiencies. As an official assessment by U.S. officers in Phnom Penh early in 1975 stated, “The Khmer Armed Forces [FANK] depend on firepower to win.”17 Yet, the FANK’s logistical system for feeding this demand was inadequate. 54 September-October 2014  MILITARY REVIEW