Staffed with inexperienced USAAF pilots and led by a handful of seasoned veterans of the American Volunteer Group (AVG), the 23rd FG was formed in the field at Kunming, in China, on July 4, 1942 and flew combat missions that same day. The group's three squadrons - the 74th, 75th and 76th Fighter Squadrons - were initially equipped with war-weary P-40s handed down from the AVG. These were supplemented by the attached 16th FS, flying new P-40Es, and all squadrons adorned the noses of their airplanes with fearsome and iconic sharksmouth designs.The 23rd FG fought a guerrilla war against the Japanese, steadily moving pilots and aircraft from one remote air base to another to keep the enemy off balance. Because China could only be supplied by air from India, there were constant shortages of aircraft, fuel and ammunition with which to contend. The 23rd FG met these challenges head-on and by the end of the war its pilots had compiled a score of 594 aerial victories and nearly 400 ground kills. Among the 47 aces who flew in the 23rd were colorful characters such as David L 'Tex' Hill, Robert L 'Bob' Scott and Clinton D 'Casey'. The human cost was high, however - 126 pilots lost their lives in China while serving in the 23rd.
Organized in January 1941, just as the United States was building up military forces for its inevitable entry into World War II, the 57th Fighter Group was the first USAAF fighter unit to go into action in North Africa. It went on to establish a number of other "firsts" during its illustrious combat history in this theater. Flying P-40 Warhawks, the pilots of the 57th entered combat in August 1942 and fought throughout the final Allied advance from El Alamein through the Axis surrender in Tunisia, the capture of Sicily and the invasion of Italy. Converting to the P-47D Thunderbolt in late 1943, the 57th continued pounding the retreating Axis forces in Italy until the end of the war in Europe. The 57th Fighter Group produced a number of aces during the war, and was also recognized for its pioneering achievements in the fighter-bomber role.
In the early 1970s, the USAF, still fresh in the mire of the Vietnam War, began the search for a more effective aircraft to conduct the CAS mission. With aircraft losses climbing, the need for an aircraft that could withstand punishment as well as deliver it was unmistakable. Looking at past experience in Southeast Asia as well as the present and future threat in Western Europe of a numerically superior Soviet Army, the USAF demanded that the new aircraft be built around a 30 mm cannon. Fairchild Republic won the resulting A-X competition in 1973 and General Electric was chosen the following year to build the jet's GAU-8 30 mm main gun. Some 715 A-10s were subsequently built between 1975 and 1984. The A-10 was never a favourite amongst the USAF's senior staff, and prior to Iraq's invasion of Kuwait in 1990 they had attempted to transfer the aircraft to the US Army and Marine Corps. Everything changed when Operation Desert Storm began, as the A-10 quickly showed what it was capable of. Reprieved from premature retirement, the A-10 would see combat in the Balkans during the mid-1990s and over Iraq in Operations Northern Watch and Southern Watch until Operation Iraqi Freedom began in 2003. Following the 11 September 2001 attacks in the United States, the Bush administration responded with the instigation of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan in October 2001. A-10 aircraft first entered the fray during Operation Anaconda in March 2002, flying first from an airfield in Pakistan and then from Bagram AB in Afghanistan. During Anaconda four A-10s flying from Pakistan provided 21 straight hours of FAC (A)/CAS coverage. Since then the flexibility of the A-10 has persisted, with units moving through airfields in Afghanistan under AEF deployments. This ongoing commitment has seen active duty, Reserve and Air National Guard squadrons rotating through Bagram and Kandahar airfields in support of Coalition forces in-theatre. The premier CAS aircraft in Afghanistan, the once disposable A-10 has become indispensable. With new upgrades, the 'digital' A-10C has seen its arsenal expanded to include the latest generation of ordnance. The untold story of the A-10 in Enduring Freedom will be explored and presented as never before through first hand interviews and photography from those involved, along with official military achieves. This title is the first of three planned covering the combat experience of the USAF's A-10 Thunderbolt II units. Follow-on volumes will examine the role of the Warthog during Operation Desert Storm and Operation Iraqi Freedom.
