Great book - Viper Pilot: A Memoir of Air Combat

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Winston

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A truly outstanding book.

I worked in the Falcon AMU (F-16 aircraft maintenance unit) of the 57th Fighter Weapons (Training) Wing at Nellis AFB, NV and had no idea at all while there about how absolutely top crust elite were the instructors and the F-16 pilots chosen to take that course until I read this book where he writes in detail about the fighter weapons school there which he attended. It wouldn't have changed my job performance since I always gave it my best, but it would have given me a sense of awe about the guys who were flying those beautiful F-16s and a feeling of the great privilege to be assisting them in their mission.

Author - Lt. Col. Dan Hampton
Years of service - USAF 1986–2006
Call sign - "Two Dogs" (origin of that described in the book)

151 combat missions
21 hard kills on surface-to-air-missile sites (Wild Weasel)
4 Distinguished Flying Crosses with Valor
1 Purple Heart

The job of a Wild Weasel is the most dangerous mission faced by today’s fighter pilots, a job more hazardous and difficult than shooting down enemy jets, according to retired Air Force Lt. Col. Dan Hampton in his book "Viper Pilot: A Memoir of Air Combat". These gutsy pilots are tasked with flying their specially outfitted fighter jets into enemy surface-to-air missile envelopes in order to bait SAM operators into targeting them with their radars.

He said he first decided to write down his experiences in a book after being hurt while returning to the United States to reach his wife who was in pre-mature labor. Hampton said he wanted make record of it for his son in the event that something could happen to him permanently where he wouldn’t be able to share these stories.

“I would like people to get a look at what has been done for them,” he said, noting his appreciation to the support the American public has given to the military in the last few decades.

He also said he hopes the book serves as a warning to America’s enemies.

When it comes to the historic nature of some of Hampton’s combat missions as part of the Wild Weasels, which the book’s publisher Harper Collins’ William Morrow writes is an “elite Air Force fighter squadrons whose mission is recognized as the most dangerous job in modern air combat,” he said he didn’t necessarily realize what he had just participated in until hours later on the ground.

“I think most guys in combat would agree after keeping yourself and those around you safe, your next move is to do whatever you’re supposed to accomplish at the time. When you’re zipping around at the speed of a rifle bullet, you don’t have extra brain bytes to ponder things. … [A]fter sitting there on the ground, your brain slows down and you think about what you did that day,” he said.

The Pritzker Military Library, which describes the book on its website as a “rare autobiography [which] may be the final opportunity to cover this world through the lens of one of the best of the best.”

Harper Collins describes the book as “irreverently humorous” and “an unforgettable look into the closed world of fighter pilots and modern air combat.”

Book's epilogue (excerpt):

IT WAS TIME FOR THIS STORY. NO GRAND DESIGNS OR PHILOSOPHICAL FLUFF—just an honest view of life and war from one fighter cockpit. The modern military would have you believe that everyone is a warrior. That everyone is out there fighting enemies, taking chances, and killing threats. But it’s just not so. The Air Force alone deployed about 65,000 people for the second Gulf War, and there were only 450 active, flying fighter pilots. That’s a 144:1 ratio of support personnel to shooters. Most military folks serve a vital purpose, and fighter pilots wouldn’t get far without them, but the vast majority are not fighting men. That’s simply the way it is. The Air Force, in particular, needs to remember that and keep labels like “warrior” in their proper place.

Fighter operations, and especially Hunter Killer missions, are not a series of logistical challenges. It’s a violent form of combat moving along at hundreds of feet per second with just fractions of moments to react or die. It’s also solitary. There may be other jets flying with you, but in the end, you’re alone. No armored fighting vehicles and no platoon of heavily armed buddies to watch your back. Most of my 151 combat missions were so deep into enemy territory I had no hope of rescue if I was to go down.

Combat is not the ultimate test, but it is one of them. Men have been tried this way since the dawn of time, and many have failed. There is no way to prepare for it. You can be trained to fight, to handle weapons and sophisticated equipment. You can be taught to survive, to resist interrogation, and to kill. But you never really know until you’re there. And in the end, you either have it or you don’t. If a man can’t cut it, then I believe he bears a terrible burden the rest of his days. Thankfully, this is a weight I won’t carry.

