At the height of the Cold War, America's most elite aviators bravely volunteered for a covert program aimed at eliminating an impossible new threat. Half never returned. All became legends. From New York Times bestselling author Dan Hampton comes one of the most extraordinary untold stories of aviation history.Read more...
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At the height of the Cold War, America's most elite aviators bravely volunteered for a covert program aimed at eliminating an impossible new threat. Half never returned. All became legends. From New York Times bestselling author Dan Hampton comes one of the most extraordinary untold stories of aviation history.
Vietnam, 1965: On July 24 a USAF F-4 Phantom jet was suddenly blown from the sky by a mysterious and lethal weapon a Soviet SA-2 surface-to-air missile (SAM), launched by Russian "advisors" to North Vietnam. Three days later, six F-105 Thunderchiefs were brought down trying to avenge the Phantom. More tragic losses followed, establishing the enemy's SAMs as the deadliest anti-aircraft threat in history and dramatically turning the tables of Cold War air superiority in favor of Soviet technology.
Stunned and desperately searching for answers, the Pentagon ordered a top secret program called Wild Weasel I to counter the SAM problem fast. So it came to be that a small group of maverick fighter pilots and Electronic Warfare Officers volunteered to fly behind enemy lines and into the teeth of the threat. To most it seemed a suicide mission but they beat the door down to join. Those who survived the 50 percent casualty rate would revolutionize warfare forever.
"You gotta be sh*#@ing me " This immortal phrase was uttered by Captain Jack Donovan when the Wild Weasel concept was first explained to him. "You want me to fly in the back of a little tiny fighter aircraft with a crazy fighter pilot who thinks he's invincible, home in on a SAM site in North Vietnam, and shoot it before it shoots me?"
Based on unprecedented firsthand interviews with Wild Weasel veterans and previously unseen personal papers and declassified documents from both sides of the conflict, as well as Dan Hampton's own experience as a highly decorated F-16 Wild Weasel pilot, The Hunter Killers is a gripping, cockpit-level chronicle of the first-generation Weasels, the remarkable band of aviators who faced head-on the advanced Soviet missile technology that was decimating fellow American pilots over the skies of Vietnam."
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2015-04-13
- Reviewer: Staff
Hampton (Viper Pilot), a former U.S. Air Force pilot, offers an incongruous mixture of an in-the-cockpit air combat chronicle entwined with a detailed and opinionated analysis of the Vietnam War. The air-combat sections zero in on pilots who flew the U.S. aircraft known as Wild Weasels. These were most often F-105 and F-100 jet fighter bombers with new, secret electronic countermeasure equipment that detected, suppressed, and destroyed North Vietnamese missile and anti-aircraft sites. In these sections, Hampton uses the words of surviving Wild Weasel aviators to imaginatively recreate dramatic and dangerous missions over enemy territory. He focuses on the use of American air power in extensive but stuffy sections on the war’s history, offering his opinions on the war’s origins and the policymaking of presidents Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon. Hampton places the blame for the war’s outcome on both civilian political leaders and the top military leadership, especially Defense Secretary Robert McNamara and Gen. William Westmoreland. The “most significant strategic error,” he says, was “neither recognizing nor admitting that the conflict was a civil war.” Hampton’s aviator action reconstructions are gripping, but their effectiveness is diminished by the drier sections of military history. (June)