The untold story of A-10 units in Operation Enduring Freedom reaches its conclusion with this second of two volumes focusing on the type's combat missions in Afghanistan. Featuring numerous first-hand accounts and photography from those who experienced the conflict, along with imagery from official military archives, this book offers a unique and detailed insight into the record of the A-10 in one of the 21st Century's most significant conflicts.Initially, the A-10 Thunderbolt was not a favorite of the USAF, which, prior to the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990, was hoping to shunt this Cold War relic onto the US Army and Marine Corps. But since then, the 'Warthog', with its formidable armament, ruggedness and flexibility, has continually proven itself in combat and evolved into the world's premiere close support aircraft. In 2002 the Thunderbolt was at the forefront of Operation Enduring Freedom, the US occupation of Afghanistan.
The Douglas A-3 Skywarrior, though something of a cult favourite, remains a largely unremarked classic of Naval Aviation. Built for nuclear weapon delivery, the A-3 made its name in Vietnam as a conventional bomber, tanker and Electronic Warfare platform. It was the largest aircraft ever regularly operated from the decks of aircraft carriers, earning it the fleet-wide nickname 'Whale'. It excelled in every mission area assigned to it and operated in the US Navy for more than four decades, from 1956 through to 1991. Fully illustrated to depict the incredible array of paint schemes and awesome size, this volume focuses on the type's Vietnam service, which saw the aircraft briefly used as a bomber over both North and South Vietnam from March 1965, before the Skywarrior proved far more valuable as a multi-role tanker (KA-3B) and tanker/tactical jammer (EKA-3B). The title includes details on all of these operations as well as more clandestine reconnaissance missions, and provides information about the men that flew them.
Designed in the years following the Korean War and then manufactured for over 30 years starting in 1960, the A-6 quickly became the most capable attack aircraft in the US Navy's stable. The first squadron, VA-75, made its initial deployment directly into combat in south-east Asia in 1965, and, over the next eight years, ten US Navy and four Marine Intruder squadrons would conduct combat operations throughout Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. After initial problems and a high loss rate, the type proved itself beyond all doubt as the Naval services' best night and foul-weather platform, particularly during the region's notorious monsoon season. The A-6 Intruder became a true classic of naval aviation over the skies of North Vietnam but the cost was high as 69 Intruders were lost in combat to all causes during the war. This work tells the complete story of these aircraft in combat during the Vietnam War.
By the outbreak of World War 2, the Luftwaffe had acquired effective tactical battlefield experience from its involvement in the Spanish Civil War in 1936-1939, centered around the operations conducted by the Legion Condor, a force of some 19,000 'volunteer' German airmen, staff, technicians and groundcrew formed into fighter, bomber, reconnaissance, Flak, weather and signals elements.In this new book, author Robert Forsyth, renowned expert on World War 2 German aviation, details the development of both the technologies and the pilots of this German air force, with full-color illustrations, plates and details of color schemes used within the Legion Condor. From the He 51 to the Messerschmitt, from flying in close wing-to-wing formations to the looser, wider formations common to the Luftwaffe during World War 2, this book is a must-have for any German aviation historian or modeler.From the Trade Paperback edition.
After the attacks on 11 September 2001, Apache units made significant contributions to the Coalition campaign against Taliban and al-Qaeda forces in Afghanistan. Functioning as the 'killer' part of US Army Hunter-killer teams, Apaches sought out and brought overwhelming firepower to bear on Taliban and al-Qaeda forces, as well as providing direct support to Coalition troops on the ground. Apaches spearheaded the advance of the 3rd Infantry and the 101st airborne divisions into Iraq, engaging in some of the heaviest fighting along the western axis of advance. Weather and enemy fire took a heavy toll on Apaches operating in Western Iraq, but the resilience and flexibility of the Apache was central to the success of this campaign.
The Aichi Type 99 Carrier Bomber (D3A) - code named 'Val' by Allied intelligence - was the mainstay of the Imperial Japanese Navy's carrier dive-bomber force from 1941 to 1943. It sank more Allied warship tonnage than any other Axis aircraft during World War II (1939-1945). While the Val's participation in the major carrier battles has been widely covered in other English language sources, details of its operations have received scant attention in English. This book explores the Val's combat operations. Colour illustrations and photographs complement the development of dive-bombing methods in the IJN.
