Phạm Tuân

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Phạm Tuân
Vietnam People's Air Force / Intercosmos Research Cosmonaut
Nationality Vietnamese
Status Retired
Born (1947-02-14) February 14, 1947 (age 75)
Thái Bình, Vietnam
Previous occupation
Rank Vietnam People's Air Force Lieutenant General.jpg Lieutenant General, Vietnam People's Air Force
Time in space
7d 20h 42m
Selection 1979 Intercosmos Group
Missions Soyuz 37 / 36
Mission insignia
Soyuz37 patch.png
Awards Hero of the Soviet Union — 1980Hero of the People's Armed ForcesHero of Labor (Vietnam)Ho Chi Minh OrderOrder of Lenin

Phạm Tuân (born February 14, 1947) is a retired Vietnam Air Force aviator. He became the first Vietnamese citizen and the first non-Russian Asian in space when he flew aboard the Soyuz 37 mission as an Intercosmos Research Cosmonaut.[1][2] He was awarded the title Hero of the Soviet Union.

Early life and military career

Pham Tuan was born in Quốc Tuấn, Thai Binh province in northern Vietnam. He joined the VPAF, or Vietnam People's Air Force (North Vietnamese Air Force) in 1965, was later commissioned as a combat officer. He flew interceptor missions in a MiG-21 jet fighter against United States aircraft during the Vietnam War.

On the night of December 27, 1972, during Operation Linebacker II (also referred to as the Christmas Bombings), then Major Pham engaged a USAF Strategic Air Command (SAC) B-52 Stratofortress heavy bomber with air-to-air missiles. He reported his missiles struck the B-52, and claimed his attack caused it to go down in flames. This claim, which would be the only B-52 downed in aerial combat, is disputed by the US government. The U.S. states that the B-52 was downed by a surface-to-air missile, as were all other B-52s shot down during the campaign. No additional evidence has been presented to verify the claims of the US.[3] In book named "Hà Nội - Điện Biên Phủ trên không" (Hanoi - the Battle of Dien Bien Phu in the air) of Nguyễn Minh Tâm, published by Nhà xuất bản Quân đội Nhân dân Việt Nam (Viet Nam People's Army Publishing House), the author affirms that in the range of 4 kilometres between the B-52 and MiG-21, Phạm Tuân definitely shot down the B-52 by two air-to-air missiles of K-13 (missile).[4]

Phạm Tuân said because the B-52 was equipped with a large number of heat decoys, he had to get close to the target (in the range of 2-3 kilometres) in order to ensure destroying the B-52, although the safety range for launching missiles is at least 8 kilometres. After learning from the experiences of Vũ Đình Rạng, who is currently recognized as the first person to shoot down a B-52 in Vietnam, he launched two missiles. Due to launching one missile on November 20, 1971, Vũ Đinh Rạng only caused irreparable damage to the B-52, which landed in Thailand, he said. After Phạm Tuân, Vũ Xuân Thiều also shot down a B-52 but in suicide style as kamikaze. In Vietnam, Vũ Xuân Thiều is called the "third missile" that destroyed a B-52.[5]

Tuan received numerous high distinctions for his service, including the Ho Chi Minh Order. He also was awarded the Order of Lenin and the rare honor of being one of the few foreigners to receive the title "Hero of the Soviet Union".

Intercosmos program

Tuan reached the rank of lieutenant colonel in the VPAF before eventually training to be a research cosmonaut in the joint USSR-Vietnamese Space program. On April 1, 1979, he was selected as a member of the sixth international crew for the Intercosmos program. His backup was Bùi Thanh Liêm. Tuan, along with Soviet cosmonaut Viktor Gorbatko, was launched from Baikonur Cosmodrome on July 23, 1980, on board Soyuz 37 en route to the Salyut 6 station.

During his time in orbit, Tuan performed experiments on the melting of mineral samples in microgravity. He also carried out plant experiments on azolla and photographed Vietnam from orbit for mapping purposes. Tuan was in space for 7 days, 20 hours, and 42 minutes. He completed 142 orbits, and was returned to earth on July 31, 1980.

Personal life

Tuan is married and has two children. He is now a retired lieutenant general, director of the General Department of Defense Industry of the Ministry of Defense, and is a non-elected member of the Vietnam National Assembly.


  • Toperczer, Istvan. MiG-21 Units of the Vietnam War. 2001, Osprey Publishing Limited. ISBN 978-1-84176-263-0.
  1. Encyclopedia Astronautica (2007). "Salyut 6 EP-7". Encyclopedia Astronautica. Retrieved October 4, 2007.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. Man-In-Space Firsts
  3. Toperczer, p. 66
  4. Nguyễn Minh Tâm (chủ biên). Hà Nội - Điện Biên Phủ trên không. NXB Quân đội nhân dân. Hà Nội. 2008. p. 172.
  5. Nguyễn Minh Tâm (chủ biên). Hà Nội - Điện Biên Phủ trên không. NXB Quân đội nhân dân. Hà Nội. 2008.

External links