That time the CIA shot down an airplane with an AK-47…from a helicopter
By Chris Eger
“An Air Combat First” painting by Keith Woodcock in the CIA’s collection remembers the occasion that an Air America helicopter fought off an attack on a remote radar site just over the North Vietnamese border with Laos. (Photo: CIA)
Some 50 years ago this week, a helicopter that wasn’t officially there fended off an attack on a post that didn’t officially exist, with the help of a single Kalash.
During the Vietnam War, Lima Site 85 was a secret radar station atop a mountain in northeastern Laos known as Phou Phath staffed by U.S. Air Force personnel under civilian cover, guarded by Hmong commandos, and supplied by the CIA-run Air America cargo service. The important site — just 150 miles or so from the North Vietnamese capital of Hanoi as the bomber flies — became a valuable target once the word got out of its existence and on the afternoon of Jan. 12, 1968, four North Vietnamese AN-2 Colt biplanes armed with improvised bombs set out to attack the facility.
That’s when an unarmed civilian-marked Air America Co. UH-1 Huey flown by Ted Moore, which was delivering supplies to the base at the time, gave chase to the Vietnamese attack craft and soon