The American Volunteer Group, or 'Flying Tigers', have remained the most famous outfit to see action in World War II. Manned by volunteers flying American aircraft acquired from the British, the AVG fought bravely in the face of overwhelming odds in China and Burma prior to the US entry into World War II. Pilots such as 'Pappy' Boyington, R T Smith and John Petach became household names due to their exploits against the Japanese Army Air Force. The AVG legend was created flying the Curtis P-40 Tomahawk and Kittyhawk. This volume dispels the myths surrounding the colours and markings worn by these famous fighters.
The Boeing (McDonnell Douglas, formerly Hughes) AH-64A Apache is the US Army's primary attack helicopter, and the most advanced helicopter gunship flying today. The most expensive rotary-winged aircraft ever built when it was introduced in the early 1980s, it has since proved its worth on battlefields all over the world, seeing action in the Gulf War, Afghanistan, Bosnia, Kosovo and the recent conflict in Iraq. This book examines the design, development and deployment of a quick-reacting, airborne weapons system that can fight close and deep to destroy, disrupt, or delay enemy forces.From the Trade Paperback edition.
The Harrier II jet saw conflict in Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm (Gulf War), Operation Enduring Freedom (Afghanistan) and Iraqi Freedom (Iraq War). The aircraft has matured into a multi-role platform through the addition of a night vision system, radar, an external targeting pod and new laser-guided weapons. In the 1970s the USMC bought the AV-8A Harrier from the UK to test V/STOL concepts for close air support. A successful funding battle was subsequently fought in the 1980s to secure military, political and economic support to expand this concept to develop and field the second generation AV-8B Harrier II from the late 1980s onward. The AV-8B was, and still is, the only tactical aircraft that could deploy with Marine forces on amphibious assault ships and provide air cover and close air support separate from large deck aircraft carriers. Having seen action in-theatre during Operation Desert Storm in 1991, the Harrier II was heavily involved in action once again over Iraq from March 2003 as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom I/II. In the initial conflict, some 76 AV-8s were deployed - providing more than 40 per cent of the 3rd Marine Air Wing's fixed-wing offensive firepower. Around 60 of these aircraft were sea-based aboard four 'Harrier carriers', while two units flew from Ahmed al Jaber, in Kuwait. Unlike in 1991, when the Harrier II units employed unguided weapons - dumb bombs, cluster bombs and napalm - in 2003 79 per cent of the ordnance dropped was precision-guided. This was primarily due to the AV-8B's upgrading into Night Attack or radar-equipped configuration, and introduction of the Litening targeting pod. Following the occupation of Iraq by Coalition troops, the Harrier IIs remained in-theatre supporting anti-insurgent operations through to 2008 as part of OIF II. Flying from Al Asad, or 'Harrier carriers' in the Northern Arabian Gulf, these units saw considerable action in southern and western Iraq. This book is the second of three volumes on USMC Harrier IIs in combat, and it will be the first volume in print to cover the whole story of the AV-8B's service employment in Iraq.
In the 1970s the USMC bought the AV-8A Harrier from the UK to test V/STOL concepts for close air support. A successful funding battle was subsequently fought in the 1980s to secure military, political and economic support to expand this concept to develop and field the second generation AV-8B Harrier II from the late 1980s onward. The AV-8B was, and still is, the only tactical aircraft that could deploy with Marine forces on amphibious assault ships and provide air cover and close air support separate from large deck aircraft carriers. When Iraq invaded Kuwait in August 1990, a coalition of nations launched Operation Desert Shield in order to defend Saudi Arabia. The Harrier II was among the first tactical air assets to be deployed to the region to support ground forces in their efforts to halt the advance of Iraqi forces at the border with Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. During Operation Desert Storm, the five units flying the AV-8B in-theatre became some of the top tactical squadrons of choice by air mission planners for allied battlefield preparation and close air support. This was due to the AV-8B's capabilities, proximity to the battle zone and the proven abilities of Marine pilots and forward air controllers, who were closely integrated with ground forces and knew their business so well. The untold story of the AV-8B in this conflict is vividly brought to life by the author through firsthand accounts and period photography sourced from those that were there, as well as official archives. This is planned to be the first of three volumes on USMC Harrier IIs in combat, with follow-on titles covering the jet's operations in Iraq in 2003-08 and Afghanistan in 2001-2009.
