The Air Force Museum is a highly important reference point in the retelling of the Vietnam War story in Hanoi. While Hoa Lo Prison and the B-52 Victory Museum are arguably more evocative war memorial sites, it offers a revealing look at how the war was won and lost in the air, albeit with a distinct pro-Vietnam slant.
It charts the history of the Vietnam People’s Air Force (VPAF) from its inception in 1954, through to the present day.
The main building showcases displays about the history of the VPAF, including various artifacts and equipment salvaged from downed aircraft, as well as glowing biographies of the VPAF’s most celebrated fighter pilots. Outside is a large park dotted with wartime fighter jets, helicopters, and anti-aircraft weaponry. Factor in one to two hours to explore it all at leisure.
Exhibits at the Air Force Museum
The outdoor section is the most popular with aircraft mounted on plinths allowing visitors to stroll around and snap photos in the sunshine. There is a fairly comprehensive collection of mostly Russian-made fighter jets including MIGs, helicopters, amphibious light aircraft, and rusty ground-to-air missile launchers. It also includes pieces of wreckage from ‘war trophies’ of downed US planes.
Each has a plaque with snippets of information many are very brief and don’t do it justice. Indoors, there is a treasure trove of small artifacts ranging from pilot uniforms, small decommissioned missiles, rifles, old air command center machinery, and black and white photographs of wartime pilots.
Perhaps the most interesting – and certainly the most surprising – section is the Interkosmos Soviet space program display. It’s a little-known fact the USSR sent a Vietnamese cosmonaut into space in 1980. There are interesting items of this time on display, such as remnants of a space capsule.
The museum is situated at the edge of the now-disused Bach Mai Airfield, in the Bach Mai District of Hanoi. This was the command center for the Vietnamese People’s Air Force during the Vietnam War. It can be reached easily by taxi from the Old Quarter, which takes about 20 minutes, or by taking the No 24 bus to Truong Chinh Street.
Address: 173c Truong Chinh, Thanh Xuan, Hanoi, Vietnam
Phone: +84 24.35630630
Hours: Daily (excluding Friday) 8 – 11 am & 1 – 4 pm