I made a difference. I could see the Hunter Killer version of the Viper way back in 1992. I knew it was right and I saw what was needed. Despite the skeptics, everything we pushed for eventually came to fruition. When F-16CJs are in the news today, and I see the pods and weapons slung under their wings, I grin. I helped make it happen, and no one can take that away.

I LOVED BEING A FIGHTER PILOT, BUT EVENTUALLY YOU HAVE TO STOP. Physically, anyway, if not mentally. I repaid the Air Force for the skills I’d been taught and the opportunities I’d been given. I paid back those who’d believed in me. I wanted to go out as I’d lived my career—on my own terms. And I did. Perhaps if the Air Force was made up of guys like MooMan, Kanga, and Storm’n, I would’ve stayed.

Perhaps not.

No one really ever comes back from war. Not all the way. Memories can be compartmentalized, put away in a dark place, and rarely, if ever, visited. Some men are better at this than others. I never killed a noncombatant or a child. Those whose lives I ended were trying to kill me, and they had their chance to do the same. At least we faced off like men and took our best shots. They missed, I didn’t.

Like many fighting men, I was comfortable in combat. Not that it’s a nice place to be, but I could deal with it. In a way quite unlike everyday life, it made sense, and I knew what I was doing. Combat is simple—you live or die. It’s life that’s complicated, and you either cross your own Rubicon and get to the other side someday or you do not.

After twenty years of tactical flying and several wars, it’s impossible not to have proud memories—and a few regrets. In the end, each man must decide for himself what to keep and what to let go. In my case, I’ll always be able to look at myself in the mirror and know that when it counted, I flew honorably with brave men.

I flew with the Wild Weasels.


------------

Viper Pilot Is The Best Air Combat Memoir I Have Ever Read

https://foxtrotalpha.jalopnik.com/viper-pilot-is-the-best-air-combat-memoir-i-have-ever-r-1581757305

To Suppress and Destroy: A History of the Wild Weasel (Part 3 - F-16CJ)

https://fightersweep.com/177/history-of-the-wild-weasel-part-3/

Viper Pilot: A Memoir of Air Combat

https://www.amazon.com/dp/006213034X/?tag=skimlinks_replacement-20

F-16 Wild Weasels:




 
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Sooner Boomer

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In the color photo, those are HARMs under the wings, I can tell by the fins. They used to make these at the Texas Instruments plant in Sherman when I worked there (as well as the Paveway guidance kits).

They had a surplus property shop where they disposed of excess inventory, product overruns, and old equipment. Some of it was sold via written bids, most was sold for the scrap value of the metal (or whatever). Some fascinating stuff could be bought for pennies. They had an overrun of HARM nosecones (before I worked there). They sold them through the surplus shop for a couple of dollars each. TI had a recreational development area where they leased land and cottages on the shore of Lake Texoma. I went out there one weekend with my girlfriend, and was surprised to see many cottages with rows of nosecones hanging on porches, used as planters.
 

Winston

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In the color photo, those are HARMs under the wings, I can tell by the fins. They used to make these at the Texas Instruments plant in Sherman when I worked there (as well as the Paveway guidance kits).

They had a surplus property shop where they disposed of excess inventory, product overruns, and old equipment. Some of it was sold via written bids, most was sold for the scrap value of the metal (or whatever). Some fascinating stuff could be bought for pennies. They had an overrun of HARM nosecones (before I worked there). They sold them through the surplus shop for a couple of dollars each. TI had a recreational development area where they leased land and cottages on the shore of Lake Texoma. I went out there one weekend with my girlfriend, and was surprised to see many cottages with rows of nosecones hanging on porches, used as planters.
I wish I could visit all of the surplus shops hear mil-tech centers and manufacturers since they can have some really neat stuff. There's one or, at least, there used to be one with stuff from Sandia National Labs (SNL) in Albuquerque, NM. Went there years ago when I was attending some meetings at SNL. Some neat stuff, but overpriced for just a novelty purchase. I've gone to Los Alamos, NM twice. Right after the last time I was there I just happened to read of a surplus place there, too. Damn, missed it.
 
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