During the late 1930s an armament race developed between bombers and the fighters that were bent on stopping them. The development of multi-engined, multi-gun, all-metal bombers forced a corresponding increase in fighter armament which, in turn, led to further attempts to improve bomber armament to ensure its ability to survive in the face of hostile fighters. The US Army Air Corps (USAAC) requested that powered gun turrets be fitted to its two principal long-range bombers, the B-17 Flying Fortress and the B-24 Liberator. In reviewing reports of air combat from Spain, China and the early stages of the war in Europe, the USAAC assumed that the greatest danger to the bomber would be attacks from the rear quarter, and thus took steps to ensure that both the B-17 and the B-24 had tail turrets. A powered turret above and behind the cockpit could deal, it was felt, with attacks from the frontal quarter so that the nose armament for the B-17 and the B-24 consisted of several hand-held 0.50-cal machine guns, but not a powered turret. German and Japanese fighter pilots would soon discover and exploit this weakness. The JAAF's response to the increase in bomber armament was to develop a so-called heavy fighter in parallel to the development of the Army's main fighter, the Ki-43 Hayabusa (known as the 'Oscar'), which sacrificed armament for superior manoeuvrability. Yet the inability of the Japanese aircraft industry to produce these heavier fighters (the Kawasaki Ki-60 and Nakajima Ki-44) in sufficient quantities meant that the JAAF had no alternative but to rely on the Ki-43 to intercept American heavy bombers. Under the ideal conditions that existed in the Burma and China theatres for much of 1943, the absence of escort fighters allowed the Ki-43 pilots to press home their attacks to devastating effect.
Osprey's examination of B-57 Canberra Units during the Veitnam War period (1955-1975). While not receiving as much publicity as the F-105 and F-4 fighter-bombers, which took the fight into the heart of North Vietnam, the B-57 Canberra was nevertheless the first jet-powered American attack aircraft committed to the conflict. It was involved in day-to-day interdiction missions against traffic coming down the Ho Chi Minh Trail, shooting up trucks and bombing and strafing sampans in the Mekong Delta. And, not least, the aircraft flew classified 'black' missions over the border into Laos and Cambodia. The B-57B medium bomber began hitting targets in North and South Vietnam at the beginning of 1965. Although B-57B crews had already made a name for themselves during the hair-raising night missions during Op Rolling Thunder, late in the war many aircraft were upgraded to the then-state-of-the-art B-57G Night Intruder, which became one of the most valuable weapons in the USAF inventory. The B-57E, in its electronic eavesdropping and countermeasures roles, starred in the so-called Patricia Lynn missions, parts of which are still classified today. Also operating alongside the USAF B-57 units, were the Canberra B 20s of the Royal Australian Air Force,attached to the USAF's 35th Bomb Wing - the exploits of the Australian Canberras will be fully documented in this book. The unit flew interdiction missions in support of troops in the field from 1967 to 1971. At the time the Canberra was called to action, the USAF, which considered the aircraft too slow, limited in its mission and not 'sexy' enough, was attempting to phase it out of the inventory. In the event, the B-57 continued to serve for another 20 years, echoing the story of the A-10 Warthog. The author has obtained scores of previously unpublished photographs from the first deployment of the B-57s to Bien Hoa, all the way up to very rare photos of the B-57G being armed and readied for night combat missions. The story of the B-57 in Vietnam has never been told in detail, and since the aeroplane served in virtually every role for the duration the US involvement in Vietnam, the story of the B-57 is, in effect, the story of that war.
Unable to conduct ground operations on the European continent until Allied strength was marshalled for a full-scale invasion, the British government based its grand strategy in World War II on a protracted campaign of aerial bombardment of Nazi Germany's cities in order to bring the Third Reich to its knees. At the heart of this strategy were the emerging technologies of the heavy bomber, combined with night-navigation and precision-bombing techniques. The RAF introduced the huge four-engined Avro Lancaster in 1942 and used it to spearhead this aerial offensive. In response, the Luftwaffe created an elite nightfighter force based primarily upon the Bf 110 to counter the RAF bombers. Although the Bf 110 had failed miserably as a day fighter over England in 1940, it found its niche as a nightfighter. The Luftwaffe was quick to equip it with airborne radar that allowed it to intercept and destroy Lancasters over Germany. In turn, the RAF adopted countermeasures such as the Monica rearward-looking radar to alert Lancaster crews to the approach of nightfighters. The Lancaster heavy bomber was equipped with rear and dorsal turrets that gave it some chance to drive off nightfighters employing the standard tactic of attacking from above and behind.In May 1943, though, the Luftwaffe suddenly developed a novel technical and tactical approach to attacking RAF bombers - the Schräge Musik weapon system, which mounted upward-firing 20mm cannons in a Bf 110 nightfighter. The new tactic proved amazingly successful, and British bombers could be attacked from below with no warning. Soon, the Luftwaffe decided to equip a third of its nightfighters with Schräge Musik and began to inflict grievous losses upon Lancaster bomber units in the period from August 1943 to March 1944. For its part, the RAF failed to detect the new German tactic for six crucial months, during which time its Lancaster bombers were almost defenceless against this new threat. In time, however, the German advantage of surprise was lost and the RAF developed countermeasures to deal with the new threat. The duel between upgraded Bf 110s and Lancasters in the night skies over Germany became increasingly dominated by cutting-edge technology, which would determine the efficacy of strategic bombing.
The advent and deployment of the Royal Flying Corps' Airco DH 2 in 1916 effectively eliminated the 'scourge' of aerial dominance enjoyed by the Fokker Eindecker monoplanes. Spearheaded by No 24 Sqn and led by Victoria Cross recipient Lanoe Hawker, the ungainly yet nimble DH 2 - with its rotary engine 'pusher' configuration affording excellent visibility and eliminating the need for a synchronised machine gun - had wrested air superiority from the Germans by the spring and then maintained it through the Battle of the Somme that summer. However, by autumn German reorganisation had seen the birth of the Jagdstaffel and arrival of the new Albatros D II, a sleek inline-engined machine built for speed and twin-gun firepower. Thus, for the remainder of the year an epic struggle for aerial superiority raged above the horrors of the Somme battlefields, pitting the manoeuvrable yet under-gunned DH 2s - which were also plagued by sundry engine malfunctions - against the less nimble yet better armed and faster Albatros D IIs. In the end the Germans would regain air superiority, three squadron commanders - two of whom were considered pinnacles of their respective air forces - would lose their lives, and an up-and-coming pilot (Manfred von Richthofen) would triumph in a legendary dogfight and attain unimagined heights fighting with tactics learned from a fallen mentor.
USAF Rolling Thunder strike missions tactically assaulted North Vietnamese defenses, overcoming MiG fighter jets and SAM (surface to air) missiles to devastate North Vietnam's industrial base strategically. Despite its "F-for-fighter" designation, the F-105 was designed and purchased to give the USAF an aircraft for delivery of nuclear weapons at very high speed, long range and below-the-radar altitudes. When the Vietnam War began, it was the USAF's best available tactical bomber for a "limited conventional" war as well. From 1964 to 1968 it flew the majority of bombing missions against North Vietnam, performing an effectively "strategic" role in assaulting North Vietnam's industrial and military heartland. Thunderchief crews faced North Vietnamese MiG-17s and MiG-21s more often than any other US flyers. Large formations of F-105s came under frequent attack by MiG pilots, and the F-4 Phantom II escorts that were meant to protect them were not always in the right position to fend off the attackers. F-105 crews would then defend themselves using their internal 20 mm cannon and occasionally AIM-9B Sidewinder missiles. Although their fighters were far larger, heavier and much less manoeuvrable than the adversarial MiGs, the F-105 pilots used speed and skill to down 27.5 MiG-17s - a tally in excess of that scored by USAF F-4 Phantom II crews in the same period between June 1966 and December 1967! In most cases the F-105 pilots concerned also succeeded in dropping their ordnance on targets during the same sorties.
The F-105 was a supersonic fighter-bomber used by the USAF to great extent during the Vietnam War (1955-1975). Despite pilots' initial apprehensions about the aircraft and a variety of problems with early designs, these planes ultimately became the primary strike bomber over North Vietnam in the early stages of the Vietnam War. This book explores the crucial importance of the Thunderchief, deemed the "Thud" by many of its crews, in the Rolling Thunder campaign; it explains the pioneering suppression of enemy air defences (SEAD) methods developed by the F-105 'Wild Weasel' crews. Using first-hand narratives wherever possible, the text captures the essence of flying the "Thud" against heavy AAA, SAM and MiG defences in conditions where constricting Rules of Engagement made the pilots' task virtually impossible at times. The book also documents the other demanding missions flown over Laos and South Vietnam. The author also gives an extensive overview of the aircraft's strengths and difficulties, the development of wartime tactics and the heroic accomplishments of a selection of its aircrew.
Although America entered the Vietnam War with some of the world's most sophisticated combat aircraft, the majority of their missions involved conventional bombing and fighter engagements that employed quite similar tactics to those previously used in the Korean War and World War 2. The real step change in aerial fighting came with the use of air-to-air and ground-to-air missiles. Developing methods of defeating the latter involved the rapid evolution of technology and tactics which, over twenty years later, would enable the USA to win the air war over Iraq in Operation Desert Storm in a matter of hours. During the Vietnam War, the appearance of Russian SA-2 missiles around Hanoi in 1965 alarmed US officials. Initially reluctant to attack the missile sites, the increasing toll of US aircraft and the ways in which the SA-2s inhibited bombing tactics meant that new methods of dealing with the sites had to be developed quickly. Electronic reconnaissance aircraft had some success with jamming of the missiles' guidance systems at long range, but the real solution lay with an aircraft that could detect the radars at closer range, offer itself as a target to the missile sites and attack them before missiles could be launched at US bombers. F-105Fs equipped with new technology quickly became an essential addition to all USAF strike missions over North Vietnam. Using new Shrike and Standard ARM anti-radiation missiles and radar detection equipment developed by the US Navy, the F-105F and its more sophisticated successor, the F-105G, continued their hair-raising battles with North Vietnamese missile batteries throughout the rest of the Vietnam War. Here, author Peter Davies recounts the dramatic contests between these newly outfitted F-105s and the missile sites in Vietnam in a highly illustrated account, drawing on first-hand pilot experiences and technical manuals to present a full history of the technologies and tactics of both sides.From the Trade Paperback edition.
The legendary F-14 Tomcat was the weapon of choice to strike hard and fast against the enemies of the United States in the wake of the September 11 attacks. Determined to hit the al-Qaeda bases within Afghanistan, US plans were hampered by the reluctance of neighboring countries to allow US military aircraft to operate from their land bases. This meant that carrier-based F-14s were forced to fly several hundred miles a day to reach their targets, flying thousands of missions involving precision bombing strikes on al-Qaeda and Taliban positions. A fascinating exploration of modern air warfare, this book details the actions of the F-14 pilots and aircraft involved in Operation Enduring Freedom (2001-present) with eye-opening insights into the tactical approach and wider strategic aims exclusively provided by senior officers from a number of the air wings involved. Written by a leading Tomcat expert with exclusive access to mission reports, combat diaries, first-hand accounts and accompanied by photographs from the author's private collection and fantastic full-color artwork, this reveals the battle experiences of the most famous modern fast jet.
From difficult weather conditions to unreliable missile armament to unequal rules of engagement, this book tells the story of the challenges faced by the F-4 and MiG-21 pilots. Using first-hand accounts wherever possible the author draws us into the dangerous world experienced by American and North Vietnamese pilots. Influential leaders and tacticians will be profiled to provide a comparative evaluation of their contrasting skills. This book will also reveal the technical specifications of each jet with an analysis of the weaponry, avionics and survival devices of the Phantom and MiG-21. The fighters' strengths and weaknesses will be compared also, including turn radius, performance at altitude, range and structural integrity. This was an intense and deadly duel between vastly different rivals. In the Phantom, a second crewmember and good radar compensated for the difficulty of providing command and control at long distances from the targets. However, the F-4's smoky engines and considerable bulk made it visible at much further distances than the small, clean MiG-21 and Phantoms were often hit by unseen MiG attacks. On the other hand, the F-4s eight-missile armament compared favorably with the two-missile provision of the MiG. Often pilot skill, if not luck, would be the determining factor between the smaller, faster MiG and bigger, better-gunned Phantom. First-person extracts will reflect on the dangers of these aerial duels while graphics based on records of engagement and technical manuals will illustrate the experience of air combat as they struggled to overcome their shortcomings and survive their deadly duels.
This book covers the actions fought between two of the best known fighters of the Vietnam War, in action over the North during the early years of the conflict.Revered by Naval Aviators as the "last of the gunfighters" due to its quartet of Colt-Browning Mk 12 20 mm cannon (its great naval rival, the F-4 Phantom II, was exclusively armed with missiles), the F-8 Crusader enjoyed great success against VPAF MiG-17s during the Rolling Thunder campaign of 1966-68. The fighter was credited with 18 kills, 14 of which were MiG-17s. Things did not go all the Crusader's way, however, as VPAF pilots used the MiG-17's unequalled low-speed manoeuvrability, small size and powerful cannon armament to take the fight to their gun- and missile-equipped foes. The North Vietnamese pilots claimed ten F-8s and one unarmed photo-recce RF-8 shot down, although only four of these successes could be matched with known US Navy losses. Nevertheless, the duels fought between these two aircraft were some of the hardest of the war, as the Crusader pilots did their level best to defend vulnerable carrier-based attack aircraft striking at targets deep in North Vietnam.
As the routed North Korean People's Army (NKPA) withdrew into the mountainous reaches of their country and the People's Republic of China (PRC) funneled in its massive infantry formations in preparation for a momentous counter-offensive in the last months of 1950, both lacked adequate air power to challenge US and UN air supremacy over both the battlefields and the logistics channels from China into North Korea. Reluctantly, Josef Stalin agreed to provide the requisite air cover, introducing the superior swept-wing MiG-15 to counter the American's straight-wing F-80 jets and to repel the United States Air Force (USAF) B-29 bomber formations that were interdicting the PRC's flow of troops and supplies into North Korea. This in turn prompted the USAF, against its conventional wisdom of retaining its first-line air-defence fighters to face Soviet air forces across the 'Iron Curtain' in Europe, to deploy its very best - the F-86A Sabre - to counter this threat. Thus began a two-and-a-half-year struggle in the skies over a corner of North Korea known as "MiG Alley."In this period, the unrelenting campaign for aerial superiority witnessed the introduction of successive models of these two revolutionary jets - the MiG-15bis, the F-86E, and eventually the F-86F - into combat. It also saw the transition of operational leadership on the communist side from the Soviet "volunteers" to the newly formed Chinese PLAAF air divisions, and witnessed the re-introduction of the NKPAF, with its "just trained" MiG-15 units, into the air-combat arena. This meticulously researched study not only provides technical descriptions of the two types and their improved variants, complete with a "fighter pilot's assessment" of these aircraft, but also chronicles the entire scope of their aerial duel in "MiG Alley" by employing the recollections of the surviving combatants - including Russian, Chinese, and North Korean pilots - who participated.
The first VF-2 was a prewar unit that had been dubbed the 'hottest outfit afloat' due to the skill of their non-commissioned pilots. This first unit only saw combat at the Battle of the Coral Sea, but VF-2 pilots flying Grumman F4F Wildcats were able to rack up 17 claims there during the bitter 48-hour period of fighting. The second 'Fighting Two' was armed with the new Grumman F6F-3 Hellcat fighter. Arriving in Hawaii in October 1943, the squadron so impressed Cdr Edward H 'Butch' O'Hare, the Medal of Honor winning first US Navy ace of World War 2, that he requested the squadron replace VF-6 in his Carrier Air Group 6 aboard USS Enterprise. No other US Navy unit created as many aces as VF-2, whose pilots went into action over the Carolines, Marianas, Guam, Iwo Jima and the Battle of the Philippines Sea. Using exquisite photographs and first-hand accounts from the elite fliers themselves, this volume tells the story of the ace pilots who comprised the original VF-2 